Nearly four months after its planned opening date, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences' new lounge in 301 Philosophy Hall opened in a fanciful ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday.
The new lounge, for which $2 million was allocated, will be accessible to all graduate students and faculty at Columbia with a key-swipe system. The new space features a lounge area with a projector and screen, a small conference room, and a café that will also serve food from local restaurant Flat Top. The lounge has a capacity of 78 people.
“Walking through the space for the first time, I see the warmth and the brilliance of the light and an espresso machine and all the things that make life meaningful,” University President Lee Bollinger said jokingly at Tuesday's ceremony. “I've been in this space before the renovation many times ... and it was Columbia that you didn't love. It was very shabby, too shabby to be genteel.”
The new lounge is equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system with sound-absorbent paneling imported from Germany. Sleek and modern, the lounge's decor has a color palate of white, red, and gray.
GSAS Dean Carlos J. Alonso said he hoped the graduate students will quickly make use of the space.
“I really hope that the place doesn't look this pristine in a week and that it had been used to the hilt by students, by faculty, by staff, all of whom are welcome to come beginning tomorrow,” Alonso said.
Graduate Student Advisory Council President Ahmet Hamdi Cavusoglu said that while the $2 million budgeted for the project was somewhat high, it was the “best use of cash at this moment.”
“Unlike all the other Ivy League schools, we did not have a graduate student center until now, and that put us at a significant disadvantage in recruiting the best possible graduate students to retain,” Cavusoglu said. “A lot of humanities students, [if] they don't necessarily have this dedicated space on campus, they would end up going to Yale or Princeton instead of coming to Columbia.”
Ann Madigan, the student affairs manager for GSAS who oversaw the construction and the finalization of the space, said the four-month delay was due to unforeseen conditions regarding the space.
“There was a lot of field conditions that they ran into, and in terms of making the space into what it is right now, there are things that you can't see that happens—and that was the infrastructure,” Madigan said.
Despite the delays, graduate students present on Tuesday said they appreciated finally having their own lounge space.
“I see this place as where I can get a late lunch, grab coffee in the morning and do some preliminary work, read journal articles, where I can invite fellow collaborators to come by and speak somewhere that's slightly different from the laboratory space,” Cavusoglu said.
Sarah Tisdale, a GSAS Ph.D. student, said that the previous space had terrible acoustics and the new lounge was much better than what she was expecting.
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Correction: Due to an editing error, a photo caption misspelled Cathy Chen's name. Spectator regrets the error.