Informal groups of students will now be able to reserve residential space for the first time, as Director of Residential Life and Housing Services Eddie Hull has agreed in principle to a Campus Council resolution proposing the rule change.
Currently, only established groups can reserve residential space, such as commons rooms, study rooms and McClendon Tower in the West-Edens Link. Neither Hull nor Campus Council President Anthony Vitarelli said they knew why groups of unaffiliated students could not reserve space, but they suspected it pertained to damage accountability.
Occasional problems have resulted from damage to residential space during registered events, and Hull said he and his staff are still working out mechanisms to hold informal groups accountable judicially and financially.
"If I have a group that really creates a mess, I can then bill that group directly," said Director of Student Activities Deb Lo Biondo. "What we haven't thought through yet is how do we do that for a random group of unaffiliated students. Would we bill those students directly?"
The Campus Council proposal suggested that students could attach a list of students sharing responsibility for the reserved space with a verification number, possibly the Duke UniqueID.
Another possible hurdle, Lo Biondo said, is that groups must also register with the Office of Student Activities and Facilities in addition to RLHS if an event contains alcohol, advertisements, amplified sound, decorations or is held in space that is not the students' own. Informal groups cannot register with the OSAF because registration requires a University fund code.
Despite such implementation complications, Hull said it was a necessary decision to allow informal groups to reserve residential space. "Anytime we have people living in residential halls or quads... we try to tell them that these are their homes [and] they ought to be able to use them," he said. "That, in my mind, should not preclude use of commons space for events, without it falling under the aegis of a specific group."
Vitarelli said the change, once finalized, will correct a "serious inequity" in the residential space reserving process.
The issue was initially raised in Campus Council because of student demand. "A student wanted to have a low-key birthday party for their friends," he said, "and they couldn't reserve a commons room because they weren't members of an organization, and they said, 'That's ridiculous.'"
Vitarelli said the next step in resolving the inequity of space registration is expanding OSAF event registration to include informal groups.
"Event registration is the bigger issue," he said. "While now, because of the Campus Council resolution, independents can reserve residential space, they still can't host an event with alcohol, advertisements, amplified sound or decorations, and I hope that the folks in DSG and Student Affairs anticipate resolving that in the spring."
The Campus Council resolution also suggested that students should be able to reserve residential space no more than two weeks in advance, an idea to which Hull seemed amenable.
"In an environment where we may have more demand than we have supply, we want to make sure there is equitable use," he said.
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