The reopening of the Duke Student Commons has created a shift in APU’s culture from East to West Campus. Were these improvements worth it, or will it ruin the culture of the student body?

Azusa Pacific University renovated and reopened the John and Marilyn Duke Student Commons in August. The 27,000-square-foot area features a new convenience store, bookstore, computer store, dining options and study areas. Students and faculty have been quick to make it the new place to be on campus. 

In the past, the space, then called Heritage Court, was a spot where students could come to eat, get something at the IMT store or go to the bookstore. It went under construction during the spring semester of 2021. Now, the entire area has an open concept and provides a place for the APU community to gather. 

The open layout gives a spacious area with many options to study and eat. Students who are looking for more privacy have the option to sit at closed off cubicles or a balcony overlooking the commons. Those who are more comfortable being out in the open can choose to sit at tables on the main floor or on stadium-style stairs.

“I think it’s a great addition,” said Keniko Parham, a junior accounting major and student-athlete on the track and field team. “It gives more opportunities for the communities to collaborate.”

Other students feel the opposite. Sophomore Ari Boboc, a psychology major, doesn’t enjoy visiting the Student Commons because the area is too busy. “It’s hard for people with learning disabilities because it can get distracting. With my ADHD, everything that is happening around me makes it hard for me to focus,” she said.

Despite these challenges, the Duke Student Commons has become a popular spot to eat, study and hang out on campus. In past years, most students would spend their time on Cougar Walk located on East Campus. Whether it was studying, eating or catching up with friends, there would always be students on Cougar Walk. Those who remember that culture are upset that it is no longer that way. 

Chris Rogers, a senior studying business, thinks that the new renovations have ruined the culture at APU. “Since I was a freshman, I remember coming to Cougar Walk and seeing all of my friends. Not anymore though,” he commented.

On the other hand, some like that the community isn’t focused in one spot.

Senior Vince Fier, a marketing major, likes that he has more options of places to study and eat. “I like it better because it spaces people out,” he said.

Commuters like junior Amayah Kirkman, a kinesiology major, enjoy the Student Commons more than the options of East Campus. “I like how open it feels. It’s not too crowded, and there’s a lot of different spots you can go to study,” she said. 

While there are plenty of dining options around campus, many of the food services have also been revamped in the Duke Student Commons. Students can grab a coffee at Hillside Grounds, a burger and fries at The Grill or a quick snack in The Market. MexiCali, which used to be located in between the Cougars’ Den Cafe and the 1899 Dining Hall on East Campus, is now conjoined with The Grill on West. 

Students who live on campus now have to travel to the Student Commons for more variety of food. To add, all dining options close around 6:30 p.m., and the Cougars’ Den is strictly for GrubHub orders. This has frustrated the student body, and many find it inconvenient. 

Freshman Lauren Jones, an allied health major, hadn’t been to campus prior to the renovations. She spends much of her time on West Campus for her classes and basketball practice. Her go to food spot is The Grill where she gets either a California burger or the chicken tenders.

“It’s convenient because I don’t have to rush back to East [campus] to get food,” she commented. “But, sometimes they close early, so I don’t get to eat.”

Jones isn’t the only student experiencing this problem. Senior Preston Auger lives in Engstrom and finds it difficult to get food. “It’s frustrating because I have to work around what time I can eat, rather than the school working with me having appropriate times to eat,” he said. 

Many students also agree that the quality of food served at the dining options is not great. Olivia McEvoy posted a picture of the loaded tater tots on the APUNow app, where you can see the half-melted cheese slices on top of her tots. Gabrielle Branner also posted a picture on APUNow of a burger from The Grill that she alleged was undercooked. Both Auger and Boboc also agree that their food has not met their expectations.

“There’s not enough food options,” commented Boboc. “People with food allergies are very limited.”

Auger similarly said, “It seems poor for what we pay for.”