When Hillsdale College Security started finding sleeping students in the Grewcock Student union at 3 a.m. when it closed and after the administrators received reports that nothing really happened in the union for its last open hour, they decided to close the union at 2 a.m. instead.
Although Grewcock was rarely well-populated at 2:30 in the morning, the hour from 2 to 3 a.m. was vital, both for studying and for connecting with other students.
Some administrators have contended that building hours should be limited in order to prevent students from staying up too late. While it’s reasonable not to condone late or sleepless nights, a student finishing up (or starting) a research paper the night before it’s due is probably going to lose some sleep, regardless of building hours. For the 75 percent of students living on campus, the only option is dorm studying, but research from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that studying near bed can be counterproductive.
“It comes highly recommended that activities like studying, reading, and any other type of work or stress-related activity not be done while in bed,” an article based on the research says.
More importantly, closing buildings on a campus with single-sex dorms limits those vital 3 a.m. conversations. Theologian John Henry Newman wrote in “The Idea of a University” that residence is one of the most important aspects of a university, even more important than the classes.
“When a multitude of young men, keen, open-hearted, sympathetic, and observant, as young men are, come together and freely mix with each other, they are sure to learn one from another, even if there be no one to teach them,” Newman wrote. Dorm conversations can be fruitful, but students need another location for these conversations as well.
The earlier closing time has posed a problem for the Collegian as well. In the past, when Collegians were brought to campus around 4 a.m. there were still custodians and security guards around to open the door. Now, there’s a dead time at the union, and the Collegian has been dropped off outdoors to sit in unpredictable weather for several hours.
Collegian problems aside, students deserve longer hours at the union for high-quality studying and even higher-quality conversations.