Matthew Hein

All this hullabaloo over the Smith Center game room and student computer labs has pointed out the necessity of creative problem solving here at Portland State University. Concerned (and vocal) parties are lining up into opposing camps, and the entire situation seems to be getting reduced to a turf battle. Before the various representatives of administration and student interests dig their heels in too deeply, maybe everyone should visit PSU’s new conflict resolution program. Failing that admittedly unlikely solution, the time may have arrived for some truly creative problem solving. What we need is a “win-win” solution.

Sure, the Office of Information Technologies may have been working on the establishment of new computer labs for several months, but no amount of planning can substitute for a well-played air hockey match.

This is the opportunity for Student Fee Committee members to show that they are truly dedicated to cooperating with the administration.

Air hockey is not a game for shortsighted little children. Every move must be calculated seconds in advance.

How about this: channel about 50 bucks’ worth of student fees into game tokens, and match the pro-game room factions against the computer lab proponents. Allow them to eat nothing but the food and beverages available in the coin-operated machines in the Smith Center basement. The last one standing gets whatever he wants. The loser gets an incredible sugar and caffeine rush, followed by permanent health problems.

There are other possibilities for conflict resolution that don’t fall into the “us-versus-them” pattern. Since several of the computers at the Millar Library are already used for playing games, the establishment of a new lab in Smith need not mean the end of the game room.

In fact, why not move Pole Position and the popular CapCom vs. Marvel fighting game to the library? Students would no longer have to wait to print their papers until game playing “community members” vacate computers. Game-players would be able to maim and kill opponents without fending off those annoying glares from annoyed students.

Student Fee Committee member Chase LoGreco points out the game room’s importance in fostering a sense of community among PSU students. And what constitutes community more than the show of trust and comfort that goes along with napping together? If recent tours of the Millar Library were any indication, a row of sleeping cubicles would be as well received as a new presentation room. Of course, there’s no reason that presentations and napping need to be mutually exclusive activities. Once again, creative problem solving advances a “win-win” situation.

Bowling presents a little tougher quandary. There may not be room in the Library for Smith Center’s antiquated lanes. The historical importance of the bowling alley may be strong enough that the whole situation could be dissembled, moved and rebuilt.

Portland State did the city a favor by taking the Simon Benson House off its hands.

Now it’s time for the city to return the favor by relocating our bowling lanes, preferably along the waterfront.

As long as PSU is engaged in such a groundbreaking partnership with the city regarding the Portland Streetcar, why not up the ante? Install flat-screen monitors in one streetcar, and distribute bowling balls to passengers on the remaining trolleys. Everybody wins.

During Summer Session, the Library and the Shattuck Hall labs both close before sunset. The game room follows suit. Students are apparently supposed to feel privileged to have any access to computers at all. If none of my above solutions succeed in quelling this dispute, there remains the ultimate Summer Session option: Fill one of the basement’s candy machine alcoves with the very latest equipment, staff it with a single underpaid student worker, and open it from noon to two p.m., Monday through Thursday.

With this proposal, the administration will be able to crow about their state-of-the-art labs without actually serving more than a handful of students. Student leaders will feel they have courageously defended Smith Center from encroachment by the space-hungry administration, without actually completing any of their own proposals or showing up to their own meetings. Students will continue to find ways to weasel computer use after hours at their jobs or the homes of their friends and families. This process of weaseling and networking involves people working with each other and navigating their surroundings, increasing the student body’s sense of community.

The current controversy over the Smith Center basement should be approached as an opportunity for creative problem solving and non-confrontational conflict resolution. The needs of the student body and the desires of the administration can all be met simultaneously. If these groups can’t come together to produce a new feasible plan, however, their differences can always be settled the old-fashioned way, right in the game room itself: full-contact, endurance air hockey.