Firing Line: Keep FAC open 24 hours


The Firing Line is a column first started in the Texan in 1909 in which readers share their opinions “concerning any matter of general interest they choose.” Just like in 1909, the Texan “will never express its approval or disapproval of opinions given under the [Firing Line] header.” In other words, take your shot. 

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Seven years ago I dropped out of the University of Texas. In the interim, I started a small mobile food business in Fayetteville, Ark., attended classes at the University of Arkansas, and lived in Cairo. I was readmitted for this spring semester and am back on campus ready to finish the degree I started so many years ago.

Unfortunately, there have been a number of changes since I left that make me question the level of commitment this institution has to its stakeholders, the students.

In my previous tenure, the Flawn Academic Center was known as the Undergraduate Library, or the UGL. The UGL had a lobby area, open 24 hours a day, that was furnished with tables, desks and comfortable chairs. The massive room which now has a fireplace, IT desk and student computers closed at midnight was partitioned from the lobby by a set of glass doors.

Some of my fondest memories of are of the times I stayed up all night studying in the lobby of the UGL, frantically typing papers, reading or cramming for tests. Students would come in and out throughout the night, small study groups would form then dissolve, and students fueled by coffee, Red Bull, and cigarettes could be seen scattered throughout the lobby working on coursework every hour of the night.  

In the morning, the sun would rise, and campus would slowly come to life. The place was magical and filled me with a sense of awe — it felt like the beating heart of this great University and provided round the clock academic services to the thousands of minds wandering campus.

Sadly, as I write this in the lobby of the FAC, half an hour from now, at midnight, I will be evicted from this building I once knew as the UGL. The Flawn Academic Center’s doors will lock, the students will disperse, and this once 24-hour heart of campus will sit empty and idle.

What has happened to this institution? Why does the University no longer provide its students with a 24-hour building for academic services and access to computers?

Tuition has increased by thousands of dollars since I was last here, yet our student services have declined. If the University can pay its football coach over $5 million a year, surely we can afford security, staff and whatever else it takes to keep the Flawn Academic Center open 24 hours.

I have attended, and know of, quite a few other institutions that provide their students with a 24-hour academic building, complete with fireplaces, computers and comfortable chairs, for the occasional nap. I suspect that the middle-aged men and women who run our University find themselves asleep in bed by 10 p.m. most nights and have long ago forgotten what it’s like to have the energy and urgency to pull repeated all-nighters and, therefore, don’t see the value in providing students with an on-campus building in which to study from midnight to 6 a.m.

Toward the end of my previous tenure here, about half a dozen students staged a “sit in” where the fireplace is now. They demanded that the entire ground floor, in addition to the lobby area, remain open all through the night.

They were arrested — I saw them being dragged away in handcuffs by campus police. However, about a week after that student action the entire ground floor opened 24 hours. Those students understood the power of peaceful protest — were willing to be arrested and shamed the University into meeting their demands. What happened after that? That generation cycled through, as students do, and the administrative regime closed it all down again.

Has our student population become unaware and apathetic? How long have the students gone without a 24-hour academic services building?  Where are our student leaders, and why has Student Government failed to champion this cause? We deserve better than this, especially from an institution with an endowment worth billions. They say, “What starts here changes the world.” I guess just not between midnight and 6 a.m.

—Alexander Dickey, Government senior.