OSU & the tragedy of the commons

Let’s think of the Oregon State University as it’s own community with its own public resources.  Resources such as the Valley library, Dixon recreation, Football tickets, CAPS, office hours, and so on; all of these are available to all Oregon State University students. These goods are non-excludable to OSU students but they are not non-rival. Often times I will go to Dixon expecting to hop on my favorite machine and come to find all of the machines are in use. While I am “paying” for this good in my tuition, these resources still operate on a “first come first serve” basis. While space at Dixon is a problem, the most relevant case I see this is when I attempt to go to the Valley library to study. Unless you go to the library at some odd hour of the day, have a friend save you a table, or get damned lucky and find someone leaving, you will not find a free table to study at. This is a reoccurring issue because of Oregon States growing student population, many of the facilities are not fit to accommodate so many.

We can relate to this the tragedy of the commons scenario we see so often when looking at public goods. If there are 10 or even 100 people at the gym or at the library, my ability to use the facilities is hindered very little; but when but when you up this number to 600 or 800 at one given time in a day I have a much harder time using these spaces. We don’t see much of the “free-rider problem” here because we all are forced to pay tuition for this “public good”, but something more could be done for provision of these facilities. Besides just building larger/more of these facilities the university could enforce the 30 minute rule per machine at Dixon, individuals could register for their desired allotted time at either the gym or the library. While I understand both of these are time consuming and costly, something should be done to accommodate our growing student population.

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One Response to OSU & the tragedy of the commons

  1. knightli says:

    There is definitely no “free-rider” problem as I am being forced to pay for services I either don’t want to use or do not have time to use. As far as the library I couldn’t agree more with you. I find that there is a definite problem with lack of available tables but also there seem to be no real access to study rooms as most of them have been reserved already for the entire term. This completely excludes students who actually need a study room for group projects while some of the rooms are reserved for one individual who is found sleeping or eating. I hope that at some point there is an expansion to the library of just study space. Of course it would probably be a project that would be funded by increased fees and tuition.

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