In response to the ongoing controversy over student group access to the University Organizing Center (UOC), Paul Blasenheim ’12, Meggie McGuire ’12, and UOC intern Kennedy Odede ’12 have formed an interim UOC Coordinating Committee that will seek to address problems of miscommunication between the administration, Public Safety, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), and students who use the UOC.
The UOC, located at 190 High St., is a meeting and organizing space for student groups such as the Emergence Info Collective, the Queer Resource Center, Hermes, ADAPT, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, and Wesleyan Friends of Africa. Last year, the building was open daily from 12 p.m. until 12 a.m., but students have consistently had difficulties gaining access to the building this year. After the dispute erupted surrounding attempts to create a student-run café in the UOC basement at the beginning of last semester, confusion has ensued over the availability of the space. This disorganization has deterred students from using the building.
“When this semester started up, we found that the building would be closed at crazy hours and that certain rooms would be locked,” said Blasenheim, who regularly uses the space for meetings with Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, a group he started last year. “What it was really doing was hindering activism on this campus.”
The UOC Coordinating Committee is proposing that the UOC fall predominantly, but not completely, under the control of students who use it, by giving a set of keys to the UOC intern. This will allow students who need access to call up one specified student, rather than coordinating between Public Safety, Residential Life, WSA Office Coordinator Lisa Hendrix, and WSA Community Outreach Committee (COCo) Chair Sylvie Stein ’12.
“We had a really great meeting last week with Lisa Hendrix, and Sylvie Stein told them about our plan,” Blasenheim said. “We’re putting all the anger behind us and working toward a better UOC. I think the WSA is on board with what we’re trying to do.”
According to Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer, access to certain campus buildings, including 190 High St., is limited to a specific list of people, and many have strict instructions detailing the hours they can be unlocked.
“I think that once we got the correct information, we have been on line with taking care of things,” Meyer wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “As far as miscommunication, there probably has been some, but that is not unusual.”
Accessibility has been a significant obstacle for groups such as the Emergence Infoshop Collective and the Queer Resource Center, which set up libraries in the UOC that have rarely been used this year.
“The library is pretty much inaccessible unless you know to call Public Safety and be stubborn about it,” said JM Jaffe ’09, a member of the Emergence Infoshop Collective. “It’s really impeded the use of the space.”
Before the Usdan University Center opened its doors in 2007, the UOC housed the WSA offices. However, the WSA has since moved all of its operations to Usdan and now only uses the building for minor storage.
Confusion about control over the building has been exacerbated by conflicting instructions about who to contact in order to use the space. While ResLife suggests that interested students contact the UOC intern, the WSA website indicates that students contact Stein.
“Under our plan, not only can the students who use this space be the best determinants of how to utilize it, but also, those departments and organizations that don’t have a lot invested in it and have better things to do don’t have to worry about dealing with the specifics,” Blasenheim said.
No department tied to the UOC has made any official commitments yet. The interim committee hopes to hold additional meetings with Director of Public Safety Dave Meyer and finalize a proposal once students return from spring break.
On Feb. 19, the UOC hosted its first open house of the year in order to let students know about the space. About 80 students showed up to take a look at the space.
“A lot of people who came in were just walking along the street and heard music playing,” said Odede. “We just want students to know that this place is open for them to use. My vision is to unite student groups.”
Odede said that the open house was quite successful and that about seven student groups have already come forward and asked to take advantage of the space. Odede and Blasenheim said that they hope to restore the space to full use once the new changes are in order.
“That building has such a long history. The attic has time capsules in it—you can see shirts that students made decades ago,” said Emergence Infoshop Collective member Michele Markowitz ’10. “It was actually never underutilized before this year. There was writing on the chalkboards, and there was always food around. It really was an actively used building.”