Following a long and strenuous engineering exam, Salim Zedni and Jeff Naranjo headed toward Student Union 145-A to unwind by playing the campus piano.
But when they got there, the two senior computer engineering majors were met with locked metal doors instead of ivory piano keys.
The seniors are among two of several students who were disappointed to find the communal piano now locked behind doors after it was moved from its previous location in SU’s Flag Room. Student Life advertised the reveal of a new upright piano back in fall 2021, but since then, the replacement has been relocated to SU 145-A, where it now remains locked away on a haphazard basis.
The piano was initially advertised to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but now has no clear operating hours a semester into commission.
John Kisker, interim director of Student Life, says the doors are unlocked at 8 a.m. and remain open until a pre-scheduled event takes place, in which case SU building managers will ask those playing to finish before the event.
“When the piano was initially purchased, [Student Life] wanted to locate it in a high-traffic area where students could easily use and hear the piano — so it was placed in the Social Hall (also known as the Flag Room),” Kisker said in an email to The Spectrum.
Student Life eventually decided to move the piano to SU 145-A after the piano started “disrupting events in adjoining spaces.”
“We examined other locations in the Student Union and landed on this location for many reasons,” Kisker said. “The area has high foot traffic, allowing others to hear the piano and see the sign while walking by. We hope this passive service sparks a sense of curiosity and community, and leads to an increased usage of the piano. Additionally, we like the ability to secure the piano when there are no staff in the building.”
But Zedni described the locked-away piano as being like a piece of him being torn away.
“People want to play, people want to learn, people want to watch people play, people want to listen to people play,” Zedni said. “A lot of people walk around stressed, in a bad mood and then there’s someone on the piano, playing the most beautiful song ever and people are enjoying the entire process.”
Moohilton Soosaippillai — reminiscent about his time on the old piano — transferred to UB as a sophomore from the Rochester Institute of Technology. As he walked through the SU, he encountered the old piano in the Flag Room and began playing.
“I would go play there and people would come and we would talk about music… and it was just us playing whatever we wanted, or even talking about it,” the graduate electrical engineering major said. “Then eventually it translated to ‘Hey, you wanna make pasta on a Saturday night?’... And then they become your friends, then your roommates and — yeah, something special.”
Soosaippillai described the doors to the piano being closed as “heartbreaking” and a lost opportunity for new students to transition into the UB community.
Zedni, Naranjo and Soosaippillai are all convinced that the piano should be relocated to somewhere where individuals can express themselves without restrictions.
Kisker says that Student Life has not received any complaints regarding the availability of the piano. He said students can speak to the building manager at the SU Welcome Center to inquire about the piano’s availability for the day.
But some students remain frustrated.
“I just want to play my role in a community and you’re not letting me,” Zedni said. “It’s pretty awful.”
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