Since 1969, the WPI Community has envisioned a Campus Center that would provide a "physical, social and philosophical link between academic (and residential) portions of the campus." (Heventhal, 1982). It was believed that future students would be aided by developing a complementary social community. These same people were of the opinion that a Center or a 'third tower' would result in a stronger collegial environment at WPI.
The Campus Center was an attempt to meet that goal. It serves as a place for community, collegiality, socialization, and learning (as well as numerous private business meetings for which WPI collects usage fees). It includes work and meeting space for faculty, staff and student organizations, conference rooms, mail facilities, dining food court, game room, college bookstore, large multipurpose facilities, visitor reception for campus guests, and lounges; the Center serves as a gathering place for the entire WPI Community.
When pitched to the campus by contractors and administrators, the words "attractive, inviting, and functional facilities" were used, meant to address space inadequacies identified by the WPI Community through surveys and focus groups. The group mainly responsible for the Campus Center, the Campus Center Planning Committee, chose to use the word 'campus' rather than 'student' because it is was intended as a facility that served every member of the college community.
The site for the Center was behind Alumni Gymnasium and required the destruction of large sections of WPI's open space, spawning protests from a number of students. The Campus Center is at the geographical center of the campus. The West Street Plaza (site of The Fountain) serves as a hub for the campus.
As mentioned above, the construction of the Campus Center was not without controversy. The deforestation of WPI property drew concern as students lost a significant portion of their open space. After its construction, WPI students immediately judged the Campus Center to have a greater resemblance to an airport than an office building. Also frustrating to many is the use of the Center: despite claims for it being for the campus, many of its rooms are often booked by private corporations who use the rooms for meetings, leading in some cases to a shortage of space for student groups.
Rumor has it that whoever gives WPI $5 million can have the Campus Center named for them.
A number of small follies have been noticed by students who spend many hours a day in the Campus Center.
The meeting rooms in the Campus Center have whiteboards and corkboards that are hidden behind doors that match the wall to seamlessly hide the boards when not in use. The first folly is that the cork boards go largely unused. The second folly is the hinges on the door only allowing the door to open to a maximum of 90 degrees. This obstructs the view of the board from a portion of the participants.
A set of fire doors seperate the Grogan Wing from the foyer outside the Hagglund Room and Odeum. Since 2001, these doors have consistently been in need of repair work to rebalance them so that they properly close. They have been fixed several times, but always seem to break again.
Along with Alden Memorial's Great Hall and Harrington Auditorium's Forkey Conference Room, the Campus Center Odeum is the only consistently used meeting space that does not have built in electronic presentation equipment. Considered during construction, the extra expense was skipped and the Odeum's presentations are made on projectors borrowed from the ATC.
- Profiles in Good Taste food court, with amenities such as Coyote Jack's (formerly Burger King until January 2007), Faux Gompei's, a sandwich shop, and an occasional entree station.
- A game room, containing pool tables, pinball machines, darts, and televisions with comfortable booths to sit at.
- Mail Services and student mailboxes.
- An ice cream machine that uses a fascinating Rube Goldberg-esque mechanism to fetch ice cream bars.
- Forkey Commons, which includes a small stage with lighting and acoustics, permitting speakers or small bands to perform.
- The Taylor Room
- The Chairman's Room, a well-appointed conference room.
- The Class of 1946 Lounge, also known as the Fireplace Room, Octagon or Octo-Wedge.
- The information desk, whereat one can rent pool cues and balls, laptops, and other mysterious items for the temporary price of one's student ID card.
- The Morgan Room
- The WPI bookstore, formerly Tatnuck@WPI but now run by Barnes and Noble.
- A small snack bar, formerly the Ritazza but now run by Dunkin' Donuts.
- The Student Publications offices including Tech News, Peddler and several other student organizations.
- The Odeum, a large multipurpose room often used for functions and other relations.
- The Hagglund Room (nicknamed "The War Room"), Mid-Century Room, Peterson Room.
- The WWPI radio station and stealth computer lab (four computers, often only three mice -- you do the math).
- SAO and those of many student organizations including SocComm, SGA, LnL, IFC, and ISC.
The campus center also has an unofficial fourth floor, which can be reached by climbing the back staircase all the way to the top past the third floor. The fourth floor consists of a small platform, a window, and a door (normally locked) out onto the roof.