Students have mixed responses to ban
Administrators said that the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library’s computer lab food ban was created to protect computer equipment, and the rule would remain in effect unless the staff heard more complaints.
The policy, which was enacted at the end of the summer semester, bans food from computer labs and has also been used as a guideline for similar bans at other computer labs in colleges around the University.
Lee Hilyer, head of information and access services, recalls the decision to initiate the policy as a mutual agreement across the board.
“We were actually approached by the people who run the central site lab, to talk about harmonizing policies so that whenever students went to a computer lab, they would encounter the same policy,” Hilyer said. “We have had a problem with food and students not being able to clean up after themselves. They left crumbs, mayonnaise and just different bits of food that led to damaging the keyboards. So, we decided that at the end of the spring semester to let people know that there would be a ban and we gave them plenty of time to prepare for that.”
Hilyer also said the policy has received more support from students than complaints. If more complaints come in, however, Hilyer said the library would enact a policy change.
“We would certainly listen to what students have to say. At this point right now, most people like the policy. Not everyone is going to like it, of course, but for the majority of time, comments have been positive,” Hilyer said. “If we got 100 people saying that they would like eat around the computers then we would have to figure out a way to balance everyone’s needs.”
Many students have agreed with the policy and follow its rules, but largely to protect their wallets — students that damage something accidentally are required to pay for the repairs.
“I think the policy is important. If you spill your drink or food on a computer, then you’ll end up having to pay for it. We’re all college students and not a lot of us have that much money to pay for a full computer, so it’s better to avoid it,” said Nelson Ulloweua, a political science senior.
Some students, however, are accustomed to eating beside the computers, and feel that the policy is practically nonexistent.
“No one really cares about the policy, people are still eating. Are they really enforcing it?” said Umer Arian, a biochemistry senior.
Hilyer emphasized that the library staff performs regular scans of the computer areas to remind students violating the policy of the rules. He urged students to report any violations they see.
“We ask our staff and our security officers to make regular sweeps through the computer labs to ensure compliance with the policy,” Hilyer said. “Students who observe a violation of the no-food policy can contact a member of the library staff to have the situation immediately addressed.”
The student reporting method may be neglected by students who sport a to-each-their-own mentality. It would be hard for students, such as accounting freshman Brenner Sinquefield, to report a student biting into a cheeseburger while switching through Firefox tabs and working on an essay.
Sinquefield said he feels that the library went too far for placing the policy on the entire student body.
“I think that people should be able to eat and drink whatever they want wherever they are,” Sinquefield said.
“It’s obvious if someone spills something on the computer, then they’re liable for paying for the damage, but the library should hold that individual responsible.
“The library shouldn’t have to put a ban on all the students who have been responsible enough to not spill food and drinks on the computers. Everyone here is 18 or older, and everyone should know how to take responsibility for their own actions.”
Some students said the policy could have been avoided if others took care of library equipment.
“If you treat the property like it’s your own, then it should all be fine,” said Nusrat Uddin, a biochemistry senior. “I think if people had that type of mentality before the ban then the situation would be better than it is now.”
Hilyer noted that students can eat anywhere in the library, as long as they don’t eat next to University computers.
“I’ve talked to a number of students, especially the first couple of weeks of the fall semester — we were reminding people that there’s no food allowed,” Hilyer said.
“So far, I’ve never had any blow-ups or push back from any of them. My point is that students can eat pretty much anywhere else in the library, but eating by the computers is an issue we’d like to stay away from.”