I work at Temple of Zeus. My English teachers have always told me to “show, not tell” in my writing, but gosh darnit I just can’t help myself. I work at Temple of Zeus and I’m proud of it. In a February article, The Sun’s dining department ranked all the eateries on campus. Zeus finished second. Louisa Heywood ’20 wrote, “Temple of Zeus did what we all wanted, and what Cornell Dining has thus far refused to cave in to: bring Ithaca Bakery bread and pastries to campus. Their delicious pastries, coffee, prepared food and sandwiches are only in competition with their perfect soups.” She goes on to say that “the only annoyance with [Zeus] is that you cannot use Big Red Bucks.” It is true that Temple of Zeus, being unaffiliated with the Cornell Dining conglomerate, is unable to accept the nebulous fiat money known as Big Red Bucks. To quote a 2012 Cornell Chronicle story, Temple of Zeus “was founded in 1964 through the collaborative efforts of students, faculty and staff… The students were demanding a place to meet with faculty that was neutral territory, so the college came up with this place.”
This is not the first time I have mentioned my workplace in my column. Just as Saint Teresa found her epos in the reform of a religious order, I seem to have found my epos in the making of sandwiches. It is my earnest belief that Zeus is a paragon of virtue that American society desperately needs to learn from. Healthy food made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. Business conducted for the benefit of the people, not the profit of the businessman. Such business, while it necessitates some sacrifices on the part of the consumer, is especially essential in the food industry. Trillium may accept Big Red Bucks, McDonald’s may be convenient and addictive, but Zeus and the little mom-and-pop restaurant down the street are better for you, the planet and the community. Even if you are a hard-core capitalist for whatever reason, it’s hard to argue against the fact that capitalism and human health don’t mix. The invisible hand should not feed the corporeal mouth. The free market would have us eating each other if it could get away with it.
But I have waxed too philosophical. As a progressive hoping to actuate real change, I must keep my focus on the tangible. And there is a tangible issue at hand. According to sources, (you have no idea how great it feels to write that phrase) Temple of Zeus will soon be rechristened “Adelson café” in honor of James F. Adelson, oil magnate and member of the Cornell Arts & Sciences Advisory Council. Mr. Adelson currently serves as president of an Oklahoma energy company called Nadel and Gussman, LLC. In 2013, Nadel and Gussman plead guilty to a violation of the federal clean water act after 4,700 gallons of oil spilled in a Wyoming creek and the company’s operations manager failed to report the spill.
I don’t want to belabor the point about the oil spill; journalism shouldn’t be character assassination. In fact, I’d like to thank Mr. Adelson for the generous donation he must have made to Cornell. But the library of ornithology is already called the “Adelson library”— what more could a person want? If it’s a bench or a computer lab or another library, by all means give it to him. Hell, erect a statue of the man where the chair sculpture used to be. But please don’t take Zeus.
It may seem a little silly that I’m making such a big fuss over the title of a café. It’s partly the name itself (nobody wants to go to Adelson poetry night), but it’s much more than that. Everyone has experienced the uncomfortability of taking classes in buildings named after wealthy, often problematic figures. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read the Wikipedia page on Goldwin Smith.) For the life of me, I can’t think of a place at Cornell besides Temple of Zeus that has a non-honorific name. If you think my characterization of Zeus as a beacon for society is grandiose, will you at least agree that it is a beacon in the lives of Cornell students? Zeus is, above all, about community. It’s about a professor and her student discussing literature while waiting in line to get coffee. It’s about rushing from your lecture hall before seating or grilled cheeses or any other hot commodity runs out. It’s about Choklay and her soups, Nyima and his sarcasm, Fred and his stupid impressions. It’s about the way the world used to be before everything became systematic, standardized, heartless and named after oil tycoons.
Ara Hagopian is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Whiny Liberal runs alternate Fridays this semester.