4-14 hagopian
April 14, 2017

HAGOPIAN | Ich Bin Ein Zeusian

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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 ahagopian@cornellsun.com. The Whiny Liberal runs alternate Fridays this semester.

  • Mel Curtain

    Caught up in a name. Words means so much. Not…. Actions are what matters. So typical of the left. Do you want the funding or do you want the name?

    • NOT a woord those tont’ matter

      Ah yes Curtain Mal, words don’t matter at all. In fact, we should just do away with them and oNlY act. Yes, yes, those foolish lefties would get so much more done on that cluttered agenda if they didn’t focus so much on the communication of ideas w/ others!! That’d really help ppl get the point. Also symbols don>t matter& None of them% Not puncuation* not symbols representing spaces of learning^ All that matters is that @@@ that makes the world go round ;+

  • Miransky

    Why not call it the Temple of Adelson? Apparently he thinks he belongs in the Pantheon. I don’t know why a generous contributor would want to erase this little piece of English Dep’t tradition by changing the name of the place. Just put a nice plaque up with your name commemorating your donation.

  • Reynard von Fuchs

    I think we should perhaps give some credit to the resilience of traditional names of much-loved places. Take Libe. It’s technically called the Amit Bhatia Libe Café. With all due respect to whoever Amit Bhatia is, it’s remained Libe, and will remain Libe, probably always. Or take Dunbar’s. Yes, it’s now called The Hangout or The Hottentot or The Hideaway or something along those lines, but students still text each other to meet up at Dunbar’s. Need I go on? There are few departments as attached to their traditions as literature departments are, and I have a feeling that Temple of Zeus will be Temple of Zeus long after Adelson’s name is plastered in ignored golden letters over the café space. After all, the café tables already spill over into the Groos Family Atrium, unbeknownst to anyone at all. Should that fail, it might be possible to make one’s point by adhering to another Cornell Tradition. Cafés at Cornell are frequently named after women: Martha’s, Jennie, Carol’s, Goldie’s. Should the Adelson name become inescapable, we can always refer to it as Addie’s. It’d be a fitting sort of thing to happen to a business mogul meddling with the valued traditions of the academy.

  • Anonymous

    You really “can’t think of another place on campus with a non-honorific name?”

    Ivy Room?
    Terrace?
    Trillium?

    I don’t even disagree with your point, but your whiny, belabored, woe-is-me style of writing makes me desperately want to.

  • libertarian

    “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. ”

    Actually capitalism has made humans live longer, safer, and freer lives than any other economic system. Communism and human health, on the other hand, don’t mix because you usually die from starvation or get killed by the dictator. Perhaps you get medical care if you’re in the Party.

    • Libertarian2

      +1

  • Libertarian2

    +1

  • ZeusFanalum

    It’s always been the Temple of Zeus. It has greek statues. To rename it for some awful polluter of rivers would be a real travesty. You Adelson fans can name your fraternities after him, but for heaven’s sake, leave our beloved Greek temple with the world’s finest soups alone!