Children discouraged from visiting Campus Center Activity Zone

In an effort to prioritize the Activity Zone as a space meant for students, the Office of Student Life placed signs discouraging children from visiting ...

Apr 11, 2015

In an effort to prioritize the Activity Zone as a space meant for students, the Office of Student Life placed signs discouraging children from visiting this hangout spot in the Campus Center, unofficially known as the student lounge.
The signage requested that children play in the Teen Zone and Children’s Play Area, located in the B1 and B2 buildings. Non-students are not officially banned, but their presence is discouraged.
“Greater deference is being given to student use,” said senior and Student Government Vice President Alex Nyikos on the new guidelines. “The space can’t be blocked off entirely, so friendly, unobtrusive signs were put up.”
Previously, the high-traffic open space had attracted students, children, faculty and staff to play video games, ping pong, pool and foosball.
“Throughout the year, there have been repeated conversations inside of Campus Life [and] the Student Government General Assembly, and with student and faculty committees," wrote Dean of Students Dave Tinagero to The Gazelle. "The collective consensus from these discussions was that the Activity Zone should be primarily for students."
Several students who frequently used the Activity Zone had voiced their concerns that, because of the Activity Zone’s high visibility and central location, the space had become more susceptible to over-crowding and misuse, especially by children.
“Most of the kids who used to play in the Activity Zone were around five to 12 [years old],” said senior Bobby Haynes. “I would see them not turn consoles off. I would have to prevent them from breaking things and I had to constantly watch what I was saying. It didn’t feel like a student space. It felt like a daycare.”
However, many parents and children said that the Teen Zone and Children’s Play Areas are inadequate alternatives to the Activity Zone. Professor Justin Blau and his son Theo Blau are concerned that there is currently no suitable playspace akin to the Activity Zone.
“According to the boys, there is no FIFA 15 in the Teen Zone, so that is a big, big drawback,” said Blau. “Actually, my younger son is officially under the age limit of 12 for the Teen Zone, so he should not really be in there. But he is way too old for the children's zone, which is designed for kids who are much younger.”
Since the Children’s Play Area caters mostly to toddlers, and the Teen Zone currently holds only violent and Mature-rated games that parents deem unsuitable for their children, some children do not have a recreational area appropriate for their age.
“The Teen Zone and the [Children’s Play Area] aren't really good alternatives," said Blau's son, Theo. "Because they're much more cut off, and don't really have the same selection of things to do as the Activity Zone."
“In the Teen Zone, the only video games are rated 16 and 18, [while] the ones in the [Activity Zone] are geared towards everyone and don't have any mature content or anything like that," he added. "The atmosphere in the Teen Zone feels more isolated and kind of boring, because there is never anyone there, and it's not in a big open space like the Activity Zone is.”
The presence of Mature-rated games in the Teen Zone has upset several parents. However, the Office of Community Life in charge of the Teen Zone and Children’s Play Area stated that they had only purchased the spaces' game consoles and tables, which suggests that Mature-rated games had been brought in by an external community member.
Nyikos commented that this problem could be easily amended by stocking the Teen Zone with more age-appropriate games.
“The Office of Community Life is already soliciting new feedback, in cooperation with the Saadiyat Campus Community Life Advisory Committee, from families as well as other constituencies living on campus about how to best meet their needs,” wrote Tinagero. “We understand that the current setup [of the Activity Zone] is not ideal, given it’s [a] high-traffic and visible area, and we have begun conversations with student groups to consider ways to enhance the current Activity Zone space or relocate it."
Discussions among Student Government members and the administration about stocking the residential student lounges with equipment similar to games and resources in the Activity Zone are still ongoing.
Nyikos stated there is deliberation about who would be responsible for managing this equipment.
For some students, the presence of children in the Activity Zone was not a nuisance.
“I think the children strengthened the sense of community in the Activity Zone,” said freshman Nikolaj Nielson. “It’s sad that we are excluding members of our community from such a public space.”
Mira Santos is a staff writer. Email her at
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