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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Atrium Etiquette: Conflict on a crowded campus

Students in the Campus Center Atrium

The issue:

During finals week last semester, my friend and I decided to take a break from long hours of studying and have lunch together. We both brought food and met at the atrium lounge on the upper level of the Campus Center.

The lounge was pretty packed, with no empty tables, so we had to sit around a table with one other person, a girl we didn’t know. We proceeded to eat and make some chit chat. Five minutes after we sat down, the girl asked us to either be quiet or move, because she was trying to study. We refused, and she ended up leaving.

I recently recounted this event to Paul Driskill, managing editor at the Mass Media. Our conversation about it spurred the following debate.

– Shira Kaminsky



She had no right to ask us to leave

By Shira Kaminsky

As I am sitting in the Mass Media office on the third floor of the campus center writing this very article, the murmur of conversation emanating from the atrium three floors below is louder than the various conversations happening in this office. The atrium lounge is clearly not supposed to be a quiet study area.

With comfy chairs, round tables, a café nearby, and the constant traffic of people coming in and out of the main door, the lounge is kind of like the living room of the Campus Center. It’s a place ideal for socializing.

Many students choose to study there, that’s true, but people study at Starbucks, too. If you choose to study in a place where people come to socialize, you should be one of those people who like to have background noise in order to concentrate.

I’m not really one of those people, and that’s why, on that day, I found myself a quiet spot to study. After many hours of hitting the books (and my head against the table), I came to the atrium lounge to eat, talk to a friend, and relax. And why shouldn’t I? That’s what the lounge is there for.

The “she was there first” argument is ridiculous. You can’t call dibs on an atmosphere. If I get to the sixth floor of the library first and start a phone conversation, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a designated quiet area. Just because you got there first doesn’t mean you make the rules.

It was unfortunate that we couldn’t find a different table, and we sincerely didn’t wish to disturb her. But to pack up our food and go wandering the campus looking for an empty table? Or, even worse, eat silently without enjoying our (well-deserved) break? Hell, no!

This campus has an abundance of quiet places to study. Leave the atrium lounge alone.

Table Heist

By Paul Driskill

What could the two girls who just wanted to talk have done differently? I see two possibilities: One, they could have asked the girl if she minded that they talk before they sat at her table and pushed her away. Two, they could have gone somewhere else when asked to.

You can relax and talk pretty much anywhere, but, if you’re like me, it takes a special kind of environment to keep you focused. I hope the student found another suitable location, especially since she was studying for finals.

Unfortunately, since it was full, she would have had to leave the Atrium. Maybe she found a place in the cafeteria or the library. But any old place won’t do for studying.

On the other hand, here are some places the two girls could have gone: to the tables on the Campus Center first floor; to the tables on the second floor; to the seats on the third floor; to the cafeteria… pretty much anywhere in the Campus Center that is not used for office space. Or, they could have gone outside (it was unseasonably warm). But maybe they are finicky about where they relax and talk.

The studying girl could go to those places, too – but, I suppose if we use the logic of the two girls, she would need to defer to people who just want to relax. After all, all the areas listed aren’t designated for studying.

There is an ideological issue here. Should someone be able to study wherever he or she wants? I would say yes. You could disagree with me. Obviously, you can’t eat wherever you want, so why should studying get special privileges? Even if it is during final exams week when it is hard to find a good place to study. Even if this would allow the student to eat and drink and study at the same time.

I guess maybe they’re right: that girl shouldn’t have been there at all. We do have a library, after all.




About the Contributors
Shira Kaminsky served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2012; 2012-2013 Managing Editor: Fall 2011 Arts Editor: Fall 2010
Paul Driskill served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Managing Editor: Spring 2012; 2012-2013 News editor : 2010-2011 Opinions: Fall 2011