As part of a new initiative to make the GLBT Center more accessible to all students, administration is introducing Sensory-Friendly Hours every weekday to create an environment more conducive to focus and productivity for those who appreciate calmer and quieter spaces.
The hours run from 10-11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 3-4:30 p.m. Tuesday; and 2-3:30 p.m. Thursday. According to GLBT Center Program Coordinator Geena Washington, these times are some of the highest traffic hours for the center, which was a deliberate decision.
“One of the things that a lot of people had commentary around was the center not being accessible due to noise level,” Washington said. “So, in trying to figure out ways to have more people in and around and also have people in each other’s presence, in a community with each other, it made more sense during high-traffic times. So everyone is here, and we are making space at the same time.”
During Sensory-Friendly Hours, the center will turn off the lights, play soft sounds or white noise and project a still image on all screens. Washington said feedback for this practice has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think literally everyone who frequents the center appreciates the hours in some way, shape or form,” Washington said. “I don’t see any specific group of people benefiting, but literally everyone. We do have students who are on the spectrum; we do have students who only want to be in the center when it is quiet and study … and then they leave once Sensory-Friendly Hours are over. Just everyone.”
Assistant Director of the GLBT Center Andy DeRoin said the hours solve a problem which the center has been dealing with for an exceptionally long time.
“It’s been a consistent point of feedback for years that it’s too loud,” DeRoin said. “So we’ve been trying to figure out an intervention for that that’s not, ‘Okay, now we’re a library.’”
Sensory-Friendly Hours are still new and a work in progress. Washington said she hopes to improve upon them in the future by adding activities in line with the quiet, introspective theme.
“One of the things I want to work on is getting supplies for Sensory-Friendly Hours,” Washington said. “I would love to have fidget toys and whatnot that people can use … You don’t have to necessarily just be quiet and be still; you can be quiet and journal, color.”
Washington said she has also noticed a decrease in the overall noise level of the center even outside Sensory-Friendly Hours.
“Right before Sensory-Friendly Hours and sometimes even after, the mood sort of stays that way,” Washington said. “I would like to have a light area; we cut off all the lights, but we need lamps. That’s in the supplies. And a quiet bubblemaker.”
Isaac Brown, a third-year studying psychology, said that as a regular at the center, they have appreciated the changes.
“The center does get really rowdy sometimes, and that’s nice sometimes, but it’s not nice all the time,” Brown said. “So it’s nice to have that quiet where I can actually focus and get stuff done.”
The hours have also caused some minor conflicts with other recurring events at the center, which has necessitated a few moves. Brown cited Conversations with a Counselor as one example of this; however, they said the benefits outweigh any slight inconvenience.
“It seemed odd to me when they had the counselors come right when [Sensory-Friendly Hours] began, but they changed that,” Brown said. “It helps me focus a lot more when it’s not so loud and rowdy all the time, so I can actually get some work done … I think they do a pretty good job.”
According to DeRoin, the center will be looking in 2020 to facilitate more events which bring students into the center and encourage them to use it in different ways. They cited several examples including The Read, a pop culture podcast which records in the GLBT Center every Thursday from 12-1 p.m. Washington also suggested there may be a VR headset-guided meditation session in collaboration with Wellness and Recreation in the near future.
“We’ve also started hosting, this year, more events in the lounge itself, instead of elsewhere in Talley,” DeRoin said. “So we have a film screening coming up that’s going to be in our space, but then also we’re working on ways to facilitate folks moving and using the space differently.”
To keep up with all the new changes and events the GLBT Center will be implementing this semester, students can follow its Instagram @ncstateglbtcenter or sign up for the weekly newsletter on its website.