Students banned from 'loitering' inside Laney College theater lobby

Laney College student receives haircut in the Laney Theater Lobby
Photo: Reginald James/

By Reginald James Editor

Students are no longer allowed to hang out in the lobby area of the Laney College theater building due to disruptive behavior, faculty said.

Jim Cave, the stage and production supervisor of the Theater Department said he’s dealt with unruly student behavior since the start of the semester.

"People (are) dancing, playing music, making beats, table dancing. This ain't BET.
Jaiden Phoenix
“They were disruptive, rough-housing, eating, drinking in the lobby, what we would call ‘loitering,’” Cave said of the students. He said the building has “a poor acoustic atmosphere”, and noise from the lobby disrupts classes inside the theater. Students also blocked access to classrooms on other floors by sitting on the stairs and congregating in the “Green Room” near the elevator. “Then they leave a big mess,” he added

“People (are) dancing, playing music, making beats, table dancing,” theater student Jaiden Phoenix said, speaking of the students’ behavior. “This ain’t BET.”

Cave ended up getting into “shouting matches” after repeatedly asking students to “quiet down,” but they would comply.

Phoenix recounted the disrespectful attitude shown towards Cave when he approached students.

“I watched him go out there and ask them to quiet down, but by the time he leaves, they doing what they do,” Phoenix said.

"If you’re quietly studying, you’re okay. But if you’re loud, eating and drinking, you’ll have to leave"
Dep. Charles Brown
Peralta Police
Cave said a student was giving another student a haircut. “I told them it wasn’t a place to cut hair. Then I turned my back, and they started up again.”

He acknowledges that his initial approach to the students was not as “level-headed” as it could’ve been, suggesting that the irritation of his requests being repeatedly ignored affected his approach.

“Can’t nobody stop them, they gone do what they do,” Phoenix lamented. “But, they gone do it outside.”

A sign reading, “The Theatre Lobby is temporarily off limits to all students” was hastily posted on the windows of the theater lobby. The Peralta Police immediately reinforced the rule.

“If you’re quietly studying, you’re okay,” said Peralta Police Deputy Charles Brown shortly after forcing about eight students out of the lobby on Feb. 23. “But if you’re loud, eating and drinking, you’ll have to leave.” Now, only theater students are being allowed to gather in the lobby.

The Theater Lobby is temporarily off limits to all students.
The lobby area, located near the theater entrance adjacent to the main quad had been a refuge for students looking for a place to socialize. Students who were kicked out that last month dispute some of the claims, saying that they took responsibility for their behavior, did not block people from getting to class and even cleaned up after themselves, for the most part.

First-semester student Ryan Walker said he and his classmates flock to the theater lobby because the Student Center is overcrowded. He said people hang out in the lobby to avoid the weather while waiting for rides or for the next BART train or AC Transit bus to come. “We came in here to get away from the weather,” Walker said. “If you don’t want people to hang out, why are there seats in there?”

"We came in here to get away from the weather. If you don’t want people to hang out, why are there seats in there?"
Ryan Walker
"The theater lobby is for studying, rehearsal and [for use] as a passageway,” Cave said. Horseplay led to a student crashing through a window in the theater lobby window early February.

Cave sympathizes with the students’ need for a place to socialize, but wants them to do it elsewhere if they don’t behave differently.

Cave said student’s behavior in the lobby area has been an issue, on and off, for at least five years; however, because new students come each semester, the issue keeps reoccurring. In the lobby, there are no posters that indicate what conduct is acceptable in the lobby.

English major Chelsey Crow and three of her classmates went into the theater lobby on March 2 but, to her surprise, was asked to leave by Dep. Brown.

"It’s not like there’s a lot of places to go. The cafeteria’s really small.
Chelsey Crow
“It’s not like there’s a lot of places to go,” Crow later said. “The cafeteria’s really small.” Crow said she and her friends then went to the Student Center, but had to sit on the floor of one of the two raised platforms because there were no empty seats.

Walker and other students noted that the majority of the students who gathered in the theater lobby were Black, and felt they were being discriminated against, suggesting that other students wouldn't be treated similarly. Hhowever, Crow and her friends are white.

"I kick them all out,” Brown said in response to the suggestion that Black students are discriminated against, “no color about it.”

"If we can establish a respectful relationship and if the lobby can be used in a way that it should be used, I don’t have a problem with students here"
Jim Cave
“It’s not a Black thing,” Phoenix contends, seated alongside two other African-American theater students rehearsing in the lobby area. “It’s about ignorance.”

“If we can establish a respectful relationship and if the lobby can be used in a way that it should be used, I don’t have a problem with students here,” Cave said. “That means quiet, no cell phones, no food, no eating and no sitting on the steps over there by the elevator.”

Even theater Arts students are getting used to the rules being enforced. Ernie “DJ Ego” Rocker was eating ice cream in the theater when Cave had to tell him to go outside to eat.

“Set a good example for the other students,” Cave scolded. Moments later, another theater student Kelaisha Birdlong entered the lobby with her own ice cream.

“No food in the theater,” Rocker informed her.

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