Before he stepped down as dean one year ago, social studies teacher Daniel Tillman was known for shouting “First, second, or fifth” at loitering students in the hallways. Early in the morning on Monday, February 7, however, these words got a makeover when Interim Acting Principal Jie Zhang sent out an e-mail informing students that they are no longer permitted to stay on the fifth floor during their free and lunch periods. According to the e-mail, “the noise level outside the student cafeteria on the fifth floor is so high that teaching and learning are affected in the classrooms nearby.” Since then, aside from the student cafeteria, students have been allowed to stay only on the first floor, second floor, and sixth floor library during their free and lunch periods.
While in previous years teachers and deans had supervised students on the fifth floor, the policy of completely disallowing them from staying there is new to Stuyvesant. The introduction of this new policy was spurred by teachers and assistant principals who believed that the loud students posed too much of a distraction to the learning environment and classrooms on the floor.
“Teachers in the department have always expressed their concern about noise coming from the fifth floor because students had essentially extended the cafeteria into the halls,” Assistant Principal of World Languages Arlene Ubieta said. Like Zhang, Ubieta emphasized that the hindering of teaching was a problem. “It was especially frustrating when students were taking exams and the racket outside was distracting them and preventing them from performing their best,” she said.
The World Language classes were not the only ones affected by this situation. Assistant Principal of Physical Education Larry Barth explained that, for his department, the problem was less the amount of noise than the students’ presence itself. “When kids were sitting around outside the locker room where some of our classes do their work, it was a hindrance,” Barth said.
While Barth clarified that he had not gone to the administration to express his concerns regarding the noise, he supported the new policy on principle. “I was a proponent because it looks like a zoo up here with all the garbage. People would eat their lunch out in that back hallway and leave their trash everywhere. It was not a quiet study area. It was instead loud, noisy, and filthy. The problem affected the school as a whole,” Barth said.
Though students who used to stay outside the cafeteria must now go elsewhere, Librarian DeLisa Brown does not think that the new policy will have a significant effect on the library. While the number of students using the library every day has gone up, the fact that it is the beginning of the semester adds other variables and possibilities. “We naturally are going to have rising numbers of students in the library, and it will keep going up until we hit a point where it just gets too noisy or too crowded,” Brown said. Recently, approximately 1,700 to 2,000 students have been using the library every day.
Furthermore, Brown believes that the students displaced from the fifth floor will most likely relocate to the first or second floors. “The students on the fifth floor weren’t on the fifth floor because they wanted to study,” she said. “They wanted to relax. They want to chat with their friends and have some fun. Those aren’t necessarily the students who are going to be coming into the library.”
Some students have expressed their disappointment toward this new restriction. “The reasons [for this new policy] make sense, but this change also limits the space that people can be in when they’re not in class. It is also a lot nicer to be up on the fifth floor than it is to be on the first and second floors,” freshman Jake Brimberg said.
Many faculty members, on the other hand, are pleased with the change and believe that it has been effective in promoting a quieter learning environment.
“Everyone is very happy at this point,” Ubieta said. “It’s been heaven.”
Nevertheless, Zhang, who made the final decision to enforce the new policy, is open to student feedback. She explained that she is aware of the various opinions regarding the newly enacted policy as well as the student petition for permission to leave the school building during free periods. “We will always welcome student input; I am not here to inconvenience them,” Zhang said.