By Isabelle Cachia-Riedl
Monday morning, mid-September, I left my first class and headed to the basement for a cup of coffee. I had overslept and didn’t have enough time to make any before class. Every day after class, my friend and I would meet at a booth in the cafeteria; it was an unspoken tradition, one that we had fallen into over the last semester.
But on this Monday morning – parched, hungry, and groggy – I found the cafeteria closed. They had rolled down barriers, and I saw a group of boys ahead of me equally disappointed in their finding. One hopefully tugged at the fence, but there was no one inside. There was no pizza, cupcakes, or premade sandwiches. All display boxes were empty. The search that then ensued for a coffee before my next class was fruitless. I passed the long lines at the food trucks on Bedford Avenue, checked the cafe in James Hall, which was also closed, checked the food truck lines again, crossed campus and gawked at the Starbucks line, then the deli line, and ran out of time.
I am writing this not to simply say this is a problem, that much is widely accepted. Obviously we need somewhere to buy food on campus, but it is not just an issue of food. The cafeteria, without food, has been effectively converted to another study space with a stinky microwave. People do not convene in a place that doesn’t sell food, and if they do, they bring their food and drink with them. Each time they do, Brooklyn College is missing out on revenue. Socialization has always been closely tied with eating and meals. I have made many bonds at BC with the pretense of “grabbing a coffee.”
Brooklyn College is already a commuter campus where all other aspects of daily life are conducted elsewhere. It is hard to get to know your peers in a place like that. It is hard to form a community. It’s hard to foster relationships that make college a place that you feel a part of. You can join clubs if you have time, or go to an event hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government, but nothing quite matches the casual serendipity of bumping into a classmate, having a coffee, and the leisurely walk to class after (not rushing from one side of campus to the other). A common watering hole allows for chance encounters that make you feel known and included at college.
I found out in an email addressed to the student body that there was a problem with the third party vendor who the administration hired to run the cafeteria and cafes. There have been a few lackluster attempts to mitigate this “problem of food.” The other day, I saw a waffle truck on campus, as promised in an email from BC’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Alan Gilbert. BC is implementing a cycle of different food trucks throughout the week, but the problem is not only that there is a lack of food around campus. There are vendors close by (many of which are swamped during common hours). The problem at hand is that there needs to be a common space – and as winter approaches, preferably inside – that is consistent and affordable. Ten dollar sugar-drenched waffles and overpriced coffee will not solve the problem: the problem is that of a disconnected campus.
What we need is simple: a place to have a reasonably priced coffee, maybe a muffin, or better yet, an edible sandwich. I do not know the logistics involved with providing this, but I have to say it really is the bare minimum. It would also seem that this is a good opportunity for BC to make a few bucks considering the current state of the school’s finances, suffering from low enrollment rates (though I understand that selling the privilege to exploit the student body to a third party is more profitable.)
A vibrant campus is one where people talk to each other. They grab a coffee. You meet someone you might not have met otherwise because you reach for the same cupcake in the cold case… I don’t know, something like that. The purpose of a cafeteria is not just for food: it is a well of humanity (with hopefully a decent cup of joe under three dollars). Supposedly, the administration is working to bring back a more permanent food service to Brooklyn College, but I am unsure that they understand the severity of the situation. With every passing day, our campus becomes more impersonal and transactive. As a student seeing amenities like the cafeteria being neglected and the general disrepair all over campus, it leaves me feeling hollow. I know my peers deserve a vibrant and personal campus life.
P.S. In the meantime, please take down the Boylan Hall Cafe sign. It is misleading.