The expansion of the ombuds office has reignited a longstanding debate over campus space allocation, with several commuter students releasing a statement of objection regarding the decision to house the Ombuds Office in the Commuter Lounge. 

In a Nov. 10 email to students with access to the lounge, Operations Specialist JV Souffrant, who manages the Shapiro Campus Center, notified commuters that the Ombuds Office would be sharing the lounge, located on the third floor of the SCC. Students would not have access to the lounge during the ombuds’ hours of operation, he added. 

In response to Souffrant’s email, Fox Aguirre ’19 emailed fellow commuter students asking their thoughts on the restricted lounge access. This conversation resulted in a statement of objection to the decision to “annex” the lounge. Of the 24 commuters with access to the lounge at the time of the Nov. 10 announcement, 12 signed on to the statement. 

The students delivered a copy of the statement to Souffrant and Vice President for Campus Operations Jim Gray on Dec. 20 and posted a copy outside the lounge. Gray and Souffrant could not immediately be reached for comment. 

According to the Student Activities website, the Commuter Lounge is accessible 24/7 and is an “exclusive” campus resource for students who live off campus. 

While campus residents “may have the luxury of having their own space which they are free to use,” the commuters’ statement read, “We have no such privilege. This decision displaces students so that we now have access to one less space to feel safe, store food, congregate, and study.”

“For me, the lounge was a place to find respite between classes in the morning and to study during the afternoon,” Aguirre explained in an interview with the Justice’s editorial board. 

In the statement, the students expressed frustration that they were not consulted before the decision was made. 

“This is an act of profound disregard on your part and the part of Campus Operations,” they wrote, adding that they “wholeheartedly reject” the lounge’s rebranding as a shared space.

In his original email, Souffrant wrote that the lounge would be inaccessible for 18 hours each week, spread across Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. However, when the official list of office hours was posted outside the lounge, the times spanned across all five weekdays and made the lounge inaccessible to commuters for up to 29 hours each week. 

The increase in hours has a prohibitive effect on students who would otherwise use the lounge throughout the week, the students wrote in the statement. 

“This constitutes a completely unwarranted imposition that negatively impacts commuter students’ ability to use the resources of the University and dampens our capacity to integrate with campus life,” they wrote, urging University administrators to reverse the decision. 

“Any Ombudsperson office adherent to its purpose is deserving of its own independent space that is accessible during all working hours of the week,” the students wrote in the statement. 

However, Aguirre explained, “Commuter students are no less deserving of a space in which to congregate and feel safe.”

—Editor’s note: Michelle Dang ’18, the Justice’s News editor, co-signed the commuter students’ statement of objection. She did not take part in writing or editing this article.