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I work in an office space shared by 3 professors. We have bullpen style desks and around 75% of them are full. The lab is somewhat spacious.

One of the first-year PhD students (not my advisor's student) brings in her friend with her to the lab everyday. They hang out mostly, often taking naps and such. The friend uses the lab microwave and has lunch in the lab everyday. They are generally very quiet and not disruptive. The friend is not a PhD student and as such not a member of the lab.

Would it be rude to ask this person to not come to the lab? I've spoken to the rest of the people in the office and they don't care at all, but it bothers me that they are treating the lab as their living room (given that they are here from 10 AM to 8 PM, most of it involves sleeping or using their mobile phone). What would be the right thing to do here? Do I just ignore them or do I ask the person to leave given that they are not doing, nor will ever do research for any of the 3 professors.

Has anyone faced a similar situation before?

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    This must depend on the person. Something similar happened to me before and I interpreted it as rude (very rude, in fact - I refused to have anything more to do with the person kicking me out). It's especially bad if they aren't breaking rules, only your personal judgment on who should be allowed in the lab. I'd look to see if there are already rules in place, and if not, try to set some up. It's possible you're in the minority though, in which case you'll have to live with it. – Allure Jan 11 '18 at 1:41
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    @Allure obviously its a very easy thing to live with but I prefer to look at the PhD office to be just like any other office in the corporate world or at a medium-sized company in the US. This behavior would be incredibly unprofessional in a regular office space. I've had other issues with them previously where they've done 'language practice' in the lab which involves reading sentences out loud. Obviously I put a stop to that. I'm worried that not speaking out on this now will be an indication that the lab space is just another place for them to hang out instead of doing research. – mboze Jan 11 '18 at 1:47
  • @Nat I never said their behavior was rude. Not to mention, the "generally quiet" behavior is a consequence of me talking to them several times beforehand. As I mentioned in another comment, they used to do "language practice" in the lab and used to kick their feet up and have loud discussion later in the evening. I put an end to that obviously. I'm looking to speak to them about bringing random people in to nip this thing in the bud. At this moment they seem to be quiet. I apologize if I didn't put all this in the question details :) – mboze Jan 11 '18 at 2:09
  • @Nat exactly... that's what I'm worried about. But I'm also wondering if this is premature. Maybe they are going to remain quiet for the foreseeable future... Then me asking them to leave wouldn't exactly be the right thing to do. Either way, from all the other comments here, I'm going to just ignore them and if something comes up or if the get disruptive, I'll just go speak to her advisor. – mboze Jan 11 '18 at 2:17
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    If they're not a student, what does the friend do? Sleeping in your lab all day can hardly be paying the bills. How long has this been going on? I'd expect it to solve itself eventually as friend discovers that they need to do something with their life... – nengel Jan 11 '18 at 2:42
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I will mention that while Nicole Hamilton's answer is fundamentally correct—this is an issue for your advisor, as well as the other PI's in charge of the office space, not you—there is one issue worth elaborating on.

In particular, it is an issue if someone who isn't part of the department is using the department's facilities, because of the liability issue if something were to happen. For those grounds, it would be especially helpful to mention that one of the people coming into the space is not actually authorized to be there at all.

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    Presumably people who work in that space are authorized to bring in visitors. In an "office" type space (not a lab with special equipment, etc) I would be surprised if the PhD students working there were not permitted to have guests visit. – ff524 Jan 11 '18 at 2:24
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    @Nicole yes, the OP has issue with the frequency and duration of visits. But that's probably not a liability issue, as long as they're following the rules about bringing in visitors (and I've never seen such rules specify maximum frequency or duration of visits). – ff524 Jan 11 '18 at 2:31
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    @ff524 I think arguments about liability are pretty thin. They're not setting fires. They sleep there and use the microwave. The risk someone might get hurt or facilities damaged because they're sleeping and using the microwave strikes me as remote. Citing liability as a concern in this case is the kind of thing you'd expect from a total bureaucrat, not someone with a brain. The real issue is much simpler: They probably shouldn't be there. The OP's adviser may/may not agree but it's their call either way. – Nicole Hamilton Jan 11 '18 at 2:49
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    @ff524: This may very well depend on locale. In the US, it might not be considered a big deal. But in other countries, it's probably a bigger deal—it certainly was in Germany. I wouldn't cite liability in the email, but I would mention that someone from outside the department is using the office on an extended basis. – aeismail Jan 11 '18 at 2:55
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    What if they break the microwave? What if they have a medical emergency? At least in Germany, there might be an insurance issue behind this. Would you be okay with someone staying in your home while you are out if you did not invite them to do so, just napping on the couch and using the microwave once? If the answer is no or "I am not sure", then the same caution applies for office space. – skymningen Jan 11 '18 at 13:08
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Don't say anything to them yourself. You don't own the lab. Discuss your concern with your adviser and let it be their problem. If your adviser decides it's okay, try to live with it.

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    I think this is reasonable, but I'd also first consider Nat's comment on the original post. If you can't tell your advisor very specifically why it bothers you, it's less likely anything will happen, and more likely your advisor will get annoyed. – AJK Jan 11 '18 at 1:59
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    @AJK The OP's concern certainly seemed specific and clear to me: Someone who doesn't belong in the lab is all but living there and using the facilities. – Nicole Hamilton Jan 11 '18 at 2:26
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While I am a strong advocate of the relaxed atmosphere the academic environment affords, it is worth considering the outward appearance. While a first-year student might be forgiven for taking a nap in a lab once or twice after hours, I can't think of a good reason this should be accepted during normal hours, let alone at any time by someone not affiliated with the lab. This makes your lab appear like hang-out space rather than a place of business, which it really is. This is your place of work, and you (along with your colleagues) fought for that space. Establish some guidelines and enforce them.

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    It's not the OP's lab nor their place to make rules for it. – Nicole Hamilton Jan 11 '18 at 5:48
  • @Nicole Hamilton per my interpretation, it is, or at least 33% of it. OP states it is 'shared space' with 3 professors, and OP is a professor. – HEITZ Jan 11 '18 at 5:52
  • Unlikely. The OP remarks that the student who brings in her friend is "not my advisor's student". If the OP has an advisor, I'm pretty sure that means they're also a student. – Nicole Hamilton Jan 11 '18 at 5:59
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    @Nicole Hamilton Yep, my mistake, OP is probably not a professor. But I stand by my answer. The PI 'owns' the lab but the graduate student keeps it running. He or she should take personal responsibility in protecting its image and keeping it a place of research, not of napping. – HEITZ Jan 11 '18 at 6:14

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