50°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Revisiting the student center redesign

Students+study+for+a+test+together+in+a+common+room+in+the+student+areas.+Photo+by%26%23160%3BEva+Lycette+%28She%2FHer%29+%2F+Mass+Media+Contributor.%26%23160%3B

Students study for a test together in a common room in the student areas. Photo by Eva Lycette (She/Her) / Mass Media Contributor. 

Last semester, I wrote an article on the student center redesign that was to be implemented for this current semester. I outlined some hopes, some concerns and did my best to clarify the plans as best I could. I finished my article feeling trepidatious, yet somewhat hopeful that the changes might work out.
Now that the changes have largely been made, I think it’s time to access the results. This time, I am focusing on the student experience, as that is ultimately what these changes were ostensibly designed to improve. After four weeks of personal experience and speaking with other students about the current state of the student centers, I can confidently say the results are pretty discouraging.
I’ll start with my own experiences at The Mass Media.
Let me paint you a picture of what our space used to look like. At the back end of Room 3200, a section of cubicles set up around a large, center table could be found. The cubicles were open to each other and faced away from the table, so a temporary, open room with a conference space in the center was created. Behind the back cubicle wall was a convenient space for storage and hiding clutter from plain view. If you did go back there, you would see a wall chock full of beautiful artwork and poetry.
To the left was a corridor leading to the enclosed conference room with art and poetry all the way down it as well. To the right were the offices for some of our managing staff. Writ Large and The Watermark had cubicle spaces at a kitty-corner to our area. There were plenty of outlets for charging devices in the cubicle spaces.
Now let me paint you a picture of what we have now.
At the back of Room 3200 is a large, mostly empty space with a tiny table that technically needs to be reserved for use. We have a few comfy armchairs surrounding a tiny glass end table that is too low to use for anything but placing some copies of the newspaper and Writ Large.
A single, oddly shaped, movable table that can fit maybe two or three laptops on it is at the back of the room. A single set of outlets are on the right side of a wall completely stripped of artwork—with rips in the drywall, nails left in and pencil marks still showing—and a giant TV that nobody uses. The wall is flanked by giant, ugly lockers. The corridor leading to the glass conference room is also stripped of artwork and scarred. The removed artwork was piled, broken and sad, on top of the tiny conference table in the middle of the room for days on end.
Writ Large and The Watermark now have two cubicles, separated by a cubicle wall, situated along the glass windows at the left of the space. The Mass Media has a desk jammed onto the end of one of the cubicle tables. The desktop computer that was originally on the desk is now gone, and writers have to stretch over and use the Writ Large cubicle’s outlets for their laptops.
If I had to choose one short phrase to describe our offices now, it would be “barely functional and unprofessional.” Every time I invite someone to our space for an interview, I feel like I have to apologize for how unprofessional the place looks and for the lack of space to sit, let alone private space to conduct interviews. “How are we supposed to run a newspaper in an empty space with no outlets?” I’ve asked many times.
The rest of the room feels similar, but pretty empty of activity. Undergraduate Student Government is now in their own office, and the rest of the cubicles are workstations for student employees. Even some of the offices are empty, which seems like a waste.
That’s my own experience with The Mass Media space. To get an idea about what the clubs and student centers in the room next to us were experiencing, I talked to Avishai Lorenzo-Lassus, coordinator for Casa Latinx.
When I asked Lorenzo-Lassus if he liked the changes, the answer was quick in coming no. As with our side, their room has been converted to an open, largely empty area with smaller tables. He told me that people feel uncomfortable being there for two reasons; one is that the openness makes them feel like all eyes are on them, which Lorenzo-Lassus did concede might just be something that students have to get used to. The other reason is something that he felt very strongly about: that there is no sound isolation whatsoever.
Now that the cubical sections have been either removed or placed in a line along the windows, everybody can hear every conversation all the way across the room. While the intent was ostensibly to encourage interaction, he has seen that the only people interacting between clubs and organizations are the same people that already did before the changes. It seems as if all that actually happened was that clubs who don’t have their own offices lost any sense of privacy whatsoever. As Lorenzo-Lassus said, if there’s a dominant student center or club, they’re always going to take up the space.
He also told me that while part of the concept for the redesign was to make the space cleaner, more organized and less hectic, the effect hasn’t really taken hold. The space is often a mess and students are left to clean it up, which inevitably—and unfortunately—means that it often doesn’t get done. This tracks with my experience with the piled-up artwork on the conference table that I eventually moved under our whiteboard because there was literally no other place for it.
To paraphrase Lorenzo-Lassus, the whole redesign seems like a “facelift” that ignored deeper problems. On the student center side, some change may have been needed—even Lorenzo-Lassus alluded to this when we met last semester—though the changes have largely been of questionable merit. On The Mass Media and USG side, it seems like a change for the worse that nobody really asked for.
Now, I don’t want to make it out like there are no upsides at all. Interaction between staff at The Mass Media was actually much smoother and more fluid for a while. This is no longer the case; things are decidedly back to how they were before, except that the space is significantly less useful.
Also, according to Lorenzo-Lassus, the TV in the student center area is actually getting a lot of use, and there is a greater variety of people using the space in general. He also said that having more staff members in offices over there has been helpful, since problems can be more easily and immediately brought up and dealt with.
To be completely fair, the changes are not complete yet. Lorenzo-Lassus is pushing for a pool table in the latest budget request, an increase of student center fees may allow them to do more with the space they have, and we have plenty of opportunity to request changes now that the initial chaos is over. So, there is hope.
Overall, the changes haven’t been great. But I do think that improvements can easily be made—Lorenzo-Lassus himself has some great ideas about how to organize the space a little better—and I don’t think they would be very hard to implement. So, stay tuned and don’t be afraid to come up and check the place out for yourself! We’ll be happy to welcome you, despite the mess.

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor