What are the most important functionalities for the public spaces on campus? The most common concerns are always whether the public areas can satisfy our academic or social needs. Are there enough rooms for us to study quietly? What are the best places for hanging out with friends? These questions are the most common ones we ask about spaces on campus. However, I think we should discuss whether our public spaces can satisfy our needs for relaxation. This concerns whether there are enough public spaces for a student to take a short break and rest. Some students may choose public spaces over their dorms for resting because their dorms are too hot or too distant.
When looking for accessible places to rest, facilities like the libraries are not running on a 24-hour basis. Even if you choose to sleep in the lounges of your dorm or the parlors at Parrish, you may be questioned by Public Safety. Many dorms, like Mary Lyon, Willets, and Wharton, are not equipped with air conditioners. It is very miserable to live in those dorms during the hottest days here. Public areas, on the other hand, are often equipped with air conditioners. In this sense, there is an incentive for you to sleep in public areas instead of your dorm room. If we only need a short break during the middle of the day, then it is likely that the public (indoor) areas will be more comfortable than our hot and tiny rooms. I hope that in the future all dorms will be equipped with air conditioners, but renovating dorms requires much time and money.
Furthermore, returning to the dorm to rest in the afternoon is inconvenient for some students. Unfortunately, the shuttle does not operate during afternoons and on Sunday mornings. If you live in Mary Lyon, you may need twenty minutes to walk back to your dorm. A return trip can easily take 40 minutes. This is not factoring in the varying weather conditions — if it is rainy or snowy outside, or extremely hot or cold, you may need more time to return to your dorm and the experience is far less desirable. Considering the time and efforts involved, I think it is often more reasonable to find a quiet place on campus to take a short break.
I understand that sleep deprivation is a common issue for contemporary college students. Sometimes we sacrifice our sleep time for academic reasons; sometimes we give up sleeping for parties. I think the first reason is more common at Swarthmore. Academics-related sleep deprivation has a very subtle implication. When I am sleepy, I will be less focused on the work I am doing. Therefore, I will need a longer time to finish the required readings or complete the problem set. This will again compress my sleeping time for that day. How can we resolve such a dilemma? I admit it is hard. From my personal experience, I think the most effective way is to take a short break before attempting intensive academic work, which is not practical for every student now because of the distance and the heat. A short break around noon can easily make you more energetic for afternoon classes.
What is an ideal place to nap if you are sleepy in the afternoon? This is a tricky question. In my opinion, there are two factors involved. The first factor is whether the place is comfortable and silent enough to nap. The second factor is whether other people may have more “legitimate” reasons to utilize that space. For example, I will never consider sleeping in the silent study rooms. These study rooms are in high demand, so I should leave these rooms for those who want to study silently. Considering the two factors, I tend to take a nap on the quiet floors of our libraries. Usually, there are free seats available, and it is silent enough. However, there are no sofas for you to lie down on these quiet floors. On the other side, there is a “bed” on the second floor of McCabe library. It may be a bit louder than the quiet floor, but the noise level is still reasonable. Finally, I recommend Shane Lounge. It is often very busy, so it is likely that you will be disturbed by others. On the other side, it provides reasonable comfort. I think the sofa is long enough for most of us to lie down.
Are there more spaces to sleep? I am not quite sure. I am not an expert on all public resources available around our campus, so I cannot list all the places that you may try. However, I can give you some of my recommendations, and I believe there is a decent chance to find a place to nap.
In an age when we care about sleep quality and sleep deprivation, I feel that sleeping and resting are essential aspects of our college life. We often need to balance our sleep quality with academics and social life. As a result, let us talk about whether public spaces can provide students with an opportunity to rest and revive, just as we talk about whether public spaces can satisfy our academic and social needs.