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Photo Credit: Shona Kinal

Shannon Gray and Michele Theil discuss a student-led change.org petition for Holloway's new library.

Royal Holloway has recently been subject to several petitions, created by students attempting to instil the change they’d like to see at the university.

In early September, student Phoebe Dormand created a petition that asked for the Health Centre on campus to be improved. She cited 8 issues that she felt warranted the petition, including but not limited to response time, lack of sympathy, being refused appointments and having only 5 doctors and 1 nurse covering over 9000 students. Comments on the petition found that there were many other issues with the Health Centre that Phoebe had not touched on as well as increasing solidarity between the students.

Phoebe’s petition gained over 1500 signatures and led to the SU releasing a survey asking students to review the Health Centre in an effort to recognise the issues and subsequently improve it.

Now, a new petition has been making its way around the internet, and its aim is to create silent study spaces in Holloway’s newest library, the Emily Wilding Davison building. The new building came with a new policy, which states that there are no silent study spaces, but instead there are group study areas and single study ‘pods’. Whilst these areas are quiet zones, there are no silent study spaces, and some students have noticed that students are able to make quite a bit of noise in the surrounding area.

Elena Nikolaou, the student responsible for starting the petition, was influenced by her time in an individual study area, where she was unable to concentrate on working for her dissertation because other students were being loud around her. She states: “Davison Building is a place for us to study and concentrate! It is a place for us to find peace in order to achieve our goals. We have to defend our rights and respect each other. This library was made for us, the current students of Royal Holloway. It shouldn’t serve as another building to showcase in our open days! We need designated silent study and group study areas.”

Davison Building is a place for us to study and concentrate! It is a place for us to find peace in order to achieve our goals. We have to defend our rights and respect each other.

So far, the petition has gained over 625 signatures from students and alumni alike, and the petition comments show solidarity with Elena Nikolaou’s struggle. Many comments complained about loud students, whilst others discussed the crucial nature of silent study areas. Students study in a variety of different ways, and whilst group study spaces may be perfect for social learners, other students prefer to study in total silence or in a more secluded environment.

The lack of silent study space has also led many people to question the closing of Bedford and Founder’s libraries, as one comment drew on this frustration, alongside student exasperation over the construction period for the new building: “The university have unnecessarily closed 2 functional libraries after 2 years of construction next to student halls, and replaced them with a library that does not make use of the available space to give the extra thousand students a quiet place to study.”

It was recently revealed that the Davison building has now designated spaces for silent study. It is unclear whether this was always the plan or if it was as a result of Elena’s petition but, either way, it is a victory for her and everyone who signed it. Silent study spaces have now been placed on the North side of the first floor as well as two-thirds of the second floor, including the mezzanine. •