January 20, 2009

Cornell Closes Tower Café Due to Budget Constraints

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While the University’s current financial outlook did not directly precipitate the café’s closure, Younger said, the need for fiscal frugality at all levels of the University made last December a particularly good time to eliminate one of Cornell Dining’s facilities.
“It wasn’t a hasty decision,” he said. “We had been looking at this for a while. Over the past 5 years, participation [at Tower Café] never got to the levels where we wanted it to be.”
In addition to poor sales, Younger said that the opportunity to better utilize Tower Café[img_assist|nid=34232|title=Empty seats|desc=Students congregate in Tower Café in Uris Library. The café has recently undergone a transition from a full café to a lounge.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0] staff at other campus venues was also a driving force in the decision to close.
All employees of Tower Café have since been placed at other Cornell Dining locations, Younger added, and no one was laid off as a result of the closing.
Aside from “a couple” of initial e-mails in response to the closing last semester, Younger said that Cornell Dining hasn’t received any other student reaction.
In the Tower Café space yesterday — where the dining facility equipment has already been removed — student reaction seemed generally mild.
Jane Kim ’10 said she frequented Tower Café out of convenience when she was studying at Uris and she’ll miss seeing the staff there.
“I’m not too surprised to find out that it’s closing given the economy,” she said, “It’s not too big of a deal for me because Olin is right across from it.”
Kim said that in comparison to other potential budget cuts, the closure of a café is relatively unimportant.
“For the time being if closing [Tower Café] is what the school needs, I think it’s better than taking away money from students or academics,” she said.
William Tannenbaum ’11 also said that while he’s disappointed about the closure, it is not too significant.
“It’s sad that it’s closing because I know people who use it and it serves a lot of people,” he said. “However, in the grand scheme of things at Cornell, I don’t think it matters all that much.”
Cornell Dining and the library administration have decided that the Tower Café space on the third floor of Uris will remain a lounge with an expanded array of vending equipment, Younger said.
Last week Younger anticipated that the new vending machines would be ready for use by the time classes began this week.
Younger said it would be premature for him to comment on any future changes in Cornell Dining locations or prices.
“We’re looking at how we can be more efficient as a University,” he said, “We are clearly in an uncertain economic environment.”