The new Dumke Faculty Commons on the second floor of the Arthur G. Coons administrative building (AGC) was unveiled Nov. 10, about a year after discussion of a new Faculty Commons began. It is located in what was formerly the Cushman Board Room, which will be relocated to what was formerly known as Dumke Commons in Swan Hall. Director of Communications Jim Tranquada announced the transition to the Occidental community via a post in the root Nov. 5.
“The new Faculty Commons meets a long-felt need for a dedicated, collective space for faculty,” Tranquada said in the post.
Religious Studies Professor Dale Wright, who has been at Occidental since 1980, served as faculty council president from 1996–1998. He recalls that the Faculty Commons, then known as the Faculty Club, used to be located in what is now Collins House, current home of the admissions office. It served as a dedicated space for social occasions, intellectual events and talks.
During Wright’s term as faculty council president, the president of the college at the time, John Slaughter, proposed the switch. Admissions was formerly housed in the basement of the AGC, which made it difficult for visitors to find, according to Wright. Although faculty members were initially resistant to the change because it would displace the Faculty Club, Collins House became the admissions office. The president’s house — vacant, as President Slaughter had opted to live off campus — became the new location of the Faculty Club. Two years later in 1999, the faculty was allocated a room in the newly-renovated Johnson Student Center (JSC), which is when the space first became known as the Faculty Commons.
“This recent change to have a space that is dedicated just for Faculty Commons really is a return to an old tradition at Occidental,” Wright said.
When Dumke Commons was first constructed, the Faculty Commons was relocated there from the JSC. The space served a multitude of purposes and was not exclusively for faculty use. The new Faculty Commons, dedicated to faculty gatherings, is a positive addition, Wright said, although he is unsure to what degree the faculty will use it.
According to Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture Professor Damian Stocking, chair of the faculty committee on intellectual community, the new Faculty Commons is intended to promote informal faculty interaction and intellectual conversation.
“It struck several of us that as a faculty we lack the kinds of venues and occasions in which we could come together to share the intellectual enthusiasms and passions that drew us to academia in the first place,” Stocking said via email.
Initially, faculty members thought the Braun Room in the Academic Commons would work best as the Faculty Commons. According to current Faculty Council President Anthony Chase, it was President Jonathan Veitch who suggested the space in the AGC, for which faculty demonstrated the most enthusiasm after a faculty open house Sept. 22.
“I like the centrality of the location — it helps tie together the different areas of the campus and faculty,” Stocking said via email. “The patios off the wings are great, and the breeze that comes through the glass side doors at sunset could induce a person to want to start reciting Wordsworth.”