Online only - 31 October 2016
The new enrichment centre on the mezzanine floor of the Law School is a triumph of poor design.
Throughout my years at MLS, students have (rightly) complained about a lack of study space. Today, for example, I walked into the level three law students area, only to find that there were no seats available. With my heavy backpack and a pile of books, I walked up to level four of the library (where there were no seats), and then level five (still no seats). For some reason, students are banned from using the lift. I then walked back down the two flights of stairs and wallowed in defeat.
With the closure of the Law Student Centre, the Law School had a fantastic opportunity to put to good use a large and well-located space in the building. Unfortunately, in its current form the space has been wasted.
The purpose of the mezzanine ‘Enrichment Centre’ is unclear, with the only communication from MLS being that the Centre is ‘a dedicated space for Law students’. The Centre consists of a staff members’ desk, a couple of large circular ‘booth’-style study spaces (which appear to lack AC power), a long communal desk (which does lack AC power), a semi-separated area with a large TV and some chairs, and a whole lot of empty, wasted space. When I visited, the Centre was completely empty save for a staff member, and a couple of students who left soon after. This is on a day where all other study areas in the building were completely full.
The room is a poor choice for students who need somewhere to study for three reasons. First, the desks lack AC power - a farcical oversight. Second, their concentration is liable to be interrupted by the resident staff member answering the phone or a student enquiry (this is not the fault of the staff member; it is the fault of whoever designed this space). Third, the seating is impractical. As it stands, the room is essentially a massive office for ‘Enrichment Centre’ staff with a bunch of empty desks and chairs.
Ultimately, the space has failed: despite professing to be a dedicated area for law students, law students refuse to use it. This is because the room does not know what it is. Is it an office for staff members? Is it an area for students to have meetings/discussions? Is it a silent study area? The space does many things, but it does nothing well.
These problems can be overcome. First, the staff member needs to be given a proper office, not a desk in a student study space. Second, the current furniture should be replaced with space-efficient individual carrels with AC power. If it were designed properly, the space could probably accommodate a sufficient number of law students so as to alleviate the current shortfall of study space in the law student area on level three. Third, there needs to be adequate communication to law students about what this space is (and what it isn’t).
It is frustrating that the Law School has again failed to pay heed to the needs of students. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have (probably) been spent on a poorly designed space which does little to increase the utility for law students.
Anon is a third-year JD student