Washington Quad has long been a gathering spot for student groups at the University of Maryland — but many of them are contending with a recent reminder about a policy that says the quad cannot be reserved for group events or activities.
The university’s Department of Resident Life sent an annual email to South Hill community residents on Sept. 21 reminding them that the Washington Quad, a community green space with grills and volleyball courts, is not reservable.
This longstanding-policy establishes the quad as South Hill’s “backyard,” for students of the residential community to connect with others, Resident Life spokesperson Tracy Kiras wrote in an email to The Diamondback.
However, some student organizations have used the Washington Quad in the past for events and have reservations about the policy.
“I understand that it must be frustrating for anyone living there to have to deal with the noise,” public policy graduate student Noor Tofailli said. “But this is a space on campus much like all other spaces.”
The university’s Organization of Arab Students held a barbecue on the Washington Quad about a week before the reminder email was sent, according to Tofailli, the organization’s graduate representative. The night before the organization’s barbecue, a member of Resident Life emailed the organization to reiterate the policy.
After receiving the email, the Organization of Arab Students still held the barbecue on Sept. 14 to ensure food was not wasted, Tofailli said. She added that the Washington Quad policy is a limiting factor for student organizations on campus.
“Most of us are away from our family, away from our culture, away from what reminds us of home and we’re trying to create a space for us to have a space that is home away from home,” Tofailli said. “When there are so many obstacles in our way to do that, it just becomes a bit less encouraging.”
Tofailli said although the university’s Student Government Association helps students on campus financially, some barriers surrounding event planning still remain. Several locations at the university, including some rooms inside Stamp Student Union, come with financial costs, Tofailli added.
However, outdoor event spaces such as McKeldin Mall and Hornbake Plaza can be rented for free, according to Stamp Student Union’s Center for Campus Life.
“There are certain sites on our campus that are more reservable for student groups by student affairs,” University President Darryll Pines told The Diamondback. “I think [the policy is] to make sure that the residential communities are sort of just home for students to gather, but it’s not to promote one group or another.”
In a few events hosted by student organizations early this fall, some groups left trash on the Washington Quad area and excluded South Hill residents from joining the event, Kiras wrote.
Resident Life staff have the authority to ask groups hosting an event to move to another location, Kiras wrote. When necessary, University Police may be contacted to help with policy enforcement, she added.
Senior kinesiology major Tiffany-Ashley Reyes, a member of this university’s chapter of Camp Kesem, said the organization has had social team-bonding events on the quad. Reyes, who lives on the quad in Howard Hall, was surprised to learn about the policy.
“We’re all students here, regardless [of] if you’re on South Campus or North Campus,” Reyes said. “Everyone should have access to everything on campus, so to kind of restrict the quad area only to the South Hill residents is kind of absurd.”
Reyes said that although she does hear noise from events at the Washington Quad, the events usually only last until 9 or 10 p.m.
Junior family science major Leena Davis, the vice president of sisters affairs at this university’s Muslim Student Association, said she was unaware of the Washington Quad policy until receiving and reading the September email. She said the Muslim Student Association has always used the space for barbecues since she started attending the university.
After receiving the reminder email, the Muslim Student Association moved its barbecue from the quad to an off-campus option, Davis said.
Davis, who lives in Baltimore Hall, said that rather than fully prohibiting student groups from reserving the Washington Quad, the standard could be altered to ensure students are treating the space respectfully.
“Our organizations on campus, they bring so much life to this campus,” Davis said. “They bring so much beauty and connection and I feel like we should be able to use [the Washington Quad] in a way that is pleasing.”