Despite long history, Campus

Nichol Nelson

Most students don’t venture past the first three floors of Coffman Union. But if they did, they would find the 84-year-old Campus Club, a social center and dining area for University faculty, staff and students.
In its prime, the club housed pool tables, sleeping rooms and apartments, drawing faculty from across the University.
Now the sleeping rooms are storage closets. The pool tables have given way to office space. And the University community socializes over fast food and the Internet, leaving only a handful of patrons to fill the hundreds of empty chairs.
Today, there are only 1,500 members paying up to $150 a year for a membership in the club. Members are entitled to a 20 percent discount on lunch items and can use the club’s meeting facilities and reception rooms.
Members who joined the club during its heyday are saddened by the decline in faculty traffic.
“Faculty today munch on a sandwich while they are hunched over a computer,” said retired librarian Marie Eller.
Eller has served on the club’s board of directors for almost 50 years, and said she thinks faculty who choose to remain isolated during the lunch hour are wasting opportunities to cultivate University friendships.
“I think they’re missing a great deal from a social point of view,” Eller said.
The club’s terrace was almost empty at the noon hour Thursday, causing the conversation between physics professors at a checkered table to echo through the eating area.
Around the corner from a glowing sign advertising choices like corned beef and cabbage and whipped rutabagas, retired physics professor Mort Hamermesh and his five colleagues had a 12-person table to themselves.
Hamermesh, a member of the club for 33 years, said he remembered the days when the lines were backed up into the hall with members waiting to receive the club’s hot entrees.
He, too, blamed the electronic age for a decrease in personal communication.
“People sit in their offices talking to their friends in Germany and Japan on the Internet instead of talking to their colleagues,” Hamermesh said.
He also suggested that increased pressure on today’s younger faculty to produce more research may impact their ability to socialize.
The club is attempting to revitalize by offering new options for the University community. General manager Dan Fossum said that last year, the club introduced a new plan to allow non-members to eat at the club for lunch by paying in cash.
The University community seems to be responding. Fossum estimates lunch attendance at 200 to 600 people per day.