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Last week, a friend and I looked for a place to study that wasn’t a library. As we found, they’re difficult to find. Though classrooms, common areas, and even dining halls are always available, there’s no way to know whether they will be unoccupied. After walking around campus for nearly an hour, we lamented that we wished there were an online system to see what classrooms and other spaces are available.

Here’s where an app would come into play. Given that classrooms are centrally reserved for classes, this information is already available to distribute to students. We can already look on the registrar’s page to determine if the space we hope to use is reserved for a class. 

The app that I propose would streamline that process. Rather than having to search by department, by class or, worse, manually through all possible options (this semester alone, the registrar lists 1559 classes), we would have a system where we could search for rooms by building. 

Moreover, the app would display non-academic reservations. For instance, during finals period, many student groups reserve classrooms in Frist Campus Center for their members to have a place to study together. These reservations would appear on the app. For student groups who wish to be anonymous, there could also be an option for groups to not be identified. It is entirely possible for it to simply say “reserved.”

The app would be only for reference. That is, it wouldn’t have a function to reserve the space in advance. One could argue that without the reservation function, we wouldn’t actually solve the problem. After all, if we can’t know with certainty that the room is unused, we might still waste time searching. I disagree.

Imagine that a student is looking for her favorite classroom but finds another student already using it. If the reservation functionality were built into the app, she would be able to reserve it on the spot and then kick out the other student. I think we should be concerned by an app that would afford us that power.

Even if the functionality required students to reserve spaces well in advance, it would remain problematic. Let’s say, as an example, that students had to submit their reservations at least three hours beforehand. If you want to reserve a space at 7 p.m., the latest you would be able to do so would be at 4 p.m. that same day.

That stringency would prevent us from being able to walk into a classroom, perhaps with friends, and study communally. Discovering an open space adds spontaneity and fun to a process that can otherwise be monotonous and dreary. 

The app I envision would not eliminate that spontaneity. Even if the room were not officially reserved, it would not necessarily go unused. There would still be some exploration involved in finding a classroom — but that exploration would become more efficient.

Sebastian Quiroz is a senior from Deltona, FL. He can be reached at squiroz@princeton.edu.

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