Brown offers its undergraduates a significant support system and a host of opportunities, but when it comes to providing space for common use and studying, our school is somewhat deficient. With over 6,000 undergraduate students at Brown, it's often difficult to find a free table in the library or a place to arrange an informal meeting. Now that the weather is nice and students have begun to congregate outside, the shortage of study and meeting spaces indoors is easy to forget. But for most of the year, the options seem limited.
For this reason, we were pleased to hear President Ruth Simmons declare in the State of Brown address that new construction and renovation is going to create more community spaces.
"One of the things that we've been doing on all building projects is claiming a portion of building projects for the benefit of the whole," Simmons said.
This practice is a commendable one, and we believe firmly in the "if you build it, they will come" adage. Moreover, the new spaces for common use will offer students a change of scenery and the chance to get away from crowds at the main libraries and eating establishments.
The Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center at Faunce House will include a number of informal meeting spaces, as well as a new and improved place to eat, according to the Building Brown Web site. The renovations to Metcalf Chemistry and Research Laboratory will create common space for the whole community to use. And all rooms within the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts "will be assigned for multi-disciplinary work," the Web site notes.
Since finals are just around the corner, we anticipate that Brown's two main libraries will soon flood with students. The Friedman Study Center and the Rockefeller Library often fill up quickly, leaving only less desirable study spots like shaky carrels or sleep-inducing couches. Sketch comedy group Out of Bounds articulates this problem well. "How am I to work in these big arm chairs?/ I'm typing on the laptop and an outlet's rare," they lament in their video, "SciLi State of Mind."
We hope that some of the new community spaces will provide additional places for students to study, and we encourage students to seek out these new locations and make use of them. But for now, we want to suggest some underrated places where students can get their work done away from the masses.
For a slightly alternative library experience, try the library at the Watson Institute for International Studies, the Orwig Music Library, the new Science Center in the Sciences Library, or the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design, which is accessible to Brown students with Brown IDs. Our favorite non-library study spaces include the Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences and the Brown/RISD Hillel building, which is open late and welcomes all Brown students. Empty classrooms in J. Walter Wilson also offer good, secluded spots.
That being said, we won't blame you if force of habit or the need to work late brings you back to the Friedman Study Center. You'll be in good company, and at the end of the day, that's what community spaces are all about.
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