Student petition advocates for change in Ursa’s study hours

| Contributing Reporter

An online petition requesting an increase in Ursa’s hours has garnered support from students and has received attention from the Office of Residential Life, which manages the space. While the venue used to host open study hours, it is now only open for specific programs through Ursa’s Nite Life and other campus groups.

The petition, which highlights Ursa’s role in students’ academic and social experiences, urges for its reopening and amassed 153 signatures as of press time.

 The neon sign for Ursa’s sits on the South 40 near the Clocktower. A petition to open the area for studying and activities is currently being considered by administration.Skyler Kessler | Student Life

The neon sign for Ursa’s sits on the South 40 near the Clocktower. A petition to open the area for studying and activities is currently being considered by administration.

The student petitioners claim that Ursa’s, an event space on the South 40, ample seating and location make it a prime replacement for Whispers Cafe as a study space during Whispers’ construction period.

The space was open to students for study hours for the 2015-2016 school year, but ResLife closed the space this semester, citing limited usage. While resident advisers used to hold open hours in Ursa’s, RAs have been moved to Umrath House, a space nearer to most dorms, this semester.

In response to this change in hours, sophomores Natty Bernstein, Anisha Nallakrishnan and Emma Luten decided to draft a petition directed at Residential Life and Danforth University Center Event Management, which they shared through the website and various social media platforms.

“People started signing it—I shared it through a Facebook group or two—and then a lot of people, like people I didn’t even know, just started signing it. It made me realize that it was an important thing to do,” Bernstein said.

Nallakrishnan attributed much of the petition’s success to the social media push and the ability to share content to large audiences in a short amount of time.

“If we hadn’t been able to use a platform that was able to reach so many people directly, I don’t think it would have been as successful,” Nallakrishnan said.

The petition, which opened a week ago, made its way to Associate Vice Chancellor for Students Rob Wild who said that the Office of Residential Life is trying to find a way to reopen Ursa’s for study hours during the semester.

“We are very likely going to find a way to open it up,” Wild said. “As long as we think students will use it, we’re going to find a way to do that. We had always been planning on opening it up for finals for studying, so we’re working right now to try to get it opened earlier and on a more consistent basis.”

Bernstein appreciates the administrative support toward the petition.

“I used [the petition] as more of a way for [the administration] to have evidence and data to show that these students also want Ursa’s to reopen,” Bernstein said. “I think the Residential Life staff are really trying their best, and all of the ones that I’ve talked to really want Ursa’s to be open.”

Bernstein, Nallakrishnan and Luten look forward to hearing updates about the future of Ursa’s. In the meantime, they expressed excitement about the progress that their petition has made, with Bernstein noting the ability of students to use petitions to make tangible change in other ways on campus.

“I think petitions are great. I think it’s really important, and it’s not something that you need to invest a lot of time in to do,” Bernstein said. “I think it’s a good way to get student input to the administrators that they might not always get.”

More information about the petition can be found here.