Brianna Campbell / The Collegian
As the Henry Madden Library reached closing hours on Friday, 94 students, faculty and members of the community refused to leave in protest of the reduced library hours this semester. Students said that the study-in protest was part of a larger push for shared governance.
University officials, including the library dean Peter McDonald, vice president of student affairs Paul M. Oliaro, Ph.D., and the director of University Communications Shirley Armbruster as well as others, were all present until about midnight.
Meanwhile, more than three dozen supporters stood outside of the library to show community support for the group inside. Many of them brought food and drinks for the students participating in the protest.
Hector Cerda, a graduate student in social work, said the students planned to stay and study for 24 hours.
“We’re hoping we can get our administration to understand their responsibility toward access to academics [and] higher education,” Cerda said.
He said that the University Student Union (USU) and the Student Recreation Center, which both have greater access than the library throughout the week, were not ideal places to study. They don’t have the facilities or the quiet atmosphere that the library provides, he said.
“It kind of speaks to the sense that a library is here for academics,” Cerda said. “Why send us to a rec center?”
Brianna Campbell / The Collegian
McDonald, addressed the students and said that though the library was closed, the students would be allowed to stay as long as they continued to study quietly. However, he said that no one else would be let in or allowed to re-enter if they left.
“I couldn’t be more sympathetic that the budget cuts are impacting the hours, but we hope by the spring that we’re going to be able to turn it around,” McDonald said.
He said that some of the money that is earmarked for the Laptop Loan Program and collections might be redirected to extend the library hours in the spring.
McDonald made an announcement on Wednesday, Nov. 18 that for the final three Saturdays of the semester the library has extended its hours to be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. He said that the extension was always planned, and happens every semester.
McDonald said Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) did a study that found Sundays to be preferred to Saturdays among students for library use. So when the library had to make cuts, he decided to cut Saturdays.
The survey went out to 111 student leaders from around campus, and 90 replied. It found that 28.1 percent said 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. were the most crucial hours, and 44.9 percent said 8 p.m. to midnight were the preferred hours to keep the library open. While only 12 percent said that noon to 4 p.m. were the most crucial.
McDonald said that the library offers many more facilities than the USU, therefore it takes more people to keep it open.
He said the library’s budget was cut, resulting in reduced hours.
According to McDonald, collections took a $400,000 hit, operations took a $166,000 hit and student employment, the primary source of employees during late hours, took a $260,000 hit.
The students held a press conference for local media at 10 p.m., where they read from a prepared statement.
The statement reiterated the students’ feelings that there is a lack of shared governance on campus.
They used the extension of the Saturday hours as an example of how the current system falls short. The extended hours, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., did not match the findings of the ASI survey conducted in July.
A closed-door meeting at 11:30 p.m. between students and the library dean effectively ended the protest. Both parties agreed that the students would stay until 7:45 a.m., according to undeclared freshman Satvir Dhah.
Dhah said that the students wanted an understanding with university officials, and they got that understanding.
“There is a big barrier between the students and their needs, and how they’re looked at [by] the people that are making the decisions, the administration,” Dhah said. “In one sense we crossed that barrier today for the first time in this small movement that we’ve had so far.”
Dhah said the study-in was a success, but that the students have plans for further meetings and actions, including a meeting at the California State University, Stanislaus campus with students from several universities. He said that the victory boosted the morale of the group.
Dhah spoke about students who have been critical of recent activism.
“Apathy is a big part of our society,” Dah said, “but when they start seeing that there’s hope, I’m sure they’ll jump on.”