Commons Petitions now Need Approval

Students who wish to conduct polls or petitions in the entryway of Commons must now first receive approval from the Student Activities Office. Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, sent an email to student leaders of clubs and organizations that outlined this new policy. According to the email, students are now required to run requests to hold petitions, polls and other functions in the Commons lobby through Efinger. Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Residential Life, passed this new policy in order to eliminate congestion and clutter in the renovated entryway of Commons. “We instituted the policy so that the lobby, which is now much busier than before the renovation, would be as clear as possible for the thousands of meals being served each day,” Murphy said. “There is really not a lot of room in that lobby during our busiest times.” He continued, “We are in the process of trying to consider other ways for students to gather signatures or conduct sign-ups for blood drives or [the] Oxfam fast. I realize all these things are important and that we have been used to having tables present at the entry to both Commons and Uncommons.” Efinger, said, “The situation is different now that we’re in a different building. The whole entry to Commons has changed. People need to have a chance to look up at the new menus and see what’s available.” “That can’t happen if the entire area is congested with people,” she added. “We’re just trying to limit the congestion, not stop student petitions from happening.” Efinger said that while it may seem like the administration is trying to control student petitions and communication, this was not the case. “I know there are a lot of rumors circulating around,” she said. “It’s not that we want to stop student petitions at all. We want them to occur. We just need to find a place that is less congested and maybe organize the process a little. The easiest thing to do was to have students sign up through me because my office is so close to the area.” She continued, “Anyone can email me, call me, come down to the office and either Allison or I will sign you up. I don’t care if it’s 24 hours in advance. I’ll try to help you find the best area for your function.” Despite the reassurance, many students were still unnerved about the new procedure. Christian Anderson ’09 and Jake Romanow ’10, two students who organized a poll on the 9:30 sign-in proposal last term in Uncommons, expressed apprehension. Romanow said that he and Anderson did not have to go through any process to hold the poll. “We simply brought our materials to a table at the front of Uncommons and polled people as they entered the building,” he said. Anderson said, “Tables in the lobby of Commons are an important form of inter-student communication, and I don’t see why this form of dialogue should require the approval of the Director of Student Activities.” Ziwe Fumudoh ’10 said that she found the new procedure to be acceptable. “The policy is sensible,” she said. “There are more places to interact with students then just in front of Commons.” Amber Quiñones ’11 said, “I’m not particularly worried that this policy will stifle student expression. It seems to me that Andover students don’t have problems with self expression, and if people feel strongly about a subject and would like to start a petition, this new rule shouldn’t stop them.” However, Quiñones added, “As far as I can tell, I don’t see enough of [student petitions] to cause congestion in Commons.”