The idea of 24-hour midterm study spaces has been circulating for years amongst different student leaders. Meanwhile, a lack of study spaces in general has been a common complaint that Reza Zomorrodian, ASUCI President, has heard since his freshmen year. Michael Dennin, the acting associate dean of undergraduate education as of last Friday, proposed a pilot program for extended-hour study spaces during week 5.
Although Zomorrodian thought it would be a great idea for students to have more late-night study spaces on campus, he said he was only briefed on the pilot program during a meeting with Dennin and was not an integral part of its planning or execution.
Zomorrodian said week 5 was chosen by Dean Dennin as numerical medium. Originally, the spaces chosen for extended hours were Gateway Study Center, Langson Library and parts of Student Center. Additionally, Starbucks would have also stayed open for 24 hours.
At the April 8 ASUCI all-staff meeting, Zomorrodian announced the pilot program was going into effect week 5, with only Gateway having extended hours.
Effective April 26 through April 30, Gateway will be open until 4a.m. Friday and Saturday will see Gateway closing at 11p.m.
Taylor Chanes, an ASUCI member and a student-worker at Starbucks, was present in the all-staff meeting. She, as well as the Starbucks shift leads she contacted, were unaware of any proposed 24-hour schedule. Chanes said that she agrees more study spaces are important for UCI students, but that she was also concerned about the welfare of student-workers. With the help of coworkers Amanda Woodbury and Anthony Le, Chanes drafted a rough outline of student grievances that would have been brought on by the additional hours.
The grievances focused on a number of aspects workers felt were overlooked by administration in creating the pilot program. Among them: the strain on academic performance due to deteriorating mental and physical health that came with long hours and that student-workers are consistently left out of decisions that impacted them.
Zomorrodian said that neither he nor the administration intended to harm student health.
“The main focus was to get students more resources,” he said. He did admit, though, that the student-workers did not come up in the original conversation.
The rough draft of the plan was sent to Zomorrodian the day after his announcement at the ASUCI meeting. He redirected the students to target their grievances at Aramark because he believed they had control over the operation hours of Starbucks. The miscommunication resulted in no updates on the status of the program until Monday, Apr. 20, a week before the plan would take effect.
A primary concern for the student workers about the 24 hour schedule was the delayed notification.
“They were not asked if their hours could be extended. They were not asked if their academic schedules were compatible to working extended hours,” Chanes said.
One particular student with three midterms during week 5, who wished to remain anonymous, had their closing shift extended until 4 am and their opening shift altered to start at 6 am. Stories like this one prompted the student workers to respond immediately.
The authors of the grievances polished their list of concerns into a petition, along with a survey to gather data about the 24-hour schedule and how likely students were to use the facilities. The petition, published Tuesday, Apr. 21, named Zomorrodian as the main person responsible for 24-hour spaces.
Maintaining that the extent of his involvement was to suggest the extended hours, Zomorrodian said he was unfairly pinpointed as the primary catalyst for the program.
Chanes and the authors stood with their conviction.
“In the all-staff meeting, Reza encouraged students to use the facilities. He did not ask what he could do on behalf of students,” she said.
The petition garnered a quick response from administration, especially because statistics that showed an underwhelming response for a 24-hour facility. Chanes met with the director of Dining & Hospitality on Wednesday April, 22nd. The director expressed empathy for the student-workers but explained he didn’t think a redaction of the program was possible. Chanes said that it wasn’t only until she presented the data that Dining began to take their complaints more seriously.
Out of 119 students who took the survey, only 53.8 percent of students said they would use a facility between the hours of 2 am and 6 am, while 51.3 percent of students reported lack of transportation would cause them to not use a 24-hour facility.
At last Thursday’s legislative council meeting, a resolution authored by Executive Vice President Sanaa Khan was unanimously passed. It condemned Zomorrodian for failing to work with student workers in order to address their concerns as well as expressing solidarity with the student-workers.
Other concerned administrators also asked to meet with the student-workers.
On Friday, April 24, Associate Vice Chancellor Student Affairs Dan Dooros, one Aramark general manager and one staff member from Dining met with Chanes and three students to apologize. The administrators did not readily offer a compromise, but when students gave tangible examples for how the new schedule would impact their lives, the administrators offered one paid week off as compensation. The students were not satisfied with this substitution because it did not address their main goal of retracting the newly imposed 24 hour schedule.
Continued resilience from the student-workers, as well as the combined support from ASUCI executives, students, as well as Aramark and Dining and Hospitality employees resulted in the retraction of the 24-hour schedule at Starbucks. The decision came down Friday afternoon, a few hours after Chanes met with administration.
Chanes considered this a victory beyond just the situation at hand but a victory for student-workers that was won within a very short timeframe.
“Their voices, their concerns weren’t being respected [and] if we as students feel like we are being silenced, being oppressed, being taken advantage of, we still aren’t out of time.”