When the ground was broken almost a year ago on the renovations to Memorial Hall, we rejoiced that a new student center was to be included in the historic Ware and Van Brunt building. The beautiful extension on Kirkland Street, which kept the old hall's intricate brickwork pattern, and the new underground entrance facing the Science Center, whetted our appetites for something extraordinary. When Loker Commons opened its doors last term, we weren't disappointed.
If we forgive the graceless and oppressive flourescent lighting and the inexplicable psychedelic pixel boards--which flash subliminal and blatant fascist over-tones, convincing us of what a good time we're having--the renovated Memorial Hall basement is first-rate. The well-designed pine-stained study nooks ensure students a high degree of privacy, while the open areas--the Jetsonesque Coffee House and restaurants--are great places to mix and mingle with fellow students, hold informal meetings and grab a quick bite to eat. Loker Commons seems to be the type of ideal place that might serve as a social center for all students. We must admit to being somewhat disappointed with a problem we identified earlier in the planning for the new hall-the dearth of networked computer terminals--but as of now, the space seems so flexible that we are sure it will be possible to allocate more space for them.
The new digs are only half the story, however. The advent of "Crimson Cash"--a $75 credit ($100 with the $25 in guest meals) applied to the ID card of every student on the board plan, good for purchases made at Loker, the Greenhouse and several other campus restaurants--is a remarkable plan that encourages students to visit these places and offers a new kind of flexibility in our meal plans. The arrival of liquidity in Harvard's board charge should be the first step towards changing the entire sum to multi-use credit. Crimson Cash is just another unexpected and delightful gift from Director of Dining Services "Mealtime Messiah" Michael P. Berry, whose creativity and continual openness to improvement have made a real impact on the quality of life at the College.
We would, however, like to see a higher quality and wider variety of food in the Commons upon which to spend this money. The Mexican food is too reminiscent of dining hall fare. Perhaps we could see tacos and burritos with lime-marinated chicken or came asada filling the space instead. We also would like to sink our teeth into some plain old American burgers, as well as some healthier options such as salads or sushi. But leave the inspiring tea choices such as "Zen," "Awake" and "Passion" in the well-designed coffee shop.
But adjustments in the food are easy to make, and regardless of the culinary offerings, we're big fans of the commons as a comfortable place to socialize and study. The renovations to the basement of Memorial Hall do justice to Loker Commons' location in one of Harvard's most remarkable and charismatic buildings.