Paresky late-night hours get second look

All-nighters may once again become social events for nocturnal Williams students, as the Paresky Center will most likely reinstate 24-hour-a-day operations in the near future. There are long-term plans for a committee of administrators and students to review Paresky’s opening and closing hours.

In the meantime, a smaller group is getting ready to reveal the interim plan. If implemented, this short-term plan will reopen Paresky 24 hours a day, Sunday through Thursday, while on Friday and Saturday nights, the Center will retain the current schedule and close from 2 to 7 a.m.

Paresky opened last spring as a 24-hour open space, but closed its doors from 2 to 7 a.m. every night, starting in Winter Study. The decision to limit Paresky’s hours was made at the recommendation of the Paresky operations advisory group, which cited sustainability concerns as the primary reason for the restricted hours.

Issues of sustainability remain a concern and a long-term review of Paresky’s hours will be motivated in large part by research from the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. Along with students, Campus Life, and other operating departments, the Zilkha Center will work to determine a definitive schedule for Paresky.

According to Stephanie Boyd, acting director of the Zilkha Center, the purpose of this larger group will be to “balance the needs of students, along with environmental goals and fiscal responsibilities.”

Student response

The driving reason behind the second-look at Paresky’s hours was student outcry against the altered Paresky schedule, according to Boyd. “While a committee of administrators and students had thoughtfully developed an operating plan that reflected the student usage of this space late at night, the energy consumption of the building and the desires of the campus to become more sustainable, there was unexpected negative student reaction,” she said.

Student reactions manifested themselves in two ways: first, College Council members began to come forward and express students’ concern for the lack of a central 24-hour space, and second, a sit-in took place on the night of Thursday, Jan. 31.

The sit-in consisted of about 12 students, most of whom, as promised, spent an entire night inside of Paresky. “The sit-in was primarily a function for students who felt that they were lacking a voice to unite and find a common ground,” said Julian Mesri ’09, who organized the event with Lauren Bloch ’09. Though he admitted his initial concerns to have been “immature and petty grievances, compared to issues of true and immediate importance,” such as the Stand With Us movement currently making an impact on campus, Mesri was happy about the future changes to Paresky’s hours. “The change is great,” said Mesri. “I’m glad students’ feelings have been taken into account.”

Student opinions were not only taken into account by administrators, but students have been welcomed into the decision-making process. After becoming aware of the student reaction to the change in hours, Boyd said, “We thought that a more thorough analysis of late night spaces on campus, involving a broader representative committee, was warranted.”

Boyd also stressed the important roles of communication and education in the greater mission of becoming a more sustainable campus. “One overarching goal is to engage our community, in particular our students, in determining the approach to meeting our goals,” she said. “One positive side-effect of the Paresky story is that many people have become interested in the concept of energy consumption and operational implications.” Boyd said, “We should use this opportunity to engage more of our community in this discussion.”

Until this broader committee – which will be headed by the Zilkha Center – can decide on Paresky’s long-term hours, a smaller group has been busy developing an interim plan. This group consists of Boyd, Schiazza, and College Council co-presidents Kim Dacres ’08 and Morgan Goodwin ’08. Though Schiazza was reluctant to specify a day when students can expect temporary changes to Paresky’s hours, he did state that they will be made “fairly soon.” Goodwin was more specific. “The interim solution . . . could take up to a week or more to get all the systems in line – these buildings are complicated,” he said.

Interim Paresky hours

The group has decided that Paresky will most likely reopen to become a 24-hour space for five days each week, and retain its current hours for the other two. Partygoers beware, though, as it is unlikely that any of these 24-hour nights will be Friday or Saturday. Part of this has to do with raw numbers: Paresky is busiest on nights where students pack in to cram for tests or write papers.

“Studying has been Paresky’s greatest demand,” said Schiazza. “Friday and Saturday nights there’s little to no demand. The number counts are from two to seven and we had a hard time justifying keeping [Paresky] open.”

Goodwin agreed. “Weekend numbers show Friday and Saturday nights, between 2:30 and 7 a.m., most of the time there are zero people in the building,” he said.

“Historically, Friday and Saturdays are two nights with behavioral issues,” said Schiazza, who cited the past bio-cleanup incidents in Paresky, all of which took place on either a Friday or Saturday night. “If we’re picking nights to stay open, I would rather have students studying than drunken.”

According to both Goodwin and Schiazza, Friday and Saturday evenings will most likely retain the current schedule, in which the building is closed from 2 to 7 a.m. This means that on those nights, the Lee Snack Bar will retain its closing hour of 1 a.m., a move that has been unpopular with students. “I’m not a fan of the new closing hours. It was much more convenient when Snack Bar closed at 2,” said Rebecca Tyson ’11.

Those planning on making Paresky their all-nighter destination once again will most likely notice changes. Under the probable short-term plan, the heat and lights would dim earlier on in 24-hour nights. “We’re looking into turning down the lights by about 50 percent as soon as midnight most nights,” said Goodwin. “We’re also looking into turning down the heat by two to four degrees during that time.”

The effect of this energy change will not bother students. “It’s worth noting that even turning down the heat probably won’t lower [Paresky’s] temperature, since [the building] is pretty airtight,” Goodwin said. “The major energy use comes from lighting and ventilation fans, as well as electrical equipment.”

It is difficult to predict what type of hours Paresky will have for the long-term. Schiazza is quick to note that, over the long-term, Paresky’s hours will most likely be affected by the return of Goodrich Hall, which should be fully operational by fall 2008. Before it was closed for extensive renovations in May, Goodrich had been the historically popular 24-hour student space. Goodrich, a much smaller building, is also an environmentally friendlier alternative to Paresky. “Our goal is for Goodrich to be open for next fall’s semester,” said Michael Briggs, senior project manager. “We’re doing what we can to better this schedule, butt completion over the summer seems most likely.”

Future decisions

During its meeting last Wednesday, Feb. 6, CC passed a motion meant to streamline future decisions regarding buildings’ opening and closing hours. The motion will allow the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC), which traditionally recommends policy on environmental issues around campus, to have both the responsibility and power to make decisions on priorities based on research that will come out of the Zilkha Center.

Boyd, who is also a member of CEAC, said that this decision speaks of a greater reorientation regarding on-campus environmental initiatives. “Until recently we have not considered the broader environmental impacts of our decisions in quite the way that we now must, given the implications of our institution’s sustainability commitment,” Boyd said. “Just as we are changing our approach to construction projects in order to improve the performance of any new buildings, we are developing new strategies and approaches to improve our operational performance of existing buildings.”

For Goodwin, “Sustainability needs to be something that we as a community agree on.” He pointed out that, in regard to the Paresky decision, “the only trade-offs were environmental – energy savings and emissions.” Goodwin said it is necessary for decisions regarding sustainability to be put in a way that students see as bettering their respective situations. “We can’t go about [campus-wide sustainability] with people going against us every step of the way.”