Since Sunday, students no longer require an invitation from their favorite professors to dine at the Upstairs@The Commons, the former Faculty Commons.
The restaurant, which was previously exclusive to faculty and their guests during lunch, is now offering its sit-down service and a la carte meals to students at night and during weekend brunches. Located above the Alumni Lounge in the West Union Building, the restaurant now offers a social hour on weekdays as well.
Provost Peter Lange said the decision to open the Commons to students followed from the Campus Culture Initiative report, which suggests changes that are "conducive to fostering community."
"What we were hearing from the students as an outcome of the Campus Culture Initiative report and all of our discussions in the spring is that students wanted more opportunity for sit-down dining for themselves as well as faculty-student interaction, and we proposed that this might be a way of providing that dining in a pleasurable way," Lange said.
Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst noted the benefits for students in dining at the Commons. "It's convenient to have a restaurant on campus where students can sit and dine without having to serve themselves," he said.
He added that the opening night was a success, with 60 students attending the meal. Although there were no faculty present on Sunday, Wulforst said he expects greater student-faculty interaction as a result of the restaurant's expansion.
"I think there is a strong potential of that kind," he said, adding that advertising efforts were under way to inform students of this new opportunity to socialize with professors.
Sage and Swift, former operators of the Nasher Cafe, caters at the Commons. Amy Tornquist, owner and executive chef of Sage and Swift, said the expansion of the restaurant was an easy decision on the part of the company.
"We'd love to have students," she said. "In fact, it's geared for students."
Students who attended the opening night touted the restaurant's service and menu--including the popular Sage and Swift cupcakes from the Nasher Cafe last year.
"I'm very happy that they opened the Faculty Commons to students because the ambiance indoors is really wonderful," sophomore Anthony Marzocca said. "The food is continued high quality that we had last year at the Nasher, and by moving it into the Faculty Commons you're going to give it exposure to a lot more students."
Marzocca said he hopes to interact with professors when he dines at the Commons.
The inclusion of students in the Commons does create a more lively atmosphere, Manager Tabitha Brown said. "Students are friendly, they laugh and chat, they like to have fun," she said.
Brown added, however, that from observing students during lunch hours, she has not noticed much student-faculty interaction. "[Students] tend to keep to themselves," she said,
Wulforst said that the Washington Duke Inn-the only other University restaurant with similar upscale service-is located far from students. The convenient location of the Commons in the heart of West Campus saves students from having to drive or walk a long distance, he added.
"It's a nice environment," Wulforst said. "You've got to go."
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