Op-ed: Students must respect Snell’s fourth floor silent policy

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Marta Hill

Snell Library’s 4th floor quiet policy is not respected among many students.

Sophia Schultz, contributor

Snell Library, located in the center of Northeastern University’s campus, is the school’s only official undergraduate library space. Snell is a four-story building, which is conveniently divided into four learning sections based on the noise levels that are acceptable on the given floor. The first floor is the “Active Zone” for regular conversations and phone usage, the second floor is the “Collaborative Zone” designed for regular conversations, but limited phone use, and the third floor is a “Preferred Quiet Zone,” meant for quiet conversations and muted phones. Last, the fourth floor, has the most strict rules as the “Preferred Silent Zone,” with no conversations or phone usage. 

These rules are posted around the library, near the elevators and in entryways to the floors, making them accessible and known to any students entering the building. Unfortunately, Northeastern students have a difficult time evaluating themselves and choosing a respective zone that correlates with their volume levels. 

As someone who needs complete silence to do my work, the fourth floor is advertised as the perfect place to be able to work on assignments with zero distractions. However, so far this semester, every time I have sat down to do work, there have been conversations and other distractions that disrupt the rules of this floor. 

With students gathering with friends to do homework to others taking full-fledged phone and Zoom calls, the fourth floor’s intentions as a study space are being disrespected. The third floor also struggles with the same issue, and tends to be more of a social environment, making the two floors designated as work spaces more like hangout spots for many students. The fourth floor also has two balcony-like cut outs in the floor plan that opens down into the third floor, allowing noise levels from the third floor to travel above, which thus creates more distractions and leads students to believe it’s acceptable to make noise. 

With Snell Library currently under renovations, Northeastern can make changes to this space to create a more productive atmosphere for those who benefit from dedicated quiet spaces like the fourth floor. I believe the biggest issue that should be addressed through the renovations is creating more private spaces to study that will take away the incentive for students to get together in groups on this floor. The seating arrangements on the floor are mostly larger tables that would hypothetically be used for a group setting, so choosing a new layout for the floor with an emphasis on individual tables and seating is crucial to the success of creating a silent space.

I also think that instituting workers on the fourth floor to act as proctors would be extremely beneficial to the space’s atmosphere. In high school, having a librarian in study spaces like this always held students accountable for their noise levels, and although we are now adults in college, some students still seem to be unable to be conscious of themselves in these environments. Hiring proctors may be an unpopular or controversial opinion, but it would make it much more fair for the students who need the fourth floor to concentrate. 

Overall, the use of the fourth floor for its intended purpose as a “Preferred Silent Zone” has been falling through, and it’s up to Northeastern to be able to provide spaces that they feel comfortable to work in. With everyone having such large course loads at a prestigious institution, the school should support us in our studies, beginning with the improvements of Snell Library, where the core of studying takes place for many students every day.


Sophia Schultz is a second-year business administration major. She can be reached at [email protected]