March 21, 2022

MEHLER | We’ll Get Together in Comstock Hall

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The “161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do” may not be the most realistic, but here’s a new bucket list to complete before graduation.

Sitting outside of Ives Hall, I witnessed some of Cornell’s return to normalcy with a campus tour of prospective students walking by. The inaccuracies of the tour aside (for which AMST 2001: The First American University is an excellent source of Cornell truths), I listened to the tour guide give a brief view into each college within the University. After wrapping up the discussion of my home, the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the tour guide stopped to ask her visitors: “Has anyone seen The Office?” I put aside my own quarrels with Cornell’s reputation being tied to a fictional television show rather than our outstanding campus, alumni and more while I waited to hear the tour guide connect the television show with the realities of being a Cornellian. Quoting directly from the show, the tour guide noted how one of the characters in The Office says, “We’ll get together in Comstock Hall,” before pointing to Comstock directly across from Ives and Barton.

After thinking about how many buildings we have on campus, I couldn’t help but wonder why Comstock was the one chosen to be Cornell’s namesake building for The Office. What about Uris Library or Goldwin Smith? What about the Statler or Warren Hall? Sage Chapel or Sage Hall could have been more recognizable as well. Cornell as a university may not have one building “home,” but the colleges all do. Each college at Cornell has its own homebase: Ives for ILR, Martha Van Rensselaer for Human Ecology, Goldwin Smith for Arts and Sciences. I even asked my roommates in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences which building they considered to be their home, and while they did not agree on one building, they all agreed it certainly was not Comstock.

 Cornell has over 600 buildings in total, with over 150 of those being academic buildings on the Ithaca Campus. But throughout our time at Cornell, most students have few reasons to explore the buildings beyond their majors, colleges and specific electives. For example, an engineering student may never set foot in Bradfield Hall on the Ag Quad or a Dyson student may never walk into Rand Hall, the location of the studios used by students in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning. With so many unique programs nestled into so many spaces across campus, I wish to provide a more PG and walking-friendly version of the “161 Things Every Cornellian Should Do:” visit every academic building on campus.

I recently started this journey to see the inner walls of each space on campus, and it has been fascinating to see the different classrooms, hallways and lobbies that are commonplace for a few hundred students but a different world for thousands of others. I had eaten at Mattin’s Café in Duffield Hall before, but I only recently saw an engineer’s everyday life in Upson, Kimball, Thurston, Bard and Hollister. I have walked through almost the entire Arts Quad’s array of buildings but have yet to explore the conglomeration of AAP libraries. Even while intentionally walking into buildings I have not yet been in, I still have dozens to go as I try to visit every building on campus.

Overall, there are two points to be made here: 

  1. There are so many academic buildings on campus, yet we spend so much of our time in a select few. Opening our eyes to what other students see on their day-to-day makes us all understand what being a Cornellian is like for so many others.
  2. Cornell does not have one building mascot. We may disagree on which one might be the magnum opus of Cornell buildings, but we can all certainly agree it is not Comstock. 

But if we want to come to a consensus on which building is Cornell’s flagship, I encourage everyone to visit the dozens of buildings they have never seen or even heard of. I’ll be the first to advocate for Cornell’s new flagship building — in my most unbiased and professional opinion: the McGraw Clocktower whose songs are heard by every Cornellian.

Patrick J. Mehler ‘23 (he/him) is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. The Mehl-Man Delivers runs every other Tuesday this semester.