A meeting place for university colleagues

When I took up my post as President of Dublin City University – exactly nine years ago today – I inherited an institution and a campus that was well on its way to the achievement of excellence, and with some wonderful facilities either already established or under construction or at least in planning. But one thing that was missing that seemed to me to be a serious omission was a common room, or a place where staff from various parts of the university could meet over a coffee or for lunch and exchange information or ideas. An academic community needs to have the opportunity to mix, both socially and intellectually, and such mixing needs to have a dedicated location.

Today we have what I consider to be some of the best common room and related facilities of any Irish university, and moreover in creating this space we were able to restore and refurbish the university’s most historic building (the original Albert College). This was made possible through the generous support of Atlantic Philanthropies.

Recently I was visiting a university in the United Kingdom, and in discussion with my hosts I asked about their common room. I was told that they didn’t have one, and that they felt they could not afford to set aside scarce space for such a purpose, at the expense of teaching or research facilities. While I do understand the challenge posed by finding space and accommodation for a university’s many urgent needs, I suspect that giving this particular purpose a low priority is a mistake. If we are serious about promoting and facilitating interdisciplinary work, a more informal (but attractive) shared space is vital. In addition, I have found such facilities also to be good for maintaining reasonable morale, particularly during difficult times.

I suspect that we could still do more to make use of these facilities in DCU, particularly during the evening. But I have no doubt that the decision we took a few years ago to develop staff common rooms and restaurants in a central location was the right one.

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3 Comments on “A meeting place for university colleagues”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Common room. Coffee. In Ireland. For God sake between the seven of you, you could keep a Vessel or two whipping back and forth. Nor would there be much point in emptying the Tun into anything much smaller than a Hogshead.
    Oh, does the Admiral need to be Invited into the Wardroom.

  2. Marie Coleman Says:

    Queen’s University Belfast, where I work, has no staff common room and this is a serious loss. Unfortunately, our lords and masters do not appear to agree with you as to the beneficial impact of having one. Prior to my arrival there was a very good one here, but it has been replaced by a restaurant operated by a private contactor that none of the staff can afford to eat in.

  3. Joseph Says:

    The lack of an adequate Common Room is indeed a great loss. We don’t have one to speak of at UCD as well.

    When I asked about this, and several other common perks of being a professor in the U.S.A. (i.e., a parking spot of my own, University gym membership, etc.) during my job interview, I was told that those kinds of things were elitist and the kind of thing one would see in a classist society like the UK and the USA (!), but not the kind of thing “we” wanted in Ireland.


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