Emma Hoarty / Sun File Photo

A student walks downstairs to Okenshields. Cornell's only Central Campus dining hall will remain closed for the rest of the semester.

October 11, 2020

Okenshields to Close for Semester, Leaving No Central Campus Dining Halls

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Okenshields, Cornell’s only Central Campus dining hall, will remain closed for the rest of the semester, following what was supposed to be a temporary break. 

The dining hall closed in mid-September because of a low level of student traffic, said Karen Brown, director of Campus Life Marketing and Communications, and does not expect to reopen as Cornell Dining fills in staffing gaps at busier eateries.

While the closing of Okenshields could have increased traffic at other dining halls, John Raimonda ’24, a Robert Purcell Community Center dining worker, said that from what he has noticed, foot traffic has remained steady in RPCC.

The closing came as an unexpected shock to many Cornell students, including Mark Minton ’23, who ate at Okenshields four nights a week before what he called an unannounced and unexpected closing.

“As a new student to the campus, Okenshields was the greatest draw for me being on Central Campus and the only dining facility that was open,” Minton said. “It is located in the student union.  It has a lot of history and the location is just a real nice place to eat.”

Okenshields is one of the oldest campus eateries and dates back in various forms to 1925, according to Cornell historian and American studies lecturer Corey Ryan Earle ’07.

For students in need of food while on Central Campus, Cornell will open a satellite meal pickup location at Willard Straight Hall beginning Monday, Oct. 12. Students can order takeout meals at this location with the GET app. Eateries Bus Stop Bagels, Cafe Jennie, Cornell Dairy Bar, Goldie’s Cafe, Green Dragon, Martha’s Express, Mattin’s Cafe, Rusty’s and Trillium are also open.

But some students have expressed concerns about the satellite meal pickup option. Alyssa Schwertfeger ’24 said she likes being able to choose what she’s eating “instead of having someone choose for me.”

Others worried about going out of their way to get meals: Raimonda said he would likely travel all the way to West Campus to get food if he found himself hungry on Central Campus in the coming weeks.

Despite closing Okenshields, Cornell has managed to keep all available staff employed on campus, according to Brown. Most of the Willard Straight Hall staff members have been reassigned around campus, including to North Campus dining halls.

“I would think that, given the current situation, something is better than nothing,” Minton said, “but I will be the first in line when Okenshields reopens for good.”