Mitch Andrews/ Lantern Photographer
Less than seven months after the grand opening of the new Ohio Union, student organizations have complained that it can take months to reserve many of the building’s rooms. Officials disagree and say some students just don’t understand the reservation process.
Many of the complaints are directed toward Union staff members who field reservation requests.
“It takes them like eight days to fill a request,” said Eric Richards, a third-year in mechanical engineering and a leader of Engineers without Borders. “If we want to get an e-mail out three days before a meeting to make sure that people can plan ahead for it, we’ve got to request (a room) like two weeks in advance.”
He said his organization often needs to schedule meetings on the fly, since it doesn’t always have time to in advance.
Jenn Cartmille, president of the Public Relations Student Society of America at OSU, said she has waited even longer than Richards.
“They don’t get back to you to confirm the room until three weeks prior to the event, which causes problems because we are counting on it,” she said.
Cartmille said she requested a space in the Union in August for an event held Tuesday. She received the confirmation in mid-October.
Officials dispute allegations of long waits for confirmation, but Union Director Tracy Stuck said the five full-time staff members who handle event requests have their hands full, with about 58 requests a day.
“There’s a lot of events coming in and out of this space,” she said. “Typically they’ve told me the longest (confirmations have taken) is a week.”
Stuck said most students can start booking rooms for meetings a quarter in advance, and big events are often booked a year or more in advance.
If students request space online, they are essentially stepping into a digital line behind other requests, Stuck said. If their request is granted, students receive a confirmation letter within a week and are required to drop off or fax the confirmation, Stuck said.
Students can also request rooms at the front desk of the Union, where they have the benefit of knowing if another student organization is trying to book the same room at the same time, she added.
Some complaints probably come from students who don’t understand the reservation process and that they have to return a signed copy of the confirmation letter, Stuck said.
But other complaints might stem from the fact that students simply have less space on campus now than in recent years.
With more than one group frequently vying for the extravagant rooms in the $118 million Union, it’s common for officials to channel groups into classroom space in other campus buildings.
“When the (old) Union shut down, we were given access to schedule all the classrooms,” Stuck said.
Once the new Union opened, however, the university reduced the buildings available for reservations from all instructional buildings on campus to five.
According to the Union website, the only classrooms that can be reserved are in the Central Classrooms Building and Lazenby, Pomerene, Hitchcock and Independence halls.
Despite complaints from some students, not everyone has trouble reserving space in the Union.
“Now that I understand who to contact in the Union, it is very easy to book rooms,” said Laura Christobek, chief of staff for the Undergraduate Student Government. “I would suggest making an appointment with the event coordinators or walking into the administrative offices in the Union to work through any problems.”
To avoid confusion and frustration, start early, Christobek said.
“It is difficult to find spaces if you don’t plan ahead,” she said.
Lauren Hallow contributed to this story.