Commons shapes student life since '66

The Commons is more than just a building, and as with any thriving town square, the true meaning of the place becomes clear only through the individual experiences and impressions of its denizens.

Susan Donovan ’66 was a senior when The Commons opened, becoming the campus’ central dining facility and social setting. She loved the private dining options that became available for student groups, as well as visiting the library without the pervasive smell of grease once the college’s fast-food grill moved out.

She remembers a TV room in The Commons jam-packed every night after dinner to “cheer and jeer” at “Batman”—the cult show of the day. But most of all she remembers ice skating.

"There was an outdoor patio area behind The Commons that was frozen over in the winter for skating,” she says. “It was wonderful!”

Dean Riesen ’79 was a senior when Cornell moved to the One- Course-At-A-Time schedule. While he came to appreciate the change, he missed the mingling of students that happens when students move frequently from class to class, and he began to realize the importance of The Commons.

"You probably get a deeper relationship with the students in your class on the block plan,” he says, “but you can also be more isolated because you just don’t bump into people as often. So The Commons became an even more important daily ritual.”

Senior Heather Roth of Fort Collins, Colo., loves the updates to the Orange Carpet and Rathskeller. She’s very involved in Slick Shoes Dance Company and says the dances hosted by the group have been improved by the recent renovations, and would be even better in a new multipurpose room.

She works in The Commons as the Lunch Buddy coordinator for the Civic Engagement Office, and also at KRNL. She calls The Commons her “second home,” and even finds that the new coffeeshop atmosphere provides the perfect place to study because it’s quieter than her residence hall, but more social than the library.

"It’s become so much more like what I thought college would be like,” Roth says. “It looks like the pictures you see in college catalogs where academics take place in all these nice settings.”

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