Posted July 17, 2012 by Juhi Bhatt 

Student Center Respect

This past October, we opened up a brand new Student Center. Needless to say, our office, the Office of Student Life, was quite worried about the damages that could potentially occur to our furniture within this new facility. Indeed, we had ordered brand new couches and tables for the carpeted area and brand new tables and chairs for the area which was housing the full-service Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza station.

My coworkers and I discussed our anxieties about students leaving their trash in the Student Center, or students putting up their feet on the couches and/or tables. We wanted the students to treat the Student Center as if it was their home, but in making that statement we realized that many do treat their homes in a seemingly disrespectful manner.

However, with our anxieties in check, we unleashed the full student body population of 17,500, spread across three campuses, into our newly renovated facility and waited for the first report of damaged furniture. But days, weeks, and months passed, and no reports came. We diligently watched our students and asked them to not put their feet up on our communal furniture. We asked that they eat only within the food court of the Student Center and not in the carpeted area as we would all like to keep our space clean. We stressed to them that this was their facility, and we wanted to keep it nice for years to come.

By the end of the past academic year, my coworkers and I were proud to say that not one piece of furniture had been damaged since the opening of that space in October. Sure, there were and still are small maintenance issues, but our cubicle spaces meant for clubs and communal space/furniture for all students to use are still in pristine condition.

How did it remain this way you ask? Well, in my opinion, if the students are asked to respect the space in which they spend most of their time, it seems they do it. A little bit of faith goes a long way. Undoubtedly, the students recognized that this newly renovated space was intend for their use primarily and that our constant nagging in keeping it clean had to do with our desire in providing them with a space to utilize for years to come. It is my firm belief that the students respected the space because they knew it was truly meant for them.

How do you keep your student centers in tip-top shape?

Juhi Bhatt

Juhi Bhatt is the Coordinator of Judicial Affairs and Student Information at Bergen Community College.

Juhi works between the Center for Student Success as a career and transfer counselor and a judicial affairs coordinator within the Office of Student Life and Judicial Affairs. Additionally, she manages the information desk within the new Student Center.


I'm curious how you got this message to spread to all of your users. We experienced similar anxiety when we first opened our building a little over two years ago, and with the range of guests we see, unfortunately they sometimes come with a range of "concern" or care for their surroundings. We have not had any catastrophic damages, but there are certainly items that have broken, areas that are worn, and we spend much of our time picking up after folks who leave trash, papers, or other items of disarray in their wake. I witness students and others who feel that knowing the space is meant for them means being able to treat it however they choose, which is not always the most positive. Don't get me wrong - we have many users who love the union and treat it with kindness. But the ones who don't often create more work and take some of the luster from a shiny new facility. I hope others share their observations here on caring for space, whether it's new, renovated, or well-loved.
Jeff Pelletier
Comment posted 07/19/2012 9:04 AM
Jeff, I understand exactly what you mean. We, as in the staff members in my office and myself, go into the student center daily and ask students to take their feet off the chairs or ask them to not sit on the tables. Additionally, we often clean up after them or rearrange the chairs in the dining area after peak periods of student use. However, we were quite rigid in the beginning by not allowing even water into the carpeted area of our student center but within 6 months we decided to ease up and allow beverages such as coffee or bottled sports drinks and small food items. It seems because we eased up a little the students saw it as a reward and therefore seemingly do their best to watch how they use the space. However, do not get me wrong we have plenty of spots that are beginning to get worn and spots that needed to be fixed the moment we opened. I guess that wear and tear showcases a used and loved space in a way don't you think?
Comment posted 07/20/2012 7:53 AM
Note: To post a comment to The Commons, you must login to the ACUI website.
about the commons
The Commons is the online hub to discover new ideas and learn what is going on in the college union and student activities profession.
more ...
about the contributors

Meet the ACUI members who have volunteered to share their knowledge and insights as regular authors in The Commons.

more ...