First-ever communal Thurston kitchen to open next semester

Media Credit: Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

After months of negotiations, the University approved plans to build a communal kitchen in the basement of Thurston Hall. The Residence Hall Association lobbied for the kitchen to be built, which is expected to be completed during winter break.

Before coming to GW, freshman Nick Seminerio used to enjoy cooking his favorite Italian pasta dishes for dinner.

But for the California native, living in Thurston Hall – GW’s only residence hall where students cannot access a kitchen – has meant missing out on home-cooked meals.

That will change soon. After several months of negotiations between the Residence Hall Association and a handful of student life departments, the University has committed to building a communal kitchen over winter break that the about 1,000 residents will share.

“It would be good to have this here because we’re all away from home,” Seminerio said. “Having a home-cooked meal would remind me of being back with my family.”

Signing off on the construction comes a few weeks after the RHA and the Thurston hall council submitted a formal request, though the RHA had been pushing for the kitchen, which will be located in the basement, since late last spring.

“The beautiful thing is that we didn’t have to do any convincing,” Thurston Hall council president Harrison Grauso said about asking students to support the hall council’s efforts. “It was pretty unanimous.”

Over Halloween weekend, a portion of the Thurston Hall council’s programming was dedicated to mobilizing support for building a kitchen. Along with organizing activities for students who passed through the lobby, hall council members asked students to sign a petition, which collected more than 400 signatures.

Kitchen access was part of Grauso’s platform when he ran for hall council president. He argued that it would promote learning life skills such as cooking and allow residents to bond over shared meals.

“Home is really centered around a kitchen,” Grauso said. “The fact that Thurston is missing a kitchen took a piece of the community out.”

Grauso added that providing a cooking space would be a budget-friendly way for Thurston residents to eat. The costs of food and on-campus housing have often been concerns of student leaders.

Budgeting effectively and eating healthier have been a priority for Center for Student Engagement Director Tim Miller as well.

“It’s a much cheaper and easier way to have a meal when you’re running low on GWorld money,” Miller, who oversees GW housing, said in an email. “One of the best ways for people to eat healthy is to have the ability to cook their own meals and students in this hall will now have this opportunity.”

RHA President Ari Massefski said Thurston’s kitchen would be similar to the one shared by more than 120 freshmen in Lafayette Hall. His proposal included a design with several stove tops, sinks and refrigerators so multiple students could cook at once.

“We need to remember that there are 1,000 people in Thurston using one kitchen,” Massefski said. “A sink, a microwave, a stove and a fridge is not going to cut it.”

Thurston resident Maddie Thom said a kitchen would provide “a place to wash dishes that’s not your bathroom sink,” but said she doubted that 1,000 freshmen known for rowdy behavior and partying would keep a kitchen clean.

“There’s so many people, and a lot of people are kind of ridiculous and disrespectful,” she said.

Both Massefski and Grauso said their organizations would implement standards for kitchen maintenance once it is installed.

“I have faith in people to clean up after themselves,” Massefski said. “I don’t think Thurston is any dirtier than any of the other residence halls on campus, I just think it’s just bigger.”

He said the Thurston kitchen will likely come stocked with paper towels, like the one in Lafayette Hall, to encourage students to clean up after themselves.

“We need to be good residents, we need to treat the spaces well, or it’s going to be tough to maintain,” Massefski said.

Andrew Goudsward contributed reporting.

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