With my five-year reunion slated for next year, I’m deciding whether or not to head back and booze with old friends. Complicating the decision, however, is the fact that the social fabric of Collegetown has changed. It started with Dino’s closing when I was a senior, and now Johnny O’s, The Palms and Dunbar’s have met the same fate.
Will this change my decision to return? No. Can I frequent my old haunts? I’ll find others. Does that make a difference? Maybe.
For many undergrads, bars are closely intertwined with college social life and fond memories recalled after graduation. While there is little unique about the bars themselves, much is unique in the way they enable alumni to connect with their alma maters post-graduation. After graduating, former students will never again take a course, host a mixer or lead an organization on campus in the company of their friends. A bar, however, can be enjoyed in the same way for decades to follow.
For colleges, having alumni connect with the fond memories of the past is important. When alumni feel connected to their university, they’re more inclined to donate. And because giving potential increases and closeness with the school decreases with time, the challenge for endowment directors is less about whether alumni have the means to give, and more about whether they have the desire to.
Next summer, for the first time, scores of alumni will realize they have lost opportunities to connect. While we can all agree that alumni with deep pockets were likely never interested in reconnecting with places like Dunbar’s, they may very well have enjoyed Ruloff’s.
So Cornell, please, if necessary, prop up the last watering hole where all generations of alumni can come and reminisce about that one pregame that got out of hand. If not for me and others who want $1 tacos, do it for Ezra.