Fact or Fiction – The “Medical” Student Lounge
News Article by Claire E. McCarthy
During my five years as a PhD student, I have often passed by the “medical” student lounge on my way to classes and seminars. Despite gazing at the large television, comfy-looking couches, and a fun foosball table in the room from the hallway, I never tried to swipe into the lounge. I thought the space was only for medical students. When I asked other Toxicology graduate students for their thoughts on the availability of the lounge, I got varied responses. Shannon Lacy, a second year student, said, “There’s a big sign on the door that says Med students only, so I don’t think graduate students have access.” Yet, Amanda Croasdell, a sixth year student, stated that the lounge is not exclusively for medical students. A first year student, Katrina Jew said that other people told her that the lounge is open to graduate students, “but I don’t know if it really is because the rules of who can or can’t use the room aren’t easily found.”
Based on all of the rumors and confusion about the “medical” student lounge, I decided to disentangle the truth from the rumors by talking to Linda Lipani, the Registrar in the Office for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs. When I asked her if the medical student lounge is open to graduate students, she answered, “Yes, and it is actually called the student lounge, not the medical student lounge.” She went on to tell me that the room is “free and open to all students,” including Master’s and PhD trainees from the River campus working in labs at the Medical Center. According to Linda, graduate students should be able to get into the room with their IDs, similar to accessing Miner Library after staff hours. I learned that the lounge is a resource, which includes a computer lab and a music room, which is available to all students. She said that the “medical” student lounge is a “long-standing myth.”
She thinks that this partially comes from the divide that she observes between medical and graduate students. The culture of the medical center perpetuates a mindset of two distinct groups: medical students and graduate students. This is partially due to organizational barriers that limit crossover between the groups. Linda described medical students as a “tightly bound cohort,” due to the intense, four-year time frame of their program and unification through medical school classes. Concurrently, graduate students socialize with each other in biomedical science courses and at graduate program events, such as student lunches. Medical students and graduate students have different schedules that limit their interactions and, in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “never the twain shall meet.” In regards to the student lounge, Linda said that many first and second year medical students use the space, which is in close proximity to the medical student services office. Conversely, many graduate program departments provide a study space for students. Linda said, “Departmental rooms can be quite cozy, and (graduate) students often gravitate to them.” People tend to stay with others that they know rather than step outside their comfort zone, which propagates the “medical” student-only lounge rumor.
However, there used to be a time when graduate students often utilized the student lounge. Linda told me that they used to have philosophy meetings in the room during the 90’s. Back then, The Philosophy Meetings were less formal; it was a Friday party that would go on for hours. Additionally, when Linda first started working at the medical center, she used to eat lunch in the student lounge with both medical and graduate students. However, after building renovations and changes in the structure of Philosophy Meetings, graduate students seemed to drift away from the student lounge. A myth that the room was only for medical students spread and persisted to the present.
Nevertheless, Linda emphasized that “it’s everyone’s lounge.” She said, “Anything and everything (in the student lounge) is available to all students.” I encourage people, including myself, to overcome the “us (graduate students) and them (medical students)” mentality and crossover into the student lounge.