No Camping in Faculty Offices

(Photo: Vernon Fowler)

(Photo: Vernon Fowler)

A student appears to have enclosed the commons: for the last two weeks, he has camped in a small public area in the vestibule of a suite of faculty offices, making it unusable for other students to meet in groups (its use in all previous years).  Believing that this is a public area, and absent my colleagues saying anything, I asked the chap to vacate the place to allow others to use it.  This is a classic case of the difficulty of maintaining property rights in a public setting with no way of enforcing public ownership other than moral suasion. This may be more of a problem in universities than in businesses, given what I find as the self-selection into faculty jobs of people who want to avoid confrontation.

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  1. MS says:

    Did he leave?

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  2. Did he leave? says:

    Sounds like you handled it well. I would have summoned security, IF I was a staff or facility.
    Otherwise I would be without any authority.

    Many towns have a problem with people sleeping in the sheltered area of buildings. In some towns the police give them a wake-up in the morning and ask them to be on their way.

    To me, a vestibule is passage between the entrance and the interior of a building. Typically the lobby. You make it seem like a meeting room.

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  3. Rob says:

    Not to mention more clearly delineated property rights in the private sector.

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  4. ellett says:

    With the assistance of a few students you can certainly regain your space.

    Ignore the squatter. Have a student meeting there any time the squatter is in residence, especially at 3 AM. Lack of sleep will do wonders. A boombox to add some background music to the meeting would be another consideration.
    Bring in chairs, lots of chairs. If he’s on one side of the space, fill up the other side with chairs, and occupy them. If he walks to the other side of the space, fill up the first side of the space with chairs, and occupy them. If he goes to the restroom, fill up the entire space with chairs.

    There is no reason for anyone else to respect the squatter’s exclusive use of the commons space.

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    • James says:

      Except that the 3 AM meetings and boombox would be punishing his students and himself more than the camping student (since presumably they’d have to get up beforehand, dress, and make their way to campus). Certainly the sum total of discomfort would increase.

      OTOH, I can certainly recall “camping” in the computer lab (in the days before home internet connections) for days at a time…

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  5. Joe J says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      He doesn’t have a right to use the public space in a way that prevents other people from using it. It’s like a sidewalk: you’re allowed to use it, but not to block it. If your “use” involves lying down across the sidewalk or filling it up with junk, then you’ve exceeded your rights.

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  6. prior probability says:

    The tragedy of the vestibule? Are we being told the whole story? Was the camper protesting the curve?

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  7. jeremy says:

    Probably a grad student. Maybe you should have complained to his his adviser to get him a larger stipend, instead.

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  8. Matt says:

    He should have declared himself to be a member of Occupy–Hamermesh would have given him a donation instead of asking him to leave.

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