Campus Comodes

31 05 2009

The running title for this one was “The Best Seats on Campus”, but I thought that one was already used by the Sun. 

Anyone who has ever been on campus knows that at one time or another, nature’s calls have to be answered. It helps to have a completely subjective and not all that extensive guide to consider when using them. The idea for this entry came from an eight-mile run I went on last week, where somewhere on mile four I was hit with the intense pressures of the excretory system, which left me hobbling half a mile to the southeast edge campus, trying six different academic buildings before I could find an unlocked door and make my way to a bathroom to relieve myself (it was about seven p.m., hence the problem with the locked doors). But look, it provided a lovely conversation topic.

Unless otherwise stated, all bathrooms are first floor or the main bathrooms for a given building. All bathrooms are also mens’ rooms, since being arrested is not high on my list of things to do before I leave Ithaca.

For those who may recall, the Sun did a nice little piece rating bathrooms some time ago, which I’m unable to find a link for online (if anyone does know the URL, I’ll be more than happy to post it here). I’ll be using the same three-star system.



Our first pit stop is Olive Tjaden. Tjaden satisfies the basic needs by being a clean, well-lit room, and amply stocked. the decor is (surprisingly) sparse for an arts building, and the panoply of pipes up at the ceiling leaves something to be desired in terms of aesthetics. But holy crap does this room have a lot of space. Like, as much space as the big bathroom in Olin Libe that should really only be used by handicapped people, only this one you don’t risk getting yelled by some woman in a wheelchair as soon as you open the door.  I threw in Bishop’s History of Cornell book to give a sense of space.

Rating: * * *



Likewise, McGraw is adequately equipped to handle bathroom needs, but lacks the spaciousness of Tjaden, and we all know that space can be a big plus if you’re carrying a lot of crap (no pun intended). However, it does have a nice cheap-looking pillar running throught the stalls, as if to make a half-hearted appeal to be different.

 Rating: * *



Uris Library is designed to be a high-capacity facility, so as a result, the frills are lacking. I maintain that the bookshelf against the wall of the urinals probably has some of the least-used shelves on campus. My one complaint is that on particularly wet and muddy days outside, all that just gets tracked into here, since the bathroom is so close to the entrance. Therefore, the rating changes depending on the day – decent (* *) on a good day, poor (*) on a messy day outside.

Rating: * * (dry weather day)  / * (wet and/or muddy day)


Getting a photo of Olin’s bathroom was notoriously difficult thanks to the high volume traffic, even during this time of the year (these photos were taken during last week). Olin Libe’s main bathroom is in the basement, so it benefits from being a farther walk, as people have a chance to shake the mud and water off their shoes before they make it to the bathroom. While most restrooms make use of a privacy hallway to prevent peepers, Olin makes use of a second door , which can be both a blessing and a curse if someone is coming from the other direction.

Of course, in the 1980s, Olin Library bathrooms were much more invasive; here’s a DUE from Janurary 1987 [1]:





Dear Wondering About No Privacy,
Apparently, a few years ago a University Librarian learned that the downstairs public men’s room in Olin had become a preferred meeting place on campus for gay men.  This person freaked out and ordered the men’s room closed.  This was strongly protested by some of the male staff members. The compromise was to reopen the men’s room, but remove the doors from all the stalls so there wouldn’t be any privacy.
        When you raised this question, and I consulted a current member of the staff about the issue, he volunteered to write a letter to the new University Librarian, Alain Seznec, about this matter and see whether he will order the doors re-installed.  Hopefully, privacy may return to Olin. “
Yeah…so thankfully, we have stall doors.
Rating: * *
When Willard Straight was completed in 1925, not only did men and women have seperate bathrooms, they also had seperate entrances (women came in through the south entrance [2]).  The men’s bathroom is just tired-looking and worn down, the sole redeeming trait being the well-used antique scale sitting outside the main bathroom, in the corner of the privacy hallway. Really, if you can afford to wait, walk over to the other side of the building and you the cleaner and much more spacious unisex bathroom (be sure to lock the door). Be advised, the unisex room comes with a giant mirror, so you find yourself seeing more of yourself than you normally care to.
Rating: * (men’s room) * * * (unisex restroom)
Here’s one for the engineers. As those who have had classes on the engineering quad may have noticed, men’s rooms outnumber ladies’ rooms by a considerable number (a fair guess is 3:1), thanks to the majority male engineering student population. That being said, the men’s rooms of Thurston have nice little assets like privacy barriers between urinals, but they also have those incredibly obnoxious sensors to flush the toilets. You know, the ones that go off as you stand up to wipe, or fail to go off at all and you’re left there trying to figure out how to finish business. I have a personal vendetta against automatic flushers, because I think the technology simply hasn’t been refined enough to be useful. Regardless, this is an adequate facility.
Rating: * *
The Statler Hotel is all about impressing the visitor. They do a great job with the bathrooms. The bathrooms are nothing short of luxurious, and make you feel like you’re somebody. There’s even a vanity mirror and polished stone counters. The trick to getting to using this bathroom is to walk in and appearing more like a guest and not a student; that way, the employees won’t give you dirty looks when you’re heading back out.
Rating: * * *
Somehow, I had this expectation going into Ives that the bathrooms would have extra safety and specialty features. To my dismay, they weren’t all that different from any other bathroom on campus. While the rooms were spacious, I can’t give three stars beceause of a slight amount of water damage to the tiles near where the toilet is hinged to the wall. Yes, the t.p. was under the toilet when I arrived here.
Rating: * *
Plant Science must have the scariest bathroom on campus. Rotting tileworks, mildew stains, old fashioned doors and frickin’ bath towels hanging over one of the stalls were enough to give this room a bad rep. It doesn’t help that this was the bathroom that was claimed by some to have cockroach infestation issues not too long ago.  Let’s think about that for one moment. Cockroaches while you’re on the crapper.
 Use at your own risk.
Rating: *
Last but not least, we come to our newest bathrooms, the ones installed on the first floor in Weill Hall. They’re installed rather conspicuously near the atrium, which might make for some uncomfortable rendezvous, but otherwise, they’re well appointed.
Rating: * *









