The Wait is Over, But the Line Isn’t

by Quinn Welsch

Horizon Reporter

Getting anything done on campus involving money requires Whatcom students do at least one thing: wait in line.

At 3:37 p.m. on the second day of the quarter, the weather is cold and windy, and the students are hurried. But inside the Syre Student Center, it’s the opposite. The excitement of the new quarter is stifled by a long line. As students drop their bags off at the bookstore entrance, and search for their class materials, a line becomes visible. A piece of white tape behind the cashier’s desk marks the beginning of a line of nine people. Towards the back of the line, the students appear more interested in their cell phones than purchasing their books.

Within 20 minutes, the line has more than doubled in size and touches three of the four walls of the bookstore.

For some, waiting in line can be a pain. At the financial aid office, one student said that she had been there for over a half an hour and had only moved forward by about 5 feet. Once through the line at the financial aid office, students were prompted to wait in line for their check in the Syre Student Center. Students were again seen with their cell phones, providing a distraction from the wait.

In the Syre Student Center, Sharon Roof, 61, and Sigrid Cunningham, 67, wait at a table to hand out checks for student aid. The line that has formed in front of them is hard to count, as it becomes less of a line, and more of a mob. The farther back the line, the less orderly it becomes.

“We had four lines on the first day, “Roof said.  “If they would come in a little ways and see where the lines are, it would be easier for them.

Roof, who has been handing out financial aid checks to students at the beginning of each quarter for the last three years said, “I’m surprised to see how many students don’t know how many credits they’re taking.” She added that many students have come through the line unprepared to give their identification.

While lines may provide an orderly manner to college life, they also provide an obstacle. Students in the Laidlaw Center have to wait in the halls surrounded by lines, and on their way to class have to step around them. The students extending the lines may also challenge a building’s occupancy limit.

Amanda Bonilla, 23, a cashier in the bookstore, said that the maximum occupancy of 70 people in the bookstore was easily topped. Although the bookstore line moves swiftly, the excess occupants could pose a hazard in emergency situations.

Bookstore manager, Jon Spores, said the staff is sensitive to the long lines in the beginning of the quarter. He said he does not expect it to get any worse in the following quarters.

“If it got worse, we would have to pull the door and limit customers coming in and out,” Spores said. “It’s all about logistics.”

Lines are necessary, though. It may be easier to pay the cashier or choose a class by going online, but sometimes technology fails. A student in line at the cashier’s office said she would gladly go online to pay a fee if her computer was working. Another student in the same line said she needed a signature for a pre-requisite class and had to come in person.

For others, the lines are a typical part of campus life. At the Syre Student Center, Sharon Roof said, “Me personally, when I’m in line, I find it more fun to talk to the people around you. When I get a student who’s really impatient, I try to be nice to them.” She laughs. “Those same students would be the ones who would wait six days in line to see Avatar.”

Back in the bookstore, Ben Woodworth, 20, regards lines with indifference. “I’m used to lines,” he said as he carried $300 worth of school materials to the cashier in the bookstore. “Lines are whatever.”


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