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Students dis new seating at Gonzaga’s Hemmingson Center as petition demands return of old furniture

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 26, 2019

I feel like I am facing a wall, said Chris Delos Santos of the furniture in the commons area of John J. Hemmingson Center at Gonzaga University. Students at Gonzaga have started a petition because they do not like the new furniture. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
I feel like I am facing a wall, said Chris Delos Santos of the furniture in the commons area of John J. Hemmingson Center at Gonzaga University. Students at Gonzaga have started a petition because they do not like the new furniture. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga University students were gathering around 1 p.m. Wednesday near Starbucks and Wolfgang Puck Pizza in the John J. Hemmingson Center – but the orange-red modular furniture and green and gray chairs new to the student center were unoccupied, save for an abandoned water bottle plastered with Patagonia and Vans stickers.

That the chairs weren’t being used isn’t the only indication that some students don’t like them. A petition on Change.org – initiated by student Luke Sparks – is making the rounds at Gonzaga, expressing dismay about the new furniture spanning the main hall of the student center and asking the university to bring the center’s old furniture back. As of Wednesday afternoon, 483 people had signed the petition.

Sparks said he never expected the petition to get so much attention.

“The new furniture forces people to face away from each other and is not conducive for anything beyond 2-3 person groups,” the petition reads. “No easily accessible outlets besides one section. The backs of the weird step-up chairs are ridiculously short.”

His main objection is that the old furniture made it easy for large groups to meet.

“Everyone was confused as to why they changed it,” Sparks said.

Shane Stoike commented on the petition, “Yeet that furniture.”

According to Urban Dictionary, “yeet” means “to discard an item at a high velocity.”

Gonzaga spokesman Pete Tormey said he was unaware of the petition. Chuck Faulkinberry, the event service team director at the Hemmingson Center, said in an email the furniture had been selected with student input.

“Colors, design and fabric were all driven by the community voice,” Faulkinberry said. “Unlike the previous furniture, the new furniture is designed to be moved around and allow visitors to create their own spaces depending upon their desires.”

The $60 million Hemmingson Center opened four years ago.

By 1:45 p.m., students were bustling about and a few students populated the aforementioned furniture.

Logan Graves and Ryan Finn, both juniors, were burning time and enjoying iced drinks from Starbucks with bits of dragon fruit floating in the cups. Graves said they chose the green chairs with gray backing because they didn’t show sweat – they had just been outside. Those chairs rock backward ever so slightly, and there were six positioned in a circle.

Graves and Finn would have preferred the cafe seating, but there was no room. Neither had heard about the petition, but they wouldn’t be against signing it.

“I’d say one of our good friends actually complained a lot the first time he saw it,” Graves said. “Those (the orange units) are not comfortable, these are the most comfortable.”

On the petition, student Megan Reed commented, “The seating is awkward. Do I sit on the lower bit or the taller bit? I just don’t know.”

Finn said it would be awkward to sit next to someone on the orange furniture, unless you knew them well. Graves’ biggest concern was that while the old furniture had tables, the new seating does not, making it so he could no longer do his homework the area.

“If I were Gonzaga, I wouldn’t want to replace it,” Finn said. “It’s fine I guess, not a fan but I don’t think I have as strong an opinion as others.”

Faulkinberry said Gonzaga takes the student voice seriously.

“Our students have opinions on many things and provide us feedback regarding a variety of subjects,” Faulkinberry said.

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