September 4, 2001

North Campus Grand Opening

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As a fireworks display lit up the night sky, DJs played music until the early morning and Cornellians transformed into sumo wrestlers in Helen Newman Hall, students celebrated the grand opening of the revamped North Campus community on Friday night.

The changes to North Campus represent the fulfillment of President Hunter R. Rawlings III’s vision of creating an integrated living and learning environment on campus for a unified freshman experience.

The North Campus Residential Initiative became the product of his vision, resulting in the construction of two new dorms, Court Hall and Mews Hall, and a new community center called Community Commons.

The additions to North Campus have created a centralized freshmen student population, since only upperclassmen live on West Campus now.

“[The] goals in locating all first-year students in one part of campus are more efficient and effective delivery of programs and services designed to meet the particular needs of first-year students, providing a similar experience for all class members and [enabling first-year students] to develop a stronger class identity,” said Jean Reese, project leader for the Residential Initiative.

Students have reacted positively to having a centralized freshmen community.

“I think it’s good this way. Everyone gets to know each other,” said Evan Waschitz ’05.

Ryan Foley ’05 agreed, noting that “everyone feels just as lost as everyone else,” which creates a more friendly environment.

Although Diksha Basu ’05 said she prefers an all-freshman environment, remarking that people get to know each other on walks to campus and Collegetown, she “would like to get to know upperclassmen.”

According to Reese, it is still too early to tell if the goals of locating all freshmen on north campus have been achieved.

“I think we’ll have to watch the first few classes and ask them to evaluate their first year/North Campus experience before we know if our goals have been met,” she said.

Prof. Richard Ripple, education, the faculty-in-residence for Mews Hall, agreed that time will tell how a centralized freshman population will benefit students.

“There are some benefits to students having shared problems to deal with and to provide mutual support. Then, too, the entire notion of ‘mix and match’ and the current trend toward diversity argues for a more heterogeneous grouping,” he said. “At this point what [we] are getting is first impressions. While these are valuable, it is important to let things cook a little. First impressions are very positive. Let’s see how they wear over the long haul.”

The new halls, which are brightly colored, air conditioned and security-laden, house approximately 600 of this year’s 3,029 freshmen.

“The two new resident halls, coupled with the Community Commons, create a brand new village on North Campus. The environment creates a unique dynamic that has taken student interaction to a new level,” said Michael Romano ’04, a Resident Advisor in Mews Court.

The administration has received overall positive reactions from the new residents of Mews Hall and Court Hall.

“I walked around Mews and Court much of opening day and conversed with dozens of new students and their parents. Students seemed very pleased with their rooms, the flexibility of the room furnishings and the amount of space in the various lounges,” said Reese. “Just the fact that everything was new and fresh and clean and that there is so much natural light coming into the buildings seemed to leave an overall positive impression.”

The new residence halls have many amenities that older dorms lack.

“We have air conditioning, new furniture, full kitchens with ovens, and a 50-inch TV in the lounge,” said Rosalie Cincotta ’05, a resident of Mews Hall.

Dave Short ’05 said he likes that the new residence halls have tight security. Residents must swipe their identification cards to enter the main door, the elevators and the stairwell, an aspect of the new halls that older halls on North Campus do not have.

Other students expressed how the new halls foster student interaction.

“I like the set up of North Campus. It’s easy to be social. Our floor bonded very quickly in the first week,” said Basu.

In addition, residents of Mews Hall and Court Hall will never know what it is like to share a bathroom with 30 other students.

“There are only five people for every bathroom and the showers are huge,” said Julia Nicolaou ’05.

Basu, a resident of Court Hall, said she believes that students in the new and old halls should not have to pay the same price for housing.

“It is sort of unfair that we’re all paying the same price, since [the new halls] are much more luxurious,” she said.

Some older students are surprised at how many luxuries the new residence halls have.

“To these students, Court and Mews are normal. My reaction is ‘Wow,’ because they have things I didn’t have as a freshman, like air conditioning. They’re all taking it in stride,” commented Adrienne Deem ’03, who works at the service center in Community Commons.

Despite the perks that the new residence halls provide, freshmen residing in older halls do not seem to mind their living arrangements.

“I don’t think [the new residence halls] are much different than what we have. What really matters is the people and the atmosphere,” said Christine Lee ’05.

“At first, before I came here, I wanted to be in the new dorms. Now I’m glad to be where I am,” commented Evan Junek ’05, who lives in JAM, which was formerly known as Low Rise 9. “Air conditioning would be nice for the three weeks that you need it though.”

Community Commons, North Campus’ second community center, is another new addition to the area. The facility includes the North Star dining hall, a coffee shop and a gym.

“The community center is very well placed geographically. There are some problems of ingress and egress and the long stairs to get to the eating area. But really, it’s a marvelous facility,” said Ripple.

According to Reese, students didn’t seem to discover the Community Commons and the North Star dining hall until after the first weekend.

“[Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC)] seemed to be the big destination point for dining. But now the Commons is humming,” she said.

Since RPCC is now only open for dinner, many students have been eating at the new dining facility.

“We’re forced to come here. It’s inconvenient,” said Kevin Striepe ’05, who lives in the townhouses and would prefer to eat at RPCC.

However, many students prefer the North Star to RPCC’s dining facility.

“The food [at the North Star] is excellent. I don’t like RPCC as much because it’s too crowded,” said Kate Hartfield ’05.

Kate Bakey ’05 agreed, noting that finding a seat is much easier in the North Star than in nearby RPCC.

Although the major construction to North Campus are finished, minor projects still needs to be completed.

“There is still what we call the ‘punch list’ work to be done. That includes things like paint touch-ups and adjustments to doors or plumbing that arent discovered until the buildings are actually in use,” Reese said. “Site work will continue for several more weeks as the final trees are planted, grassy areas are seeded, bike racks are installed and the basketball courts are built.”

North Campus reside
nts and the administration remain excited about the new community.

“The best part about living in one of the new resident halls is the opportunity to build a brand new community in a brand new environment that is offered. Through setting new traditions and establishing connections with the people in this community, we hope to maximize the first year residential experience in the new residential halls,” Romano said.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin