The Stephen Ross Academic Center looks more like a high-tech study utopia than a normal, stuffy library. Complete with comfy couches, flat screen TVs, beautiful classrooms and a computer lab, the $12 million facility on State Street next to Yost Ice Arena allows student-athletes an exclusive place to study without trekking to crowded libraries on Central Campus.

Sarah Royce

But the study center and all its convenient luxuries are off-limits to non-athletes. While the athletic department claims the policy is only selectively enforced, students who don’t play on University sports teams often find themselves shut out of the building, especially during peak hours.

The athletic department needs to make good on its promise to open the Ross Center to all students, given the exclusionary policy is unfair and possibly a violation of NCAA guidelines that prohibit segregating athletes from the student body in any way. All students can benefit from spacious, high-tech study facilities, even those of us who were picked last for dodge ball in fifth grade. Isolating student-athletes only fosters an environment of unnecessary division and elitism, while simultaneously leaving pure academics out in the cold.

The Ross Academic Center faculty does occasionally bend the athletes-only rule, looking the other way when non-athletes show up during off-hours. However, this under-the-table gesture of good faith is obviously insufficient.

In response to the call for a more open-door policy, plans are in motion to officially allow non-athletes into the center, except during peak hours. The new system would attempt to alleviate overcrowding by regulating when non-athletes can enter the premises. While this is a slight improvement, the compromise is still exclusive of non-athletes and doesn’t do much to solve the overcrowding problem. Students are more likely to need off-campus study facilities during popular evening hours rather than during these low-traffic afternoon hours.

The high volume of University students attempting to infiltrate the center speaks to a greater need for additional off-campus study sites, preferably ones with the same classy interior and high-tech perks as the Ross Center. Instead of responding by closing its doors to the non-varsity community, the University should invest in similar off-campus sites that both appeal and are open to all students.

With student housing being pushed further and further south of campus, the demand for more study centers on different parts of campus is of serious concern. More quality study facilities would serve the many students who live far from the libraries. Especially during the winter months, students are understandably unwilling to brave the icy unlit streets for 20 minutes to make it to the University’s limited study sites – which are typically overcrowded during finals anyway.

The popularity of the Ross Center points to an obvious need for more high-tech study space off-campus. In the spirit of equality and non-elitism – not to mention NCAA regulations – the center must be opened to non-athletes. But even that is only a start. An open-door policy would end athlete isolation but only provide a small band-aid for the University’s study space problem.

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