This shocking notice was recently released to all students at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul: “Due to budgeting issues caused by COVID-19, the University of Northwestern–St. Paul has sold all the chairs on the main campus in order to stay open. Every class will now be BYOC, or Bring Your Own Chair. This includes the auditorium seats in the Knight Performance Hall but excludes all chairs attached to desks.”
There has been a wide variety of responses to this announcement. Some students think it is funny, others are outraged and a growing number of students are simply apathetic. A large group of business students even set up tables on the campus green, explaining why this was a poor financial decision on UNW’s part.
In the two days following the announcement, there was a drastic increase in student attendance over Zoom. This caused UNW to release a second announcement requiring students to attend class in-person unless they have a confirmed excused absence or are following a hybrid class schedule.
Faced with no other options, students have begun to participate in BYOC. Unsurprisingly, there are a variety of different approaches to this problem.
Abby McCormick, a junior marketing major, said, “I think it is kind of dumb, but I try to have fun with it, so I sewed two straps to a beanbag. Then when you walk around you look like a turtle, and when you get tired you can just fall back, and you will already be in a chair.”
Mara Juffer, a senior health science major, had a similar approach. She said, “I bought a sensible beanbag chair so I am more comfortable, and it is light for carrying around.”
Bridget Catton, a senior elementary education major, said, “I bring a wobble stool because I have seen them in a lot of elementary classrooms, and it keeps students engaged. It is also pretty small, so it is easy to hike around.”
Evelyn Glewwe, a PSEO senior nursing major, took a simpler approach. She said, “I sit on the ground, just doing what my youth pastor told me [to do] when we didn’t have any chairs: to ‘pull up some floor.’”
These are some of the most popular approaches to this problem. Other common responses include sitting on skateboards or milk crates. Some students are rolling to class on desk chairs with wheels, sometimes traveling in packs or connected lines pulled by one person who is walking. In addition, a growing group of students attached stools to helmets, wearing their chairs on their heads while walking to class.
Only two weeks after this announcement, the students of UNW have already come together in solidarity to make the best of the situation. While many staff members feared this decision would be the downfall of UNW, the connection formed by crazy circumstance is now being discussed as a possible attraction point for prospective students. One can only imagine what the fall semester will look like.