Exclusive: President Wu provides updates on student study spaces

Farah Javed, Managing Editor

Additional Reporting by Emanuela Gallo and Maya Demchak-Gottlieb

2023 marks Baruch’s largest spring freshman class to date, yet there remains limited space available on campus for students to eat, work or study in between classes. In a sit-down interview with The Ticker on Feb. 15, Baruch President S. David Wu explained that creating these spaces is currently one of his administration’s priorities.

Wu highlighted the campus bookstore as one location he’d like to convert into a multipurpose space. As previously reported by The Ticker, students hoped the currently shuttered bookstore could become available once more as a place for eating or browsing books.

Current plans include converting the bookstore into a study space with workstations equipped with desktops. There will also be a section for BOSS and offices for its employees.

“In other words, you don’t have to sort of just sit there and wait, you can hang out and study,” Wu said. “Also [there’s] some of the separate rooms that students can reserve to have small meetings and so [the planners] kind of think about different kinds of space configurations.”

The bookstore redesign is currently in the resolution and budgeting stage, and likely to be completed by 2024. In the interim, Wu would like to have a pop-up student lounge so students can congregate or hold events.

“For example, have a space to run a small event or have a poetry reading or whatever it is,” Wu said. “All you have to do is to put out the chairs and right it’s not, it’s not that hard to do, so that’s what we’re trying to do. Hopefully we can do this right away in the spring so that space could sort of compensate for a little bit of space we lost from the multipurpose room.”

Currently, the multipurpose room is used for COVID-19 testing, but CUNY may phase this out by the summer as government funding toward it lessens, according to Wu.

In conjunction with the bookstore resolution, the library is also undergoing construction. Part of the fourth floor of the library is currently closed off to students because shelves are being removed to create new study spaces for students.

The president explained that the process is taking some time because light fixtures were embedded in the shelves, so they must be removed then reinstalled. The library renovations will also include redoing the atrium on the first floor of the library and replacing old furniture.

The Lawrence and Eris Field Building construction is progressing forward and entering its second phase. The renovation includes redoing the lobby of Mason Hall and converting “fairly large space in the front end of the building on the 23rd side  ” into a student lounge. The latter’s construction will start this year.

The administration is also working toward securing funds to improve Baruch’s Steven L Newman Real Estate Institute on 22nd St.

Wu explained that the building was once home to the Student Center, which is now located on 25th St., but the Real Estate Institute is now an underutilized study area for students. In a push to bring students to the southern part of the campus and reduce overcrowding in the Newman Vertical Campus building, Wu wants to allocate funding toward improving that study area.

This list of ongoing and proposed projects seeks to respond to students’ frustration over a lack of room on campus to do work or hang out. However, some students are seeking space in order to fulfill a religious obligation to pray.

With the start of Ramadan approaching, Wu also addressed the demand from some Muslim students to create a larger meditation space.

Since last fall, Muslim students have demanded a larger meditation space than Newman Vertical Campus room 3-225. They said it is too small, resulting in overcrowding in the hallway as students wait for their turn to enter and pray.

In a Feb. 1 email, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Art King wrote, “At this time, the College cannot reasonably and equitably accommodate this request because we are space-challenged,” as previously reported by The Ticker.

Wu doubled down on this statement.

“Basically what’s offered to them is that if they have a larger events [that] will be coming up so you know, Ramadan is coming up and you need a larger prayer space and they could, they are certainly free to go into the Student Affairs reservation system to reserve some of those larger rooms,” he said to The Ticker. “But it turns out having a room that’s permanently designated to only them, that’s just not something that we can do.”

He explained that the administration is looking for options to create a larger multi-faith space, but cannot make one specifically for Muslim students.

During the 2021-2022 school year, room 2-125 acted as a temporary meditation room, but became a general club event space once more when in-person club events restarted in fall 2022.

The Ticker previously noted that room 2-125 has a larger capacity than the current mediation room, according to the Office of Student Life’s website.

Wu said it was “technically possible” to convert the current meditation room into a club space and room 2-125 into the multi-faith space, but posed a question himself.

“The question is, is that a good use of the space from the perspective of all students that we serve?” he said. “The sort of dedicated student space that we have is limited. In other words, every time you take something away and designate it for something and that space becomes unavailable to everybody else. So that’s the problem.”