5 responses

31 05 2009
Margo Hebald

Well done article!

Unfortunately, not much different than world standards, and in many cases much better. Check out gas station restrooms, New York restaurants are a real challenge.

Please add Sibley and Rand to your research.

Nevertheless, with the current economic status the Country and Cornell faces, I don’t think anything will be done in the near future. Perhaps we need a special donor fund.

By the way, as far as I know, handicapped toilets are for everyone, only they are designed so that handicapped people can use them. Thank your stars you are not handicapped; I’m sure you know how many of those toilets exist on Campus.

31 05 2009
Dean F.

Good article on a subject dear to my heart.

I agree that the Statler is the nicest bathroom I’ve seen on campus–they even have automatic soap squirters for crying out loud.

As for the rest of them, I tend to enjoy them for their quirks. I think there’s more interesting variations in the bathrooms on campus then, say, building interiors.

Here are some of my favorite ones:
Goldwin Smith- Green painted walls and high ceiling.

Willard Straight- Most interesting shaped urinals on campus and the least privacy, pedal-operated sinks, and the vintage condom machine (which doesn’t vend condoms anymore, but WILL steal your money!).

Teagle- The longest wall of urinals on campus.

Barton- Probably the second longest row of urinals. These urinals will test your peeing skills, requiring a big lean forward.

Riley-Robb- Like some of the other Ag school bathrooms, this one has a couple of shower stalls. It also has some interesting basins which aren’t in use anymore.

Fuertes Observatory- I know you know about this one, but for those who have never had the pleasure, it is a charming WC.

Space Sciences- The toilet stalls feature TP dispensers with cup holders!

Malott (first floor)- In one of the worst-designed restrooms on campus, there is a wall of urinals immediately to your right as you walk in the door, including one that is frighteningly close to it.

If you don’t want to be screwed by the automatic flush sensors (I hate them too), a trick I use often is to take a square of toilet paper, lightly wet it, then stick it over the sensor. When you’re done, take it off. If the toilet doesn’t flush automatically, press the little button on the sensor.

1 06 2009

good work. but my six favorites:

1. Inside the Phys Sci Libe, there’s a portrait of Einstein asking if you’ve washed your hands in german

2. Fine Arts, newly renovated unisex, looks like HGTV threw up on it

3. Duffield… very new, colors are very intense

4. Mann Libe: first floor mens room is like a refridgeraotr, fourth floor is like an oven… i wonder if the ones in between are normal?

5. Rockefeller, towards the back on first floor (by space sciences), there’s a long corridor with a seperate room devoted to urinals

and best of all the “Narnia” bathroom:

6. Clark Hall, second floor by the AEP corridor: there’s a secret door, behind the janitor’s closet, that leads to a really freaky utility corridor, that gives access (provided a ladder) to the building’s roof and it’s supposedly card-access only student laboratories. It’s kind of crazy.

2 10 2009

Back in the day (late ’80s) it was received knowledge that Snee Hall had the best bathrooms on the hill.

It wasn’t uncommon to go far out of one’s way, just for the privilege of taking a crap in what were widely considered to be far and away the best toilets on campus.

No idea if this is still the case.

9 12 2009
Bill Compton

I am not happy with your rating of the weill hall bathroom.

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