Speaking Up for Our Choices

OPEN and Choices discuss controversial office move

Drashhti Bilimoria, Layout Editor

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Many Clark students know that the University Commons (UC) as the central hub for all things Clark. It is home to the cafe and Bistro, the mailroom, the Grind, and a place to learn about on-campus events. What many Clarkies may not have realized, however, is that the UC is no longer a space for (many of) the clubs that were there last year. Over the summer, Residential Life and Housing (RLH) staff offices were moved from the Corner House into the third floor of the UC, replacing the offices of the Scarlet, OPEN, and Choices.

While these three clubs were asked to pack up their offices over the summer, Clark Hillel and Science-Fiction People of Clark (SPOC) remain on the third floor. The Scarlet was moved to an office in Maywood Residence Hall. Although some e-board and staff members can’t swipe into the building, editor-in-chief Katherine Hamilton explained that Student Leadership and Programming (SLP) was fairly accommodating in finding the club a new office space.

Choices and OPEN say this was not the case, after they were moved to the basement of 157 Woodland Street.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, Choices and OPEN held their event “Effects and Impacts on Clark Campus,” created in collaboration with Umbrellas and the Socialist Alternative. Both clubs voiced their frustrations at no longer having accessible office spaces for the Clark community.  

According to Choices and OPEN e-board members, both clubs were informed that there was a possibility of their club spaces being moved, but that it would not be a concern for the following academic year. After Commencement, however, they received an email that contradicted the previous statement: their office spaces were being moved out of the UC, and they were asked to find a new preferred location. This occurred over the span of two weeks, and neither club had the resources nor the student support in the summer to refute the decision.  

Options for office spaces provided to both clubs included space in Hughes Hall or the basement in 157 Woodland. For Choices, which serves as a sexual health resource for the Clark community, and OPEN, which aims to be a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community at Clark, anonymity and accessibility are key. Hughes is a residence hall primarily for first-years, and so any upperclassmen looking for resources about sexual health or support from the queer community would likely run into issues of privacy in Hughes, not to mention the matter of searching for the office within the dorm.

Although both clubs ultimately chose the 157 Woodland Street offices in an attempt for anonymity, privacy concerns remain. As club members described at their Tuesday event, some of the students may not be comfortable with others seeing them approach club offices, or may not be “out” yet and are looking for an anonymous way to learn more about either topic. In addition, the entrances to these offices require students to go through the back alley located near Annie’s, which creates barriers of accessibility for both the disabled and visually-impaired.

Some also said that students looking for the OPEN and Choices club offices often end up accidentally trying to enter the student residences instead of circling around to the basement entrance.

While “Effects and Impacts on Clark Campus” primarily served to inform those in attendance about the changes made regarding both clubs’ office spaces, the event ended with a brainstorming session regarding possible solutions. Both clubs recognized that moving back into the UC is impractical, and came up with a list of more accessible and centrally-located office spaces that are empty and could be used by both clubs. Everyone agreed that student support was most important for Choices and OPEN, and the university is more likely to act if it learns that students are upset about the current housing.

Both clubs are asking for personal statements by those impacted by the move, which can be anonymous if desired. Some ideas pitched included starting a petition or holding a rally to gain student support.