Commons expansion needed for growth

Expanding and renovating the Thomas Commons is necessary for the college to grow, as it’s the one building on campus that nearly every student uses every day. It was built in 1966 when the campus had fewer than 1,000 students.

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher interact with a crowd on the Orange Carpet
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher interact with a crowd on the Orange Carpet

More than $12.5 million has been raised for the project, and an additional $5 million is being sought to increase dining, classroom, and multi-purpose space. Sweeping changes are planned for the building’s upper-level entryway, with a new façade that will add vibrancy and blend into Cornell’s National Historic Register campus. A spacious entry, updated information desk, and more prominent bookstore will greet students upon entering. An elevator will add accessibility. The Orange Carpet, Cornell’s popular “living room” area, will remain the building’s unique hub.

“Even though The Commons today serves as an important social and academic hub for the campus, the structure does not have the same utility, uniqueness, or beauty present across the Cornell campus,” said Will Dinneen, Student Senate president. “It doesn’t say to students, both current and prospective, ‘Welcome to Cornell! There is an active, smart, and passionate student body here!’ A new Commons can only add to the beauty of our campus and serve to bolster the drive and passions of my fellow Cornellians.”

In addition to better serving Cornell’s current students, a more vibrant Commons will greatly enhance the college’s recruitment efforts by providing a more attractive “front door.” Many peer institutions competing with Cornell for the best students have recently undertaken significant renovations or have built new student unions.

“I remember when The Commons first became the center of student life nearly a half-century ago, just a few years after I began my teaching career at Cornell,” said Don Cell, professor emeritus of economics and business. “This building is the gateway to the college for prospective students and their parents. It makes sense to me that it needs to be the showpiece that its wonderful hillside location makes possible. I am particularly eager to see how this project can enhance the college’s educational activities, including more adequate space for our public lectures, an inviting bookstore, and the additional well-equipped classrooms that will be needed as the student body grows.”