Community Reacts to New Sharples Commons 

Courtesy of Bobby Delgadillo

The second phase of the Dining and Community Commons project, Sharples Commons, opened for student use on Feb. 26. Sharples Commons was first announced back in the fall semester of 2018. At its official opening, the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) organized an Open House and “Sharples After Dark” event for students to familiarize themselves with the space. Currently, the space has received mixed reactions from the student body regarding its layout and functionality. 

Sophie Lee ’25 views the Commons as having a comfortable atmosphere and being a nice space to unwind.  

“It was really time for Swarthmore to have a student commons,” she said. “I think we really lacked a cohesive space for students to just spend some time on campus, especially in a central location like Sharples.”  

Anuujin Bayarjargal ’27, who works as a desk attendant at Sharples Commons, said that she began noticing students utilizing the rooms for movie and karaoke nights. 

“Typically in private rooms on campus such as those in libraries, you feel like you can’t make that much sound,” she said. “But in Commons, you feel more at ease to make noise and play games with your friends,” she stated.  

A student employee at Crumb Cafe, Rocio Guay ’25, pointed out the lack of vents and a grill installed in the Commons. She explained that this would be disruptive not only to the operations of Crumb Cafe but also to Essie Mae’s Snack Bar (soon to be Essie’s Corner), given that both are moving from Clothier Hall into Sharples Commons.

“People working at Crumb are just confused. What are we supposed to serve now? Things like quesadillas and fried food are our bread and butter, and they’re popular. It’s also almost 90% of what Essie’s serves,” she said. 

With regards to how the college could make Sharples Commons better for Crumb Cafe and Essie Mae’s, Guay suggests being allowed to remain at Clothier Hall, since the current space is already equipped with a kitchen, while the new space is smaller. 

“I’ve never heard anyone say ‘I like Essie’s but I really wish it was crammed in between a bunch of study rooms.’ or ‘I really like Crumb but with less fried food, just like the time when the grill and fire didn’t work and you all served nothing but sandwiches and chips.’ Who asked for this?” she commented. 

Comparing the new Sharples Commons to its predecessor, Lee noted that the previous Sharples had a unique touch to it. 

“The old Sharples felt like an old part of Swarthmore that the newer buildings and areas of campus don’t really capture. The lighting, especially, was a lot warmer and the seating options were more communal, so you really had to spend time around people. And that’s just something that I think Swarthmore students can have a hard time doing just because we’re so busy, so it’s hard to find the space to really just sit down and enjoy the presence of other people,” Lee said. 

Guay shares a similar sentiment, saying: “I feel like it’s been stripped of its soul, it just lacks that same jen ne sais quoi. It feels like you just copied and pasted a bunch of rooms from Singer into it. We don’t need more [space to study], we’re already rebuilding Martin Hall now.”

On the other hand, Bayarjargal notes that studying at the Commons has a different atmosphere from the other study spots on campus. 

“It’s more spacious, and it’s made for you to study and feel comfortable instead of sitting there and feeling stuck. I usually study at McCabe Library and I somehow feel the urge to be so quiet. I’ll feel awkward if I’m making any sound, or whether I’ve just distracted anyone,” she explains.

Currently, Bayarjargal and other desk attendants are working on making the Commons more comfortable to attract more students.

“We’re observing where students like to hang out, and whether there’s a popular spot. We want to be constructive and make improvements based on the current needs of students.”

Guay hopes that the college can be more transparent in their plans for Crumb Cafe regarding its relocation into the Commons. 

“Given that we got such a small space, I feel like they’re going to either lay off half of us or it’ll be a potential fire hazard. I just wish there was a significantly higher degree of transparency about what’s going to happen to me and the other coworkers. They didn’t tell us that we weren’t getting vents, so I hope they do so in the future because that’s a really small space and I have significant concerns about what the implications of that are,” she said. 

In an email sent by Associate Dean of Students & Director of Student Engagement Rachel Head on March 5, she emphasized OSE’s openness to suggestions from the student body to improve Sharples Commons. “In the spirit of making Sharples Commons your own, I encourage you to check out the new Sharples Commons web page, which highlights what the facility has to offer and includes helpful information on this new space, including how to reserve rooms for your events and reach out to us with your ideas. We are so excited to partner with you in developing future programming for Sharples Commons that meets the needs of our community,” she wrote.

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