News | Student Life

As sexual assault offices move into Lerner, students worry about space crunch

  • SPACE CHASE | Student groups are looking for new meeting space after boardrooms on the fifth floor of Lerner Hall were repurposed into health offices this summer.

Student groups and councils are looking for new meeting space after boardrooms on the fifth floor of Lerner Hall were repurposed into health offices this summer.

Go Ask Alice! offices began to move into the fifth floor boardrooms at the beginning of the summer to accommodate the Sexual Violence Response’s additional location and new 24-hour on-call service, which will take over Alice!’s former space on the seventh floor once renovations are completed in August.

But the move has eliminated boardrooms—common meeting spaces for many groups on campus—that students had already reserved for use during the upcoming semester.

“It seems like this was a much-needed change, and it does seem like Lerner would be a great space to accommodate the new office,” Engineering Student Council President Brian Wu, SEAS ’15, said. “At the same time, there are going to be negative impacts for student groups in that there’s going to be a reshuffling of calendar spaces already in the boardroom.”

University President Lee Bollinger announced in May that the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center—part of Sexual Violence Response—would open a second location in Lerner, in addition to its location in Hewitt Hall. A statement from Campus Services said that administrators chose Lerner because it was accessible, while also private.

The announcement followed a year of activism from students who said that the center was not accessible because of its limited hours and its location within a Barnard dorm—non-Barnard students have to present an ID and announce their intention to visit the center.

Wu and Columbia College Student Council President Peter Bailinson, CC ’16, said they only found out about the changes to student space last week, and have since been in discussions with Campus Services and University Events Management to find alternative meeting space.

Vice President of Campus Services Scott Wright is out of the office until August 11 and was unable to comment for this story. Joe Ricciutti, the head of University Event Management, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rooms in Broadway and Schapiro residence halls are being considered as replacements for the boardrooms, Wu said. Campus Services told Wu that an agreement with Public Safety would be in place to allow commuters and students from Barnard and the School of General Studies to sign in for club meetings.

A statement from Campus Services said that additional meeting space will be available in the Student Development and Activities Office on the fifth floor of Lerner and that furniture from the boardrooms has been moved into the West and East Ramp Lounges to create more meeting spaces.

“We hope these spaces will be well utilized and helpful to students as meeting space in place of the 5th floor conference rooms,” the statement said.

“The move is not temporary. The decision was made after careful consideration of needs clearly articulated by students and a survey of available options,” the statement continued. “As the new academic year gets underway, we welcome student feedback and continued discussion on balancing meeting space and student resource demands in Lerner and other campus buildings.”

Despite the invitation for future feedback, Wu and Bailinson said the groups that have reserved the boardrooms for the fall haven’t yet been informed of the changes.

“Because a lot of groups have actually been able to precalendar spaces at the end of last semester, we think our first priority should be taking care of those groups,” Bailinson said, adding that the councils have been in touch with University Event Management to discuss how to inform student groups about the renovations.

Tony Lee, CC ’15 and president of the Activities Board at Columbia, said he was frustrated with the lack of communication from administrators. Lee said he found out about the change when contacted by campus media, and that administrators had not gotten back to him about the changes.

“Why I was so concerned when I was talking to student leaders was the lack of communication,” Lee said. “It’s August, we hadn’t heard from anyone.”

Lee said that ABC’s board regularly used the fifth-floor boardrooms for meetings and had precalendared the space for the fall.

Student Governing Board Chair Fatimatou Diallo, CC ’15, said in an email that at least half of the SGB’s groups use the boardrooms for meeting space, and that she anticipated challenges with reserving space in the fall.

“I think this will add to the chaos that is already space booking through UEM,” Diallo said. “We already have issues with missed bookings/wrong bookings and this will just intensify the feelings of frustration that the members of groups have shared with us a countless number of times.”

Bailinson said the councils are optimistic about finding new meeting spaces for groups, and that CCSC is hoping to find space similar to the boardrooms.

“A lot of us within the councils that have discussed this are actually pretty excited about having this as an opportunity to talk about maybe opening up some new spaces that either haven't been available to students before or haven’t been reservable before,” Bailinson said. “So whether those spaces be elsewhere in Lerner or somewhere in a similar location, I think our goal is to just make sure that an as similar space as possible is available to groups.”

