Jan 30, 2007
No more late night lattes: ILRC hours change
by Matthew Hegarty, Managing Editor
When the clock strikes midnight this semester, the computer lab that was bustling with student activity last semester will be silent, the only occupants the staff that work there.
Instead of remaining open 24 hours a day for most of the week, the ILRC now closes at 11:45 p.m. on the nights it used to remain open. The 9 p.m. closing times for Friday and Saturday nights are still in effect.
Despite some less-than-positive response from students in the weeks leading up to the new semester, ILRC Dean David Barnett said that students have seemed to accept the change. “So far, (the transition) has been very smooth,” he said.
Barnett recalled the days when the ILRC was a novelty. “We started back in 2002, when we opened this facility, to extend our hours to Sunday night through Thursday night,” he said.
The room that serves as the electronic hub of Liberty’s lab has been expanded and upgraded countless times. “What we offer technologically for students is pretty robust,” Barnett said.
However, as the level of technology available to students began to increase, so did the sheer number of those students.
With nearly 9,000 students on campus for the spring semester, facilities such as the computer lab can become quite crowded, whether in between classes or not.
Barnett affirmed that, in recent semesters, the ILRC staff had seen a shift in the usage of the computer lab from primarily study-related to a more social context. He said that, on more than a few occasions, ILRC workers had to call LUPD to come resolve altercations that occurred during the early morning hours.
They then began to rethink their original rationale for having a 24-hour lab space. In so doing, the ILRC administrators reviewed approximately a dozen of Virginia’s schools. They discovered that, among the schools they studied, Liberty was the only school to have a 24-hour computer lab for its students.
Student response to the change was mixed. “The good side is, it encourages students to have decent sleeping habits,” said junior Bob Bannister.
However, Bannister also mentioned some potential downsides, like off-campus students who do not own computers and the fostering of a sense of idleness in the dorms.
Concerning other possible solutions, Barnett said that the ILRC staff had been exploring the possibility of utilizing security cameras.
He also said that the ILRC would probably not attempt even a 2 a.m. closing time unless other university facilities were simultaneously open.
The dean called on students to reexamine their motives for disagreeing with the change. “Is the issue more, ‘The lab’s not available,’ or, ‘The lab’s not available at the time that I’m used to it’?” Barnett said.
He reminded those who are concerned about using the Mac or Avid labs for lab-specific projects that they would most likely be allowed to use the computer lab during specified times. He said that he was already in contact with several professors for lists of the affected students. “We’re trying to be sensitive as to how our resources are made available,” Barnett said.
He exhorted Liberty students to prioritize their studies. “Students are going to have to make some choices about managing their time,” he said.
In addition, Barnett made it clear that, to facilitate students, there would still be two times this semester when the computer lab would still be open for consecutive 24-hour periods — namely, the week before spring break and finals week.
Barnett admitted to observing the fallout on Facebook – from a distance. “There are multiple groups out there on both sides of the fence, and it’s been interesting to watch them – except when they call me names,” he said with a wry smile.
Contact Matthew Hegarty at mjhegarty@ liberty.edu.
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