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Arts community sees space limits

While UNC student organizations help students find their niche in campus life, the organizations themselves are having difficulty finding their places on campus.

According to a report by the Student Organization Council, there were 627 recognized student groups with approximately 32,000 members at UNC last year.

That number has risen from 385 groups since the 1996-97 academic year.

"In order to be successful, we need to take a comprehensive look at our spaces, as well as our policies," said Christopher Payne, associate vice chancellor for student affairs. "We are starting to implement some strategies now that will affect change over the short and the long term."

Performing arts groups often have the most problems finding good locations, as their space requirements are usually more specific.

"We struggle every year - for both rehearsal spaces and performance spaces," said Jed Wang, president of the Achordants, an all-male a cappella group.

The Student Union begins allowing registration for rooms a semester in advance the day before classes start - and there's always a long line of people camping out overnight.

Construction and renovations have exacerbated the situation, limiting the number and variety of spaces available.

Examples include the closing of Gerrard Hall for renovations and the temporary removal of the stage in Hamilton Hall during its recent remodeling.

Even many available spaces have restrictions placed on their use.

"I would love to see more acceptability for current existing spaces," Wang said.

A decentralized system for booking creates more problems, as different buildings require registering with different offices, said Holly Calkins, a producer for Company Carolina, a campus theatrical group.

"It's hard to coordinate with the University," she said. "You have to contact different people, different systems, to sign up."

"It's pretty silly."

Calkins reports having to scavenge for rooms on a day-to-day basis for the group's upcoming show "The Wall," based on the Pink Floyd rock opera.

Student groups attempting to perform on the grandest of campus stages - Memorial Hall - find further difficulty.

The Clef Hangers - UNC's first all-male a cappella group - has been forced to move its fall concert, which traditionally has been a Saturday night, to Sunday, Nov. 19.

"It's exactly like getting classes," said David Mikush, president of the Clef Hangers. "You bid for it online. If you're 10 seconds behind the group in front of you, you don't get your date."

Students trying to find space at Memorial Hall must compete with its Performing Arts Series, which brings in a wide variety of nonstudent acts, including the upcoming Nickel Creek show Sept. 19.

Mikush said he was skeptical about the power of some of the series' less-popular shows to draw a full audience.

"It'd be better for Memorial Hall to open up to student groups with a wider fan base," he said. "They'd have a better chance of selling it out."

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The Loreleis, an all-female a cappella group, found similar problems in reserving space in Memorial Hall.

"We had our spring concert on a Sunday night for the first time ever last year because the business manager said the lottery opened at 12 o'clock and was eight seconds behind the start," Loreleis President Amanda Bolch said.

The Loreleis now must wait until Friday to register for space for their fall concert, which Bolch said is a problem for planning.

"We have alumni, out-of-state girls, parents," she said. "They'll only have, like, a month to prepare and get plane tickets."

Bolch said the late start at registration gives both the student groups and Memorial Hall little flexibility.

"I think it would be a great idea for groups to be able to work with Memorial (Hall) over the summer, when they're planning their Performing Arts Series - to get some student groups to be part of it," she said.

The UNC administration has taken note of these growing problems on campus and is now taking steps to accommodate the growing need, Payne said.

"Involvement in student activities and organizations contributes to engagement and student learning that occurs on campus," he said. "It is a critical issue."

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