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Should the UI allow students access to academic buildings 24 hours a day?

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | DECEMBER 17, 2009 7:30 AM

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YES

Study space is a rare commodity these days, and the situation will get worse because UI officials have decided to merge four libraries.

But what if I told you some students don’t have to deal with this irritating process?

It’s true. Some students have 24-hour access to the buildings that house their majors. Engineering students have access to the Seamans Center. They can even reserve rooms (with comfortable desk chairs) for hours at a time.

But why limit it to just some students? UI officials should consider giving all students access to the academic buildings of their respective majors. The plan has obvious benefits: Students could use major-specific, university-supplied equipment, the Main Library would be less crowded, and stressed students would always have an alternative to the library.

Sure, there is a cost factor. I understand now is not the time for careless spending. And this isn’t a dire situation. But there is enough reason for university officials to take a closer look.

In addition, one could argue — pretty accurately — that being on campus that late makes one more vulnerable to crime. But simple safety precautions, such as walking with a friend, taking a cab, or calling Nite Ride would significantly reduce that risk.

We pay to learn in these places. We should have the option to use our resources to their full potential.

— by Chris Clark

NO

Ever-accessible academic buildings sound good in theory, but that would cause more problems than it would solve. The UI is the largest campus in the state, with buildings spread out across both Iowa City and Coralville. Changing the current system would open up the campus to a variety of different problems.

Possibly the biggest problem would be cost. It doesn’t take an accountant or math whiz to figure out how expensive it is to keep a building operating during its normal hours of operation — let alone 24 hours.

Recently, the UI Office of Sustainability announced the university saved approximately $18,000 during its “power down” campaign over Thanksgiving break. The savings the UI made from those simple measures underscore the expense of keeping operations open — and that’s just energy costs.

The UI would likely have to pay custodial staff and other people to watch the building as well.

Then there’s the new security the school would have to invest in. This could entail security upgrades to safeguard equipment for the nighttime hours. That alone could cost millions. Plus, there’s no guarantee either people or equipment would be safe.

Keeping facilities open longer exposes the premises and all its contents to such risks as vandalism, robbery, and assault. If the university were to expand access to other buildings, it would open up a much wider area that personnel would have to monitor.

Opening academic buildings to students sounds like a great idea, especially during finals week. The ever-shrinking availability of study space may cause officials to look in different directions. But it would only create a logistical nightmare.

— by Justin Sugg


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