March 5, 2002

Human Ecology Students To Lose Martha's Dining

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Students, faculty and staff members of the College of Human Ecology suffered a loss when the north wing of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall (MVR) was closed last summer. Now, due to that setback, the human ecology college will lose another part of MVR when Martha’s Dining closes on Friday.

The struggle that the human ecology college has faced since this summer, when the north wing of MVR was condemned due to faulty floor slabs, has led to the decision to close Martha’s Dining.


Since the condemnation, the college has had to utilize whatever space it could find to accommodate faculty and staff members, according to Patsy Brannon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology. Martha’s Dining will close so that the area can be renovated into offices for the Department of Human Development.

“Every facet of the college has been impacted by the closure of the north wing,” Brannon said.

The human ecology college has been working with Cornell Dining to deal with the situation in the best way possible, college officials said.

“The college and Cornell Dining have done the best we can to provide for academic programming and dining services while dealing with the unexpected closure of the north wing of MVR Hall and the resultant domino effects,” said Kay Obendorf, associate dean for research and facilities.

Some people feel that the closure of the dining facility is especially unfortunate since MVR contains no other community space.

“Martha’s is the only congregating place for faculty, staff and students [in MVR],” Brannon said. “It’s a big loss to this community. It feels like the end of an era to close Martha’s Dining.”

Some patrons of Martha’s Dining reacted with surprise when notified that the dining facility, which serves such items as home-cooked soups, chili, and freshly-prepared sandwiches and salads, will close later this week.

“It’s really unfortunate, because Martha’s is such a convenient location for me,” said Alex Thompson ’04, who eats lunch at Martha’s every Monday. “Now I will have to find somewhere else to go.”

Other diners praised Martha’s Dining for its quiet atmosphere and convenient location.

“This is the only area near here that’s quiet enough to have lunch by yourself and read and do work,” said Laura Lamkay ’04, who also commented that in her opinion Trillium, in Kennedy Hall, is not conducive to doing work. “I will miss having an area like this to come to.”

Several Martha’s Dining employees emphasized that they are disappointed that the facility has to close.

“It’s no one’s fault, but it’s kind of sad,” said Brenda Conklin, who has worked at Martha’s Dining since 1990. “This is a place everyone has come to for years.” Conklin added that Martha’s Dining will be relocated and expanded when the college completes the rebuilding of the north wing in five years.

Although Martha’s Dining will reopen in the fall in a new location, down the hall from its current area, it will not contain seating and will serve mostly grab-and-go items. In the interim, students, faculty and staff members can buy grab-and-go items, including prepared sandwiches and salads, at a cart located in the foyer of MVR.

“The planned renovation includes a plan for a carry-out facility on the ground floor of MVR Hall that will be opened after the renovation,” Obendorf said. “We also have a plan for vending machines. During the renovations we plan for a coffee and sandwich service in the foyer of the MVR auditorium open from 8 a.m. through 1 p.m.”

Although some Martha’s Dining employees will work at the cart, others, including student employees, now find themselves without jobs.

“I’m unemployed now,” said Mike Bridger ’03, who has worked at Martha’s Dining for five months. “There is not enough room for students, so I need to find a new job.”

The closure of Martha’s Dining comes shortly after the recent closing of Ezra’s, a coffee shop in Community Commons on North Campus. However, according to Nadeem Siddiqui, director of Cornell Dining and Retail Service, the two closures are not related.

“The closing of Martha’s is due to the facility being renovated and has no connection with Ezra’s,” Siddiqui said, adding that a newly-conceptualized Ezra’s will reopen soon.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin