Tabletop signage to open up more seats

Placards will be implemented to manage overcrowding in dining areas of the Student Union. Photo by Ambarina Hasta | Mercury Staff.

Dining areas of the Student Union will adopt a table-sharing system by the end of the semester in an effort to alleviate overcrowding during busy hours.

Student Government, in partnership with the SU staff, is currently working on a project to create placards to place on dining tables of the SU. The placards, which will be placed on top of every table, will indicate whether the student sitting there wants to share the table with other students.

Computer science senior and Student Affairs Committee Chair Anuhya Emmandi said the initiative will not only address the problem of crowding in the dining area, but also encourage students to socialize with each other.

“The basic concept is that if you have the placard flipped to the color red, that’s indicating that whoever is already sitting down is saying ‘don’t sit down, I’m using this table’ or ‘this table is reserved,’” Emmandi said. “On the other hand, if the placard is flipped to green, it’s more of a ‘Hey, I’m down to chat’ or ‘you’re welcome to sit at this table with me.’”

Student Government Vice President and political science sophomore Carla Ramazan said the committee members have been looking at how other universities have carried out projects similar to this and are discussing how they can tweak and customize them to fit UTD.

“We’re looking at the ones from Purdue (University) really closely, because that’s an example of another university in the nation that has done this successfully,” Ramazan said. “People really enjoyed it and utilize it pretty heavily over there.”

Ramazan said the idea was suggested to Student Government by a UTD student who had recently toured and saw such placards at Purdue University.

“We love it when people pitch projects to us,” Ramazan said. “When I got the email, I forwarded it to the chair of the Student Affairs Committee and told her I would love it if she could look into it further. She passed it along her committee members further, and they’re currently working on it.”

Dan Goodwin, the director of the SU, said his management team had spoken with UTD Dining Services in 2017 about the concept of a table sharing program. He said the conversations did not get past the concept stage because the issue was raised mid-semester and there were other priorities they needed to focus on. The idea was postponed until this semester, when the Student Affairs Committee brought it up in a meeting that he attended.

“We love opportunities like that, because we had at one time been working on this, and then as a matter of fate, a student brought it back up, and that reinvigorated us to be able to talk about this again,” Goodwin said.

Though the project is still in its concept phase, Goodwin said SU staff are encouraging student input for this project, as they do with all other projects.

“Within the Student Affairs Committee, they have been talking amongst them and throwing out ideas,” Goodwin said. “They have examples of how Purdue University and (the) University of Houston do theirs, but we want it to be very UTD-centric.”

Though the exact date of the project’s implementation has not been determined, Goodwin and Emmandi both said that they expect the project to be ready well before the end of the semester.

“I think that we have a real opportunity here to hopefully alleviate some of the congestion in the SU dining hall, which is important,” Goodwin said. “But bigger than that, we have an opportunity to try to bring students together that may otherwise not have been brought together.”

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