posted 2012-02-17 17:02:30

Hunter Lobby No Longer 24/7

Lobby hours changed after over a decade of 24 hour a day access

By Kimberly Devi Milner and Nistha Lamba

Once open to Hunter students 24 hours a day, the Hunter West lobby's hours of operation have been changed to match those of the library's. The lobby now closes at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 p.m. on Friday, and 8:30 p.m. on weekends.  Public Safety has enforced the new policy made by senior Hunter administrators since mid-January.

Because the Hunter campus is monitored by public safety 24 hours a day, the lobby will remain open, but students and visitors will not be allowed to remain inside past official operation hours. The lobby’s 24-hour access policy had been in place at the college for nearly two decades, and students previously availed the area outfitted with tables, chairs and a microwave to study or sleep after the library closed.  The new hours especially affect the college’s homeless population, and students who take night classes.

“It’s a problem for people who take night classes,” said Psychology student Beryl Teitelbaun. Teitelbaun emphasized her concern that students who work all day then take night or evening classes pay the same tuition as day students, but cannot enjoy the freedom to stay on campus to do homework or team projects.

The only other senior CUNY colleges that continue to offer their students campus access past midnight are City College and Brooklyn College. Valid City College students can study in a first floor classroom of a central building that opens after the library closes, and Brooklyn college students are allowed to remain in the campus’s cafeteria, said each college’s Public Safety offices.

According to Hunter’s Director of Communications and Marketing, Meredith Halpern, the West lobby’s hours were changed to “coincide with the hours of operation of the 68th Street Main Library throughout the school year.” When asked where she recommended students go after hours the director suggested that students could continue to study, “in their dorm rooms.”

Hunter College's Brookdale Residence Hall offers 612 Hunter students dormitories starting at $2,370 for this winter and spring semester.  Because Hunter serves over 20,000 students, acceptance into Brookdale is extremely limited.

Although the Hunter administration claims the new operation hours were posted on the school’s website, the Envoy was unable to find even one student who saw the web-page or knew about the policy prior to being asked to leave the campus.  As of this writing Public Safety's website incorrectly advertises the old hours on its “Campus Access” webpage.

Several students and staff said they believed impetus for the new policy came from Occupy Hunter’s Dec. 6 occupation of the lobby.  The occupiers spent two consecutive nights handing out literature, free donuts and pizza to students passing through the lobby last semester, until administration relocated the group to the third floor.

“They said that we could not be there 24 hours a day – that we were not allowed to be in the lobby like that,” said Computer Science major and activist Robert O’Connor who partook in the occupation. O’Connor said Hunter administrators approached the occupiers telling them the lobby was only open to students when the library was open. “But it was clear the lobby was open at night. The night we were there all around me were people sleeping. I saw students sleeping.”

Another student activist, Roy Ben-Moshe, had little doubt that the new lobby hours were connected to the lobby occupation. “You see the pattern how the rules start changing on how people are organized,” said the graduate student in the School of Early Childhood Education.  “But my first concern is that there are homeless students that sleep in the Hunter lobby at night and they have no other place to go … The administration who make these rules are rich and don’t think about the homeless people who sleep in the lobby.”

Halpern denied that Occupy Hunter had anything to do with lobby’s new access policy.  She also noted that the lobby hours would be extended during midterms and finals to compliment library hours.

Many students who did not previously utilize the lobby’s night access now miss the opportunity to use space. “Even though I never stayed in the lobby at night, I think the option should be available. Now I feel like I’m deprived of a convenient studying place,” said Political Science major Laoure Louche.

Psychology student Julianne Ignacio also regretted the new policy.  “With the classrooms and the library closed, the lobby was the only safe and convenient place to study late night after classes,” Ignacio said.
When asked if students are barred from re-entering the lobby to use the bathroom or take temporary shelter, a Public Safety officer said that students could enter the building but not stay for substantial periods of time.