Commons Update Letter to Students, Mar. 1, 2012

Dear students and faculty and staff members,

I hope your block break is going well and you are having either a restful or productive experience, or both. There is much to look forward to and accomplish during the final three blocks of 2011-12. Among those things are the completion of design plans for the Thomas Commons and the selection of a dining service provider. This message is an update to information shared with you earlier this spring about those two processes.

As described earlier, the renovated Thomas Commons will feature more student gathering space, improved office and meeting spaces, and a large multipurpose space. The detail design phase of the planning process has begun and we are pleased to share the near-final floor plans. These plans, along with exterior renderings of the building, are available at The detailed designs will be completed in the next month and then shared, along with the construction schedule, on the Thomas Commons web page.

At the core of the Thomas Commons renovation will be the total transformation of the dining servery, and thus, the dining experience. Given this change, consideration of the most ideal dining service partner for Cornell began months ago by a committee of students and faculty and staff members. As you may remember, the Dining Service Provider Advisory Committee invited four companies to visit Cornell and meet with students, learn about our campus dining expectations, and interview with the committee to describe how they could meet our expectations and goals (described on the attached excerpt from the college’s request for proposals). Following those visits, the committee reviewed lengthy proposals from each prospective provider and determined that three of the four should continue in the selection process:  Bon Appetit, Chartwells and Sodexo. Aramark was eliminated.

The next step in the process is the campus-wide presentation. You are invited to attend the presentations made by these companies and provide your feedback to the Dining Service Provider Advisory Committee. Each presentation will be held in Hedges Conference Room from 11:15am-12:45pm on the following dates:

Wednesday, March 7 Sodexo
Thursday, March 8  Bon Appetit
Friday, March 9 Chartwells

For those who cannot attend, the presentations will be videotaped for replay on campus. The time, date and location of the replay will be announced later.

After the presentations are completed and broad feedback is gathered, members of the Dining Service Provider Advisory Committee will visit other colleges served by these providers. Then the committee will consider all of the accumulated information in order to define how well each company fits with our campus expectations and within financial parameters that do not unduly increase the student board rate. The decision and announcement on the future dining service provider will be made in late April.   

If you have questions or comments about the Thomas Commons renovation project or the selection of a dining service provider, I invite you to be in touch with me or to attend a Student Senate meeting where regular updates continue to be provided. I look forward to your engagement as we continue to make our outstanding institution even better.


John W. Harp

Vice President for Student Affairs