By Rebeca Vega
In the process of making room for new buildings and new parking spaces, the campus lost something old: its study areas.
This is not to say that East Los Angeles College has nothing to offer its students; we still have options, or what’s left of them. Elans can crunch numbers at the mathematics lab, equipped with five rows of computers, a printer and several tables for students to do their homework. There are even a couple white boards to work out those pesky word problems with study buddies. This sounds like an ideal space for studying, but the room has its flaws.
With no windows and only one door, the math lab is always dark, stuffy and too small to handle the hordes of students that seek tutoring services during midterms and finals. Instead of concentrating on flash cards, Elans compete for elbow room, the attention of the few tutors that work here and even fresh air. Even with the air conditioning on blast, studying here feels more like cracking a book inside a locker room while snuggling up to a damp towel that hasn’t been washed in a few weeks – or ever.
The writing center next door is a better option, also equipped with computers, tables and a printer. Aside from also lacking proper lighting, windows and fresh air, the round tables, as opposed to the long ones in the math lab, provide students with more personal space. The downside to working in this lab is that Internet use on the computers is restricted. Signs are posted at each station warning students they will be asked to leave if they don’t ask for permission to log on to the web.
Not everyone, if anyone, follows this rule, since it’s difficult to enforce with the limited amount of tutors available. Regardless if anyone has ever been asked to leave for violating this rule, it feels silly to require grown adults to ask for permission to surf the web. It’s understandable for the school to block access to time-wasting social sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on its network, but it’s patronizing and counterproductive to limit Internet use altogether.
Students shouldn’t have to ask for permission to check an important e-mail from an instructor. That is as much of an interruption as taking a break to update a Facebook status, which most of us do via our phones anyway. Another place for students to hit the books is the learning center in the technology building. Here, there are more than enough computers and empty tables, or so it seems.
Even with eight rows of computers in one half of the room and at least 30 empty tables and desks in the other half of the room, there are as many as five students waiting in line for a computer during peak hours. At least half of the available tables are reserved for tutoring sessions, so those students just looking for a place to sit down and review some notes are better off finding an empty spot elsewhere – but where?
The answer arrived a few months ago when a batch of desks was distributed throughout the hallways in the technology building, similar to the cubbies scattered throughout the hallways in the F5 Building, the only designated study area on campus aside from the makeshift library in the men’s gym. Elans armed with laptops, books, headphones and snacks quickly swarmed to their new perch. Finally, there was a place spacious enough for students to do their homework, stretch their legs, eat a snack and check their email (or Facebook) without having to ask for permission.
These desks provided the perfect spot for students to plug in some earbuds and put in a few hours of studying, or catch up on reading assignments between classes. It was disappointing to walk into the building one day and find that the desks had been removed from the hallways and crammed into the learning center. Those of us who seek solitude when we study are back to sitting cross-legged on the floor in hallways, teetering our laptops on our knees and hoping someone doesn’t kick over our tumblers full of double mocha whatever.
Of course we’re all relieved there will be a new parking structure and of course we’re all anxiously awaiting the “new” library, which from the outside looks just like the old library with bigger windows, but the school’s additions shouldn’t come at the cost of its old appeal. Every semester more and more students make their entrance through the revolving doors of community colleges, so it makes sense that ELAC’s classrooms and parking lots seem to burst at the seams. But if the school wants us to make our exit within a reasonable amount of time, we need the physical space to learn.
Sometimes, all that takes is placing a desk by an electrical outlet.