Tapping hours decreased at Little Building stairs

by Katherine Burns / Beacon Staff • February 5, 2015

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Emerson has limited access to the Little Building stairway between floors three and 12—a decision, prompted in part by the state’s minimum wage increase of $1, that has caused dissatisfaction among residents.

Upon returning from winter break on Jan. 23, residents of the Little Building received an email from Residence Director Emily Long outlining newly shortened hours for the stairs in the dorm. The changes include earlier closings during the week and no stair usage on the weekends, according to the email.

Freshman visual and media arts major Tierney Norden said third floor residents were particularly upset. Having to take the crowded elevators makes it more difficult for students to get to class on time and causes tension on the ride down, Norden said. 

“When someone gets into an elevator and pushes floor three, everyone starts giving you dirty looks,” Norden said. “It sounds silly for that to be a complaint, but it is hindering our experience.”

To decide which hours to decrease, the Office of Housing and Residential Life looked at the usual number of swipes on any given day, Long told Norden in an email provided to the Beacon.

But the decision to close the stairs doesn’t just inconvenience residents, according to junior Allison Boudreau, a Little Building resident assistant. She said the decision eliminates work opportunities for student employees.

A Massachusetts law raised the state minimum wage from $8 to $9 on Jan. 1, and Long confirmed that the decision to limit stair access was also due, in part, to the administration not wanting to spend more money on desk assistants.

“Budget was a significant factor in our decision,” Long wrote in an emailed statement to the Beacon. “However, this is not a decision we made lightly, and it was one that we had to do. We will continue to look at the impact this decision is having on students for this semester and consider student feedback and usage for the future.”

Norden said the minimum wage increase shouldn’t affect opportunities for students.

“I think that Emerson as a college is so lucky to have such student involvement in their workforce,” Norden said. “Paying the students more for a service to the school is not worthwhile enough to limit the hours.”

Piano Row also limits access to its stairwell on weekends and evenings. The stairwells in the Colonial Building and the Paramount Center are open to residents during all hours.

Norden, along with fellow freshman and third floor resident Danika Frank, wrote an email to Long that outlined their complaints. The email, which Norden later posted to Facebook, explained the inconvenience of waiting for the elevators.

“We believe paying your desk staff a higher wage is not detrimental enough to warrant causing inconvenience and delays for other students,” said the email as posted on Facebook. “When students are going to classes, the elevators are often full by the time they get from the twelfth floor down to the third floor.”

The students worked on this letter in their third floor common room, talking with other residents as they came in and out of the room, according to Norden. 

Due to a positive response from fellow residents, Norden asked third floor students on Facebook to add their names to the letter. Her Facebook post has received 22 likes to date and resulted in 26 additional signatures on the email, which was sent out on Jan. 28. 

Norden received an email in response from Long on Friday, Jan. 30. Long did not offer any immediate revision to the schedule in the email.

“The schedule for the stairs has been finalized for this semester,” said Long’s email, which Norden provided to the Beacon.

Although Long did not directly address students’ current issues in the email, she did allude to the possibility of change in the future.

“We plan to make reevaluate for next year at the end of the semester and will make changes if necessary,” Long said in the email to Norden.

Although many were passionate enough to sign Norden’s email, not all third floor residents said they felt as strongly on the issue. 

Freshman performing arts major Jane Reagan said it wasn’t enough of an inconvenience to warrant signing the email. 

“I figure if there’s less activity, then I guess it kind of makes sense not to have someone working there,” Reagan said. “It’s honestly not that bad. I can wait a few minutes to take the elevator.” 

While Norden said she does not expect any concrete change in the policy, she said she hopes that her email can help create a change in mindset.

“I just want to bring to [Long’s] attention that her decisions are actually seriously affecting the students,” Norden said. “I feel like with a lot of higher-ups, they think their decisions happen in a void. I just wanted to bring to her attention a list of the real people who are very upset about the decision.”