Close but No Cigar

As the new Paresky Commons starts to feel less like a sparkling, labyrinthine mystery and more like our dining hall, it’s clear that overall, the renovations have been a success—as they certainly should be for 30 million dollars. The new dining hall is without doubt a culinary and aesthetic step up from both Uncommons and old Commons. But in the interests of using this newspaper as both an ignitor of discussion and a prism to the student body, there are a few sticky issues about the new Commons that I feel should be mentioned. This year, higher-ups suggested that the senior gift of the Class of 2009 be a donation to the Commons renovations. Even before Commons opened, I talked to several Seniors who vehemently disagreed with the focus of their gift. In general, they felt that they would much rather pool together their funds on something small and tangible like a bench, which was another possible idea. They felt that a class donation to Commons would be massively overshadowed and put to little use in comparison to the bigger changes of a project whose budget already totaled in the tens of millions. Nevertheless, under the impression that more money was needed to support their dining hall, the Senior class made their donations and waited, like the rest of us, for March?29. But when the doors of the dining hall we once knew were finally unlocked last week, it became quite evident that the Commons project was not at all underfunded. In fact, many of the novelties in Paresky Commons are blatantly expendable and reek of opulence. If this doesn’t already ring a bell, how about the “Paresky” ice sculpture? Not only was it a shameless waste of money (no matter how little it cost), but David Paresky’s hugely generous donation of $10 million was unrestricted, according to a Phillipian article from March 6. This essentially means that it was the school’s choice, not his, as to how the money would be spent. His donation could have been filtered over a long period of time to support the need-blind policy, smaller scale dorm renovations or any other initiatives on campus. In other words, the school was not bound by Mr. Paresky to invest everything in some vision of a dining hall bearing his name. The potential anonymity of his donation reflects a true, passionate interest in furthering PA as a community, not a furthering of his name through advertisements, of?which the ice sculpture is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s also a?new banner above the doors, two massive engraved plaques in the ?entranceway, and twin flat-screen TV’s in the hall. It is obviously the right thing to do to thank Mr. Paresky for his donation, but this use of his money is clearly misguided gratitude. It also represents a blatant surplus of funds, which brings me back to the senior class gift. Class of ’09, you were told that your money was?needed for the Commons project. Now that you’ve already donated,?and Commons is open, were your donations truly vital? The “Paresky” promotions don’t even scratch the surface of the unnecessary purchases for Commons. There are brand new stocks of cups, mugs, plates, bowls, forks, spoons, knives, napkin dispensers and salt and pepper shakers. Unlike the tables and chairs, these are in no way superior in function (or even form, really) to their counterparts in Uncommons. Mike Giampa, Operations Manager of Commons, did not respond to my email inquiring about the ice sculpture and why all these new accoutrements were needed as part of the renovations. As reported by The Phillipian last week, there have been no lasting food budget increases “due to the economy.” PA students, do you really think that appropriate frugality with respect to the current economy has been displayed? Thirty million dollars just on structural renovations, with no increase to the food budget? Class of ’09, were?your donations really necessary and put to good use? I invite all members of the community to respond to these questions. Ben Podell is a two-year Lower from New York, New York. He is a Copy Editor of The Phillipian.