But until Lee sees the new spaces himself, he’s unconvinced student groups will come out on top.

“Whatever we end up with is not going to be as nice as the fifth floor boardrooms probably in terms of capacity or in shape. Maybe there’s a ‘Room of Requirement’ somewhere in Columbia to solve this, but I doubt it,” Lee said.

news@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ColumbiaSpec

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
In the know posted on

Thank you Peter for being the voice of reason here. We need to cooperate with the administration and getting angry like Tony Lee doesn't help. Administrators like Scott Wright care about students and always ask us for input. It's our job to make sure that space initiatives are seen through. Honestly, loosing some conference rooms doesn't matter in the long run because there is underutilized space throughout Columbia's campus.

+1
-12
-1
Anonymous posted on

I agree that cooperation is necessary here but it has to go both ways. What input did administrators seek from students in this matter?

+1
-3
-1
Peter posted on

While I always appreciate the support, I should be a bit more specific about what I was “excited” about:

Last October, when CCSC was reviewing a resolution on changes to the Lerner SGO, a few of us tried to insert an amendment making several of the SGO conference rooms reservable online. These spaces had previously been controlled by both the councils and campus publications, and we hoped that by putting them online, more groups would be aware of them and they would be utilized a lot more frequently. However, CCSC voted down the amendment after several councilmembers were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to get priority reservations in the rooms if they were reservable online. Instead, they have to be reserved by emailing the SGO Manager, and I doubt that most groups know about that process. I really didn’t think that was the right call, and I hope these more recent changes will allow us to actually put those spaces online.

+1
+3
-1
Anonymous posted on

So no student groups get their own space now? Where are you supposed to store your stuff?

+1
-3
-1
Anonymous posted on

Why is this being downvoted?

+1
-1
-1
wow posted on

i never liked tony lee, but after reading this i do. only sensible person here.

there is no magical "extra space" that hasn't been used yet. every bit of space is used.

And the ramp lounges cannot just be used "in place" of the board rooms. they're too loud--and they're already used for other stuff.

+1
+9
-1
CCSC posted on

Well, if you read what Peter wrote you'll see that this is an exciting new opportunity to investigate how efficiently we use the space we have. Lots of dorms have lounges that can be converted into meeting space.

+1
-7
-1
Sarah posted on

It varies from dorm to dorm, but dorm lounges are also important study spaces for students and to have disruption regularly (Schap sky lounge for instance) really hinders them getting work done.

+1
+5
-1
well posted on

I'm sorry but student leaders are more important that you in terms of space needs. They work to make this campus a better place.

+1
-8
-1
Anonymous posted on

Add a floor to Lerner and problem solved. Or open a floor thru Carmen and convert the floor to meeting rooms.

+1
+3
-1
CU_Alum posted on

Adding a floor to Lerner would cost well over $10 million. Even if the funds were readily available, planning and construction would take at least two years and would be very disruptive. Annexing space in Carman would cost less money, but it still wouldn't be cheap. It would also eliminate dorm rooms that Columbia would have to replace by building or buying more housing elsewhere.

A better solution is to relocate some of the programs in Lerner that aren't directly related to student activities and to stop moving more of them into the building. This would also entail freeing up some space elsewhere, so it wouldn't be easy. But those programs didn't belong in a student center to begin with.

+1
+5
-1
Anonymous posted on

So and so said this. So and so said that. So and so sent that email. So and so is moving here. So and so is getting kicked out there. Wow that sounds like real progress in solving a problem. Vintage Bollinger. And no Columbia student at all picks that up. Columbia education for you. Meantime, Columbia students continue to get raped.

+1
-5
-1
Let's be honest posted on

Rape will always happen at Columbia and other campuses. Short of banning dorm sign-ins (which no one wants), there will unfortunately always be times when someone takes advantage of someone else sexually in the heat of the moment, drunkeness, etc. How the administration deals with sexual assault and rape after the fact is a very different problem than the actual acts themselves. Crimes of all sorts will always happen because it is just part of human nature - wrong and punishable, but inescapable.

