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Wrangling room reservations

UMBC’s clubs and student organizations are prolific and well publicized. Advertised as having over 200 different clubs and groups, there is something for everyone here at UMBC. However, all these organizations need space to meet, so space is at a premium on UMBC’s campus.

In addition to the many student clubs, there are also professors and researchers who need space to meet and discuss classes and research. Then there are the guest lectures and the cultural events. Don’t forget about the study groups and student-run events.

All of these events and groups battle for space on a daily basis at UMBC. William Archer, the coordinator for student organization event advising, said, “any student at UMBC can just walk into any room and use it. However, you cannot kick people out, nor can you bar people from entering.” In order to ensure privacy, students would need to reserve the room they are using.

The process for reserving rooms is unnecessarily confusing. The process requires a large amount of advance planning, and is non-intuitive.

Some of the rooms on campus are controlled by the department in which building they are located. To reserve these rooms, a student or faculty member needs to be part of and go through the department office. According to the Biology department, at any given moment in a day, a room or two is usually open for meetings. But for general student usage, these rooms are constantly unavailable.

However, these are only a handful of the conference rooms and smaller spaces in each building. The majority of the rooms are controlled by the registrar’s office in conjunction with the event planning office in the student affairs office. In order to reserve one of these other rooms, a student needs to use the online reservation software, 25Live.

At specific times during the semester, the registrar-controlled rooms are blocked from being reserved, especially during the beginning and end of each semester. This creates a backlog of students who need rooms.

In addition, the system has many stipulations. Not everyone can access the software in order to reserve rooms. Archer said that in order to use this software, “you need to be allowed access to it to reserve a room – and in general we only give access to heads of organizations.” For the average student on campus who would like to utilize a space, this process is prohibited.

According to senior biochemistry major Vani Ravichandra,”the [25Live] system is slightly confusing at first,” and, “certain rooms are only available at certain times due to classes or prior bookings.”

This software also has a minimum turnaround of 24 to 48 hours. So on a given day, a student cannot reserve a space for that day, they would need to plan further in advance. “Our options are always limited,” said Ravichandran.

This system is complicated, limiting the people who are allowed to reserve rooms. For students who want to reserve a room for a study session, a private event or to use the resources that that room offers, this system prevents them from utilizing the resources that campus has to offer.

UMBC is known for its friendliness to student organizations, groups and events. However, the process for utilizing space and resources should be more accommodating to not only the student organizations, but also for the average student. In order for students to be able to reserve a room when they need it in a particular area, more rooms should be open to all students to reserve.

In order to keep things compartmentalized, the larger spaces and more specialized spaces such as the Library and the University Center Ballroom can be saved for large-scale events. The smaller conference rooms in each building should stay under the control of the department for their own meetings. But this leaves us the classrooms – when classes are not there – and the medium sized spaces. Regular students should be able to reserve these. UMBC has the ability to fully live up to its reputation as a welcoming host to cultural events and student groups — it just needs to make room.