Is there a place for students in the Student Center?

Home Archived News Is there a place for students in the Student Center?

Erika Wilhite

Published: January 25, 2006

The Student Center offers a Career Center, a computer lab, a cafeteria, the campus book store, and several dozen tables at which students can eat and study. Therein lays the problem; that’s all it offers. Where’s the activity?

Dennis Reynolds, the coordinator for student leadership and activities, acknowledges that “every student pays a student activities fee in their tuition,” and urges students to “take advantage of it.”

In that case, where are the activities that the students are paying for?

Unlike many other colleges across the nation, PJC’s Student Center doesn’t offer students actual activities, or even a way to relax. There are no couches, just rows of tables and chairs. There isn’t even a TV. Last year a group of students gathered in the center to play cards were informed their activities were found to be disturbing (presumably to students who were trying to study) and were asked to go elsewhere.

Since PJC also has a Learning Resource Center, several study labs and computer labs, an on-campus branch of the Tryon Library – in short, many other places for students to study – the Student Center’s actions don’t seem to serve any real purpose.

In the spring of 2005 “No Loitering” signs appeared all around the Student Center, prompting complaints about the contradiction, as a “Student Center” implies a place wherein students can gather for meetings and other activities, or even just “hang out.”

Peter Wilkin, the director of student life, said that he posted the signs specifically to deter male students from gathering on or near the railings outside the student center. Wilkin says that he had asked the students not to congregate there several times, and when these warning went unheeded he felt had no choice but to post the “No Loitering” signs.

“For the last several years I had been receiving complaints,” Wilkin said, “Specifically from female students, who indicated to me that they would not come into this building because they were harassed. Whether it was inappropriate remarks made to them, or simply improper looks and gestures, female students felt so uncomfortable that they no longer wished to even come near the Student Center.”

Reynolds said that the aim of the center is more of a student resource than an alternative to boredom. The computer lab, Reynolds said, is “a huge asset available to the student. students can come [here] and do class work or research.”

Reynolds recently noticed that PJC was one of only a small number of schools across the state not to offer WiFi, and has taken the initiative on the matter.

“That was the one thing that I really wanted to see happen,” said Reynolds, “And it’s happening right now. People can bring their computers in and have access to free WiFi on campus. I think there are going to be more students here in the future taking advantage of the Student Center because the campus is finally going wireless.”

Reynolds said he believes that the Student Center serves its purpose the way it is – as a career and educational resource, not a gathering place.

“There’s a lot of freedom that comes with being a college student,” said Reynolds. “It’s not like high school; students have the choice of whether or not they go to class. We really try to encourage students that first and foremost, they’re here for their education. Therefore, just hanging out isn’t what we’re here for.”

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