Students create petition to increase Ellis Library hours

The petition is gaining speed with over 2,000 supporters as of Thursday evening.
Former MU student Kelly Dobbs studies at Ellis Library on Feb. 17, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Due to budget cuts and the failure of a library fee referendum last fall, MU LIbraries are shortening hours and cutting some resources. Maneater File Photo

A student petition created Wednesday to reinstate Ellis Library hours that run 24 hours and 5 days a week, which they provided students last year, now has more than 2,000 signatures.

Ellis Library currently closes at midnight from Sunday to Thursday, and at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday because of budget cuts. The petition was created by senior Gabriella Martinez.

To preempt the change in hours, last year, Matt Gaunt, director of advancement for MU Libraries, proposed a library fee that would provide $13 million in funding each year at its peak. The idea was to implement a fee per credit hour, beginning at $5 and increasing by $2 each year so that by the year 2022, students would be paying an additional $15 per credit hour. After a student referendum, the proposal failed with 54 percent of students who voted voting against it.

Many students said there was a communication error between the advertisement of the policy and the actual consequences of not approving it. Sophomore Edward McKinley said he blew off the library fee proposal because he viewed it as the university charging more money. He said he felt like the consequence of not voting for the proposal “was a footnote.”

“[The proposal] could’ve been communicated more effectively,” McKinley said.

Junior Shahrukh Naseer agreed. He said that while trying to gather support, many students “didn’t know what the vote was for” or “how it would affect them.” Only now, when the library is closed during what students consider crucial studying hours, do they regret not voting in favor of the proposal, Naseer said.

Martinez said she believes the libraries should be better funded.

“The University of Missouri is an ACADEMIC institution and the library, of all places, should be one of the main amenities the university should be funding,” Martinez wrote in an email. “This is a great school with multiple amenities, so the university shouldn't have to raise tuition rates to keep the school library open.”

Martinez, Naseer and McKinley all said they voted ‘yes’ on the library fee.

McKinley said it’s difficult to concentrate when his alternative study area lacks the environment of the library.

“I’m actually in here right now doing homework, and outside there’s loud music,” McKinley said. “It’s easier to go to Ellis, [where] everyone around you is studying.”

Martinez and Naseer decided to make it their priority to expand the library’s hours again: Martinez started the petition, and Naseer created a GoFundMe webpage.

Martinez said in an email that she decided to create the petition after realizing she had only one more hour left in Ellis before the building closed, but she still had hours worth of studying to do.

“The whole point of my petition is to encourage the university to reconsider their decision to cut funds from Ellis,” she said in the email. “Changing the hours back to being open 24 hours would benefit all the busy students who attend the university.” Martinez’s petition is gaining speed, with over 2,000 supporters in fewer than 24 hours. Students, alumni and parents have signed it. She said her goal is to bring attention to Ellis Library and to show the university that students depend heavily on the library. Students also took to social media to talk about the petition and efforts to increase Ellis’ hours, including tweeting at the Missouri Students Association’s Twitter account and the accounts of President Sean Earl and Vice President Tori Schafer. Schafer responded by asking students to reach out to MSA senators and the Missouri General Assembly. Naseer said he received an email from Kathleen Peters, the assistant director of business administration for MU Libraries, after he began the GoFundMe, asking him to take down his website because it was violating university policy. Initially, he said he was disappointed, but shortly after, he was informed that the libraries would be starting a campaign to raise funds. Seeing that Naseer was ready to take money out of his own pocket to keep Ellis open, they asked for his input and help, he said. “I think the university is beginning to take steps in the right direction, and hopefully we can start seeing results soon,” Naseer said. MU Library spokeswoman Shannon Noel Cary said in an email that she hoped the petition and actions from the students would “demonstrate to the administration that students see the library as a high priority.” Cary said in an email that the library fee, if passed, would have also provided more services than just keeping the library open 24 hours. “It would have given us a dedicated revenue stream,” Cary wrote in the email. “We needed this revenue to provide the best possible services (including keeping the buildings open), to provide access to the resources needed for a world-class research institution and to provide learning spaces equipped with technology that keeps pace with today’s learning environment.” _Edited by Claire Mitzel | cmitzel@themaneater.com_

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