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"Well it's about time" appears to be the most common response among Harvard students to the newly inaugurated Loker Commons, and we tend to agree. Months of anticipation amid scaffolding and construction barriers and years of social drought ended this month with the unveiling of this new, state-of-the-art student recreational area. Since its opening on Monday, December 4, hundreds of students have already made use of the Commons; it represent nothing less than a brand new dimension to life at Harvard.
The Commons is part of the massive building project that has completely remodeled Memorial Hall this term. The centerpiece of the renovation is to be Annenberg Hall, the new first-year dining facility. Annenberg will be replacing the Freshman Union, which is being converted into office space for several departments in the humanities. Loker is not set to open formally until January 4, but the administration has opened the doors early as a sort of "sneak peak" before students leave for the holiday recess.
One walks down the newly-built stone steps on the Science Center side of Memorial Hall into a near limitless opportunity for procrastination. Eight friends assault you as soon as you walk through the imposing, mahogany doors, and together you mill around the Commons, indulging in a decision-making process so rare for Harvard students: "Well, should we do pizza today, or 'Tex-Mex?'" You all then pause and squint, trying desperately to decipher the images appearing on the 70-square-foot video-screen to the rear of the space; studying the near traumatizing effect of watching giant images fading out before they ever completely fade in. Mental torment aside, however, the Commons is truly a remarkable place for students.
It is especially encouraging that Loker plans to stay open late into the night. The Commons itself will remain open until 1:30 a.m. from Monday through Thursday, and until 12:30 a.m. from Friday through Sunday. The eateries (pizza, Tex-Mex, sweet shop, etc.) will close only three quarters of an hour beforehand, though the Tex-Mex and sweet shop will not be open on weekends. Students will also be happy to learn that the Commons will have extra late hours during reading period and exams. According to Eric C. Engel, the director of the Memorial/Lowell Hall complex, the Commons will remain open until 3:00 a.m. throughout the "crunch" period. This represents a real step in the right direction in the fight to provide students with an all-hours study facility.
More important than a place to study, however, Loker Commons is a significant addition to the embarrassingly short list of places on campus in which students from the different yards and houses can meet and, dare we say it, socialize. The small number of locations that might have succeeded in supplying this context, namely the Science Center's Greenhouse and certain of the dining halls, never quite made it. By incorporating the two essential ingredients in any student center--good food and good atmosphere--promises to finally provide the sort of facility in which students will actively want to spend time. If this in fact comes to pass, perhaps Harvard will at long last begin to be a more friendly, cordial place to go to school.
Reaction to Loker in its inaugural week has been overwhelmingly positive, and for good reason. What the University has created beneath the towering, 19th century majesty of Memorial Hall is a place for 21st century men and women of Harvard to meet, eat and have a good time.
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