Looking at Loker
The Loker Commons student center in Memorial Hall opened its doors yesterday with little fanfare but much customer satisfaction.
The Memorial Hall renovations, completed this fall, turned the basement into the Loker Commons and the first floor into Annenberg Hall, the first-year dining hall scheduled to open in late January.
Although there were only a dozen or so people in the space late yesterday afternoon, Loker officials said business will increase as the word spreads.
"It was a slow day," said Director of Dining Services Michael P. Berry. "I hope to pick up volume as the week goes on. But we expected it to be slow."
Yesterday's opening was termed "soft" by officials; the grand opening will be Jan.4.
Students, administrators and employees alike yesterday afternoon lauded the spacious new common and dining area.
"I've got Loker fever," said Adam R. Kovacevich '99, who was studying for Wednesday's Ec 10 hourly exam in one of the many nooks lining the Commons' south wall. "I'm really impressed with the job they did down here."
Harvard has needed a student center like this for a long time, said Daniel B. Giffin '99.
"I had been waiting for something like this for a while," Giffin said. "It seemed like the thing that we lacked. It's bigger than I expected."
Walking in the door nearest the Science Center, one enters the main area of the Commons to encounter a sweet shop, a pizza place and a southwest cuisine vendor. Dozens of tables are clustered in the center of the room.
Beyond the large open space is the Seattle's Best Coffee shop, partitioned from the rest of the Commons by glass and wood paneling.
The coffee flavors have been specially named in honor of Harvard, with "Radcliffe Evening Blend," "John Harvard Blend" and "Harvard Yard Morning Blend" featured prominently in front of the service counter.
Dean of the College Archie C. Epps III, who came to Loker for a late lunch yesterday, said that he plans to stop by the commons every day.
"This is the beginning of a regular practice of mine," he said as he bit into a piece of pizza, which he deemed "very good." "This is a place where students can hang out."
Harvard's 'Peach Pit?
A few upperclass students said that the atmosphere of the Commons reminds them of television shows with college students as their main characters.
"I think it looks sort of like 'A Different World; you know, that TV show," said Daniel N. Webb '96, referring to a "Cosby Show" spin-off from the late 1980s.
Others suggested it was reminiscent of "Saved by the Bell" or "Beverly Hills 90210" after the characters went to college.
A graduate student said the red, blue, yellow and white rectangular lights on the ceiling reminded him of sunnier climes.
"I like the colored lights," said Joe R. Metz, a sixth-year graduate student in Germanic Languages and Literatures. "It's like Epcot Center."
Bill Layher deemed the decor slightly less than Disneyesque.
"It has that sort of upscale ware-house look," said Layher, a fifty-year graduate student in the German department.
Layher said he works at Gato Rojo, the small cafe in Dudley House popular with graduate students, and "came over to check out the competition." The two places will draw "different crowd[s]," he decided, because Loker focuses on undergraduates and Gato on graduate students.
At the east end of Loker is an L.E.D. (light-emitting diode) display board measuring approximately 70 square feet and along the north wall is a 114-long electronic light display "frieze." Yesterday the artistic material for both boards had not yet been finalized. As a result, strange patterns and lines written backwards from "Alice in Wonderland" punctuated the frieze yesterday.
Best is Yet to Come
The automatic teller machine, the U.S. Postal Service stamp machine, the coin-operated copy machine, the credit-card-operated fax machine, the Harvard Student Agencies film developing drop-off box, the sweet shop's candy and the newsstand's periodicals have not yet arrived, but should be in place within the next few weeks, according to Loker officials.
"We will have Baybank [come in] hopefully within the week," said Eric C. Engel, director of the Memorial/Lowell Hall complex.
Customers received their share of goodies yesterday, however, as both the ice cream shop and the coffee house were giving out free samples. The Heath Bar frozen yogurt had a sweet but light taste and the cafe mocha was rich but not overwhelming.
Felix H. Cheung '98, who was studying at a table near the food shops, said the pizza tasted good.
"It's better than Tommy's, but needs a little more sauce to be on par with the Greenhouse," Cheung said.
The Commons also offers lockers for student organizations and bulletin boards for use by the college community, the Freshman Dean's Office, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences registrar, individuals offering items for sale and rides, campus event publicity, the Memorial/Lowell Hall Complex and the Office for the Arts.
The southwest and ice cream stands will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. The pizza house and coffee shop will be open Monday through Thursday until 1 a.m. and Friday through Sunday until midnight.
Beginning Jan. 3, students will have an additional $75 credit added to their I.D. cards which they may spend at Loker, the Greenhouse Cafe and other Harvard eateries. That money will be in addition to the $25 already credited to each student's card in September for guest meals.
Eduardo 1. Velasquez, an employee at the sweets shop, said the job will help him get to know students.
"I think it's great," Velasquez said. "You get to meet all the students from different places.
The first day went surprisingly well, said Jack Cahill, general manager of the Loker Commons.
"From a technical standpoint, we had all the food we expected out," Cahill said. "All of the first-day night-mares, they didn't come true."
Eating a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cone in one of the booths, Praveen Akuthota'97 took a more idealistic view of the Commons.
"I like it," Akuthota said. "I think we need it for a kind of unity."