Almost every night of the week for the first three weeks of the semester, around midnight, I looked at my incomplete homework and asked those around me, “Where do you want to go?” With roommates sound asleep in dark, stuffy dorms, and the temperature low enough to see your breath plummeting in the night air, most options aren’t valid. Inevitably, someone in the group will put together a list of suggestions – mostly consisting of stained common rooms in dorms where none of us live – and we’ll head out into the cold, hoping that “our place” hasn’t yet been socket.
As you may have noticed in the run up to midterm exams, Oberlin, despite its academic rigor and demands, puts a time limit on its students’ ability to work without disruption. There is no guaranteed quiet place to study on campus. Sunday through Thursday, the Mary Church Terrell Main Library closes at midnight, while the Clarence Ward Art Library and Science Library (none of which are open on Sundays) close an hour earlier at 11 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, Terrell Main Library is only open. open until 8 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, while the art and science libraries close at 5:30 p.m. on both days. Monday through Thursday, King Building and Peters Hall close at 10:30 p.m. and the Science Center closes at 11 p.m.
As far as I know, the only buildings on campus that students have access to 24/7 are the dorms. However, with the current limit on student accommodation leading to the conversion of lounges into dormitories, the amount of common space available in student accommodation has been reduced to a minimum. All this to say that despite the sheer size of this campus relative to the number of students living there, it’s nearly impossible to get a alone time or a quiet place to study alone after hours in Oberlin if you don’t have not a single- room occupancy.
Placing a relatively small number of students in an even smaller space is an interesting mix of all the worst aspects of urban and rural life. From my point of view, the advantage of living in an urban environment is that you have a million neighbors and you don’t have to know any of them; the advantage of living in a rural environment is that you have no neighbors in the first place.
At Oberlin, I’d say your average student (barring those who live in OSCA housing) doesn’t know much about the person(s) living on the other side of their drywall except for the information they chose to write on the little green sheet taped to their door. Despite this, it seems that we are all in a constant battle with each other for menial conveniences. There’s a seemingly endless search for open offices, couches, laundry machines and practice rooms. There’s a constant race for the cleanest table in the Stevenson dining room, the most functional sink in the bathroom on your floor, the warmest, brightest spot in the library.
Of course, the sad truth is that, like most “easy fix” problems in Oberlin, what matters is cost. It costs money to have people working in campus buildings late at night when fewer people are sitting there. Institutions like Oberlin don’t want to run the risk of illegal activity happening inside their facilities when they don’t have the staff to operate them. According to ZipRecruiter, a campus security guard earns an average of $14 and 50 cents per hour in the state of Ohio, or $116 more per day if the College were to keep a space like Wilder Hall open 24 hours. out of 24.
However, even if the overcharge would undeniably exist, it would not be unprecedented. I know from speaking with students who started their careers at Oberlin before the pandemic that Mudd was open until 2 a.m. For a space designed to be used as a study space, I don’t think bringing back the old hours would be unreasonable – nor would extending library hours on weekends. I know that I personally use the weekends as an opportunity to wake up late (the day I find myself in an upright position at 8am on a Saturday will be a dark day) and get my work done for the week ahead. . I hate to admit it, but I rarely have a place to go on Saturdays until about 10 p.m., so where do I go when the library closes at 6 p.m.?
I ask this because I’m a person who, for better or worse, can’t think of a time in the past four to five years when I’ve been to bed before midnight for more than two nights in a row. I do all my work in the library under the harsh light of an LED light on the ceiling or the blue glow of a computer screen, and with my luck, I could rack up over a hundred semesters in residence at this school and never be assigned a single-occupancy room. All I want is some peace and quiet. Lying to security guards and cleaning staff about not noticing the time doesn’t do me any good – it’s embarrassing to have to sneak out of a building in the cold night like a drunk seeking shelter when the pub is finally closing. Not to be dramatic, but I would really like a nightcap.