LSA senior Janee Kronk needed to use a printer this fall, so she and a friend headed down State Street to the year-old Stephen M. Ross Academic Center.

Sarah Royce
Students study in the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center last night. The center is aimed at student-athletes, but University administrators say it may eventually open to all students. (ANGELA CESERE/Daily)

When she got to the building’s front desk, though, she was turned away.

The problem? Kronk, a co-president of the University’s rock climbing club, isn’t a student-athlete.

“I’m sure that they want to avoid overcrowding,” she said, but added she was frustrated that she was shut out of the building.

When the Ross Center first opened last year, University officials spoke of eventually letting the all students use the building. That hasn’t happened yet, though Ross employees don’t always enforce the athletes-only rule.

Associate Athletic Director Shari Acho said the center is at full capacity.

“We’re really utilizing the facility,” she said. “It would be difficult to open it up.”

Acho said she fears having to turn athletes away from the building – which is funded by the Athletic Department – if it were opened to all students. She said there are no plans to let students outside of the athletes use the building during peak evening hours, but that the University might consider opening it during the day. She said the University won’t make any changes until next school year.

Yesterday afternoon at about 12:30, the front study lounge area of the Ross Academic Center was deserted. A woman behind the front desk was not checking identification or enforcing the sign-in logs spread out across the counter. Downstairs, about four or five students sat at computers in the computer lab.

Later on, around 4:30, the atmosphere hadn’t changed. A few more students sat at computers in the basement area, but there was still a sense of emptiness.

By 8 p.m. the Ross Center had become a hubbub of activity. Study lounges were full of students working individually or in groups as the televisions behind them were scrolling academic announcements. There were people behind the desk as students signed in and out, although they didn’t stop anyone from walking past. The computer lab was almost full, and students met with tutors in some smaller rooms. Students flooded in and out of the building.

The building has been popular with athletes who spend most of their time on South Campus.

When LSA junior Mike Woods, a member of the cross-country and track teams, was a freshman, he had to study in Angell Hall to fulfill the study time required of each student-athlete, an experience he likened to high school detention.

“Now it’s like we have our own library,” he said.

Club athletes are allowed to use the center too, but not as frequently as varsity athletes.

“Those that have requested are allowed to use the building until 6 p.m.,” Acho said, but she said that after 7 p.m. the building is often already full of varsity athletes.

Most club athletes didn’t know about the option.

Aaron Swick, president of the men’s soccer club, said he never tried to use the facility and wasn’t aware that it was available to non-varsity athletes. He said he would use it if he had access.

Softball club president Julianne Wilke agreed.

A lot of club athletes would be interested if they knew that they could use the center, she said.

Acho said non-student-athletes are able to take classes offered at the center and are always able to visit the center with student-athletes.

Acho said that usage is monitored through sign-in logs for athletes and visitors located on the front desk near the entrance of the building. Still, some students haven’t had trouble using the building.

Engineering sophomore Christine Kurdys, who lives across the street from the Ross Center, said that she and her housemates sometimes go to the building to use the printers or the computers.

“They don’t give us a hard time if we run in there once in awhile,” she said. “It’s nice not to have to go all the way to Central Campus.”

Kurdys said that she usually goes to the center in the morning if she needs to print something, but sometimes goes at night to work on homework.

Tutors from various academic support services like the Sweetland Writing Center and the Science Learning Center work in the center too.

Acho said these programs are open to all students.

There are also learning coordinators assigned to each athletic team in order to provide extra tutoring when it’s needed.

School of Education student Eryn Lessard, who works as a learning coordinator with the men’s basketball team, said the Ross Center is key to the academic success of student-athletes.

“I myself can not begin to imagine what it’s like to be a student and have a full-time job,” she said. “That’s what this is for them – they work really hard.”

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