Columnist investigates student habits in The Union

Tyson Nafus

One of the stranger characteristics of human behavior is the evolution of the seating chart. When a person enters a new environment, the seating process is very chaotic. Some choose the closest open spot and then just kick back. Others weigh their options carefully, taking into account comfort and proximity to others. This isn’t a classroom situation I’m theorizing, either. The particular placement of students among the various locations in the Student Union is interesting. At least I think it is, which is probably why I’m researching it as part of a class paper.

The specific spot I’m focusing on is in the university living room: The Union’s second floor. A short distance up from the main level, the overlook area doesn’t fall along the way to anywhere, especially not since the construction on the east side of The Union began. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a morning without at least two dozen people sitting up there while plenty of seats on the main floor are readily available. I had my suspicions as to why, since most of these columns are written in a comfortable second-floor seat, but I surveyed anyway to get a better set of data points for the paper than, “Well I think this is why, so it must be.”

The amount of second-floor regulars was staggering. Of the 42 students polled, three-fourths said they usually sat on the second floor when visiting The Union. That’s not the only apparent trend. A majority of those who did frequent the location said the atmosphere was easier to study in than the busy hive of the main floor. A specific few said it had enough quiet without having a “deafening amount of it,” like the library does. Above all, a trend of isolation began to appear. If I wasn’t offering chocolate along with my survey, things may have gotten ugly.

Of those surveyed, well over half were sitting alone, some buried in books but most with glowing eyes scanning a laptop. This shows the tasks they were doing could be accomplished anywhere, yet many settle in for an hour or longer. Perhaps it’s that perfect storm of study-level quiet; ambient noise from downstairs reminding a person that they’re in a public place, not locked away from the world, and yet not distracting enough to pull students’ focus from their work. On the second floor, it’s OK to not talk to anyone and just curl up with a laptop until you get sick of seeing the D2L interface.

Not only is this behavior accepted on the second floor, it’s protected. When a member of faculty sees someone soliciting students with surveys and such, they steer them down to the main drive to set up a table. That’s how it should be. The main floor is where all the action is, and when time comes for quiet study or finally posting on that discussion board without your roommate’s music distracting you, the second floor is the answer to many student’s needs. The couch in the center of the west room is a great place to nap, too.


Tyson Nafus is a graduate student studying sociology and can be emailed at [email protected].