+1
-9
-1
Anonymous posted on

How illuminating! You must be a Columbia student or alum. Nobody would have figured this out if you had not written it. Wow!

+1
-5
-1
Anonymous posted on

This is what happens when a vocal minority complains, we all loose space.

+1
+3
-1
New Counsel - posted on

At Columbia, the (sexual assault) proceedings do not prepared students for the real world in any serious way, and in order to serve as such preparation, educational establishments would have to retain more legal counsel or staff large legal departments (or that's how it looks to me). Rather than that, they handle these matters in a manner that looks vaguely superstitious - invocation of committee names and Title IX terminology as though they work magic. The hearings sound like the dances of shamanic types. Accusers are immediately called “survivors” and accused are immediately kicked off the campus. No Due Process whatsoever. It all seems to add up to something basically primitive, based on fear of women. Insofar as institutions fear women, they will wind up hating men. I hope we don't stray into a completely wrong direction -I'm afraid we're headed there now, unless the new counsel brings the voice of reason, and more fairness to the proceedings.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

Institutions fear women (and minorities) because they have the advantage in courts. Courts are never on an even playing field. The woman's word is always taken and the male is guilty until proven otherwise.

+1
0
-1
Anonymous posted on

Joe Blow, a Columbia student, raped someone. You fret about preparing him for the real world. You have it bassackwards, my friend. Reason: one of three: lack of intelligence, lack of life experience (i.e. you are immature), or life on the wrong side of the law.

+1
-10
-1
joe blow posted on

it is you, my friend, who got it all wrong. There is a reason why we have laws in this country. Unless the alleged victim goes to the police and proves that rape happened, and unless the alleged rapist has the right to say his side of the story, there is no case. Do you think that "J Blow" should be put in jail based on someone's word alone, and if yes, why do you think that? There are dozens of recent cases (Brown, Vassar Dartmouth.. you name it) where women claimed they were raped just to admit months later that all they said was fabricated. Do you think that's ok? All this is real and it's happening. There are victims on both sides - women are being raped and innocent men's lives are being ruined by false allegations. All I'm saying is... we need a better system, and we need to get rid of preponderance of evidence and Title IX. Colleges are not equipped to deal with such a serious issue.

+1
+3
-1
Anonymous posted on

Whatever we need to do, Bollinger is NOT doing it. He talks, sends email, makes appointment, searches, talks some more. Gravy train of a job. Don't you agree?

+1
-9
-1
Anonymous posted on

No. What is he supposed to do, do nightly dorm room checks? Everyone at Columbia are legal adults. He cannot police everyone on a daily basis. Is Debasio personally responsible every time two New Yorkers assault each other?

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

THE QUESTION IS ABOUT WHAT HE HAS DONE AND WHAT HE IS DOING, NOT ABOUT WHAT HE CANNOT DO. ANYBODY CAN ADD TO YOUR LONG LIST ABOUT WHAT SOMEONE CANNOT DO. BUT YOU PROBABLY HAVE A LONG LIST ALREADY, EVEN JUST ABOUT YOURSELF. WORK MUCH?

+1
-2
-1
Anonymous posted on

Bollinger's next job should be as seen in the link below, where there will be no expectation on his performance whatsoever. Perhaps you would be a great asset on his staff. The two of you can become buddies, doing nothing together. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/08/01/harrowing-images-of-police-battling-gang-violence-in-crime-stricken-honduras/

+1
-6
-1
Anonymous posted on

Why blame Bollinger. Blame Obama. After all the buck stops there.

+1
+1
-1
Right on! "New Counsel" posted on

you nailed it!

+1
-1
-1
Anonymous posted on

Student groups get canned so sex advice clinics can operate 24 /7? This is Columbia? When are they giving out radio controlled dildos? Will they have orgasm clinics? Fellatio practice sessions? Wet oil sex Olympics? Threesomes? Sandwiches anyone? Who needs classes? Go and get fucked!!! - New CU Motto!!

+1
-8
-1
Anonymous posted on

It's not a motto, but Bollinger has been saying that to everybody. However, most people here don't realize it because they are dumb and deaf.

+1
-4
-1