I’m a night person. Most days of the week, you can catch me up until 3 or 4 a.m. — usually doing work, sometimes hanging out, occasionally going on a cool and refreshing post-midnight run. Late nights are peaceful; there’s a lovely stillness that sinks in once all your friends have gone to bed, and it’s during these odd forgotten hours that I find myself most focused, most creative and best able to get work done.
Finding somewhere on this campus to get said work done, however, has been a perpetual issue. The discussion over late-night spaces on college campuses is nothing new, but Stanford feels exceptionally poorly designed for anyone up past 1 a.m., whether they be habitual night owls or just those caught unawares by a harder-than-expected problem set.
Most libraries on campus close at 10 p.m. or earlier Monday through Friday, with Law and Lathrop open until midnight and Green open until 1 a.m. Arrillaga Dining, Lag Dining and TAP are open until 2:30 a.m., if you like writing papers to the smell of grease and faint, stale memories of Saturday nights past. When it comes to round-the-clock access, the only advertised space is the creatively named 24-hour Study Room, located in Lathrop — as if its designers had asked themselves, “Where on campus would be nice and easily accessible to students looking for a late-night study spot?” and then picked the farthest possible location from that.
There are a few lesser-known locations. Old Union has a room where you can work all night as long as you enter the building before it closes; likewise, if you get to Huang basement before doors lock around midnight or 1-ish, you can set up shop there as well. Some departments give after-hours building access to declared majors, and the Daily building is open to staffers all night long. But in terms of general-purpose, easily accessible late-night work space, there’s really not a lot on this campus.
This issue is magnified by the lack of work spaces in Stanford’s residential areas. I’m lucky to live in a Row house this year with an extended study area in addition to a dining room, but most students live in dorm-style housing, and I have less-than-fond memories of deciding between working in the dark next to a sleeping roommate or working outside on the lounge floor. Computer clusters rarely seat more than a few people, filling up rapidly during peak midterm season — the one in CroMem had three or four desks serving nearly 200 residents — and lounges are furnished with couches and coffee tables, which is nice until you need to write things down on paper. Unless you live in FloMo, dining hall access is inconsistent at best.
I don’t think dorms should be turned into offices — it’s nice to go home and just hang out — but if living spaces are to be for living, then it’d sure be nice to have some space for working. At Harvard, UC Berkeley and USC, at least one of the two or three primary libraries is open 24 hours. MIT has three large 24-hour study spaces in addition to an all-hours student center. Yale, like Stanford, only advertises a single smallish 24-hour study room, but Yale undergraduates live in residential colleges, each of which comes with a library and extensive common areas. If our peer institutions can handle the logistics of securing, staffing and maintaining these spaces for students, then Stanford should be able to too.
A common response goes something like, “Uh… why don’t you just, like, sleep earlier?” Another common counterargument says that providing 24-hour access promotes unhealthy habits and incentivizes students to pull all-nighters. But when student groups often hold meetings and practices past 10 p.m. and sometimes past midnight, and when core major classes can run over 30 hours a week of work, a pattern of working nights feels a little unavoidable, or at least symptomatic of a deeper college culture. Expanded late-night access to study spaces doesn’t cause all-nighters; it alleviates them, benefiting natural night owls like myself along the way.
Stanford should match its peer institutions and open up Tresidder or Huang, or add card readers to Old Union, or expand the hours in Green (or even just the Bing Wing) — there are lots of ways to make this campus more friendly to students after 1 a.m. Not everyone operates on a shifted schedule or regularly stays up late, but when that unexpectedly long p-set or paper inevitably hits, access to a quality working space goes a long way.
Contact Stephanie Chen at stephchen ‘at’ stanford.edu.