LNCO Student Lounge Not For All?

Inside of the LNCO, where most humanities courses at the University of Utah are located. Chronicle archives.

Inside of the LNCO, where most humanities courses at the University of Utah are located. Chronicle archives.

By Joseph Moss

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On the third floor of the Languages and Communication building, directly across from the English department, is a place labeled “Student Lounge.” It is a space meant for all students — although some feel this space is not meant for them.

“Last semester, I found some of the English grad students speaking rather badly about their students,” said Joanne Castillo, an alumna from writing and rhetoric studies. “They were also either infantilizing students or were not understanding that students were whole people with outside forces working on them which could result in requests for more time to complete assignments.”

Some students felt that the lounge was only meant for grad students.

“But when the English department began to paper the walls with the covers of publications that only their grad students were published in, I began to get uncomfortable. The message sent seemed to be that the space was for English grad students only. So I asked if some of the covers of the publications that the WRS grad and undergrad students could be put up. I was told that it had to be approved by the English admin,” Castillo said. 

“I began to feel more like that space was not for me. I brought it up to English student adviser Shawn Adrian. He told me that the student lounge was not a safe space or a brave space. He stated that if I wanted that, I should go to the med school library,” Castillo said.

In an email interview, academic adviser Shawn Adrian said, “LNCO 3850 is not an officially designated safe/brave space. This isn’t unusual — very few of the spaces on campus where students congregate or study carry any such official designation. Nevertheless, hundreds of students of different majors, class levels and backgrounds use LNCO 3850 each semester to study, talk quietly with friends or just relax.  The space is open to all students, and we believe it is a very comfortable, relaxed and welcoming environment.” Castillo’s comment was not addressed.

However, Castillo isn’t the only one to express a feeling of unwelcomeness.

Two juniors studying in the writing and rhetoric studies program, Gabriella Garibay and Christina Guerrero, had similar feelings about the lounge. The main reason they believe the lounge isn’t a safe place is “the nature of the space. It seems that everyone there has judged you before coming in,” Guerrero and Garibay said. 

The English department has a different view on the student lounge issue.

“We did a renovation of this floor three years ago,” said Scott Black, the English department chair. “We had a grad student lounge before that in one of the offices down here. It was not big, but we did not have an undergraduate lounge. So, when we redid the floor, we created a new lounge with a computer lab and all that space for undergraduates and graduate students.” 

Black also responded to the brave and safe space comments made.

“It’s [the student lounge] an open space. I consider all our spaces here safe spaces. That’s a priority for the department. So I think that’s wrong and I do consider that a safe space for everyone that wants to use that space,” Black said. “The space is a dedicated English student lounge, but we don’t consider that exclusive. If anyone who wants to use that space, they are welcome to.”

“We’ve never restricted a student from using LNCO 3850, although occasionally we do close it if we need the space for a departmental event. … We’ve only ever had a single complaint that LNCO 3850 was ‘unwelcoming.’  Most students find it a great place to sit and relax between classes,” Adrian said.

For students like Garibay and Guerrero, their views of the lounge might change with this information since they both said they would use the space if they knew it was for anyone. Black also wishes to reassure students.

“If there is any kind of incident, if people do not feel comfortable, they can come to me, any of the faculty and our associate chair, who is Jessica Straley. If they don’t know who or where to go, they can also go to Carly, who is our front desk person,” he said. “They should absolutely go to someone in leadership and we will address it immediately. Our department is committed to openness and respecting everyone regardless of anything.”

Guerrero had a suggestion to make the space seem more welcoming. “Open the door. It seems exclusive to certain people when the door is closed, and it’s always closed so [students] never really know it’s available to use.”

Black or Straley should be contacted for any incident reports within the English department. Bias incidents may also be reported to the Office for Inclusive Excellence.

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@jamattheu