The newly formed Coffee Shop Advisory Committee released a campuswide survey on May 24 for input about the controversial takeover of the historically college-run Cowell Coffee Shop and Stevenson Coffee House by UC Santa Cruz Dining Services.
They are set to be absorbed by dining to address consistent deficits for both coffeehouses that have been covered by the two colleges over the majority of the past 20 years. But there is significant pushback from faculty, staff, students and alumni who fear one of the oldest and most unique spaces on campus will be homogenized.
“Our goal is really just to gather feedback and use that as vision-making as we continue to move forward,” said Carolyn Golz, college administrative officer for Cowell and Stevenson Colleges, who put together the committee including two students, two staff and four faculty members.
She said the ideas for the committee and survey were born from suggestions during the April community forums for Stevenson and Cowell students to provide feedback on the absorption.
But students, especially at the forum, condemned dining’s takeover of the Stevenson Coffee House that has been a part of campus for over 40 years and called for the facilities to be student-run.
“Ultimately, the primary concern from students is that they want a definite say over their space,” said Gabriella Cory, who was elected by the Stevenson Senate to serve on the committee as the Stevenson student voice.
She said she’s passionate about saving the Stevenson Coffee House because it’s where she and her friends hangout, but it’s also where her mom worked 30 years ago.
Cory serves alongside fellow UCSC student Sarah Adler, who was elected by the Cowell Senate.
“We are trying to bridge the gap between the administration and the students,” Adler said. “To find, if dining takes it over, how we are going to make the students most comfortable.”
The survey will stay up for two weeks and close around June 7. It was published on UCSC’s Tuesday Newsday and sent out to Stevenson and Cowell students as well as multiple graduate academic departments to increase accessibility.
“The goal of the survey is … to gather more specific feedback about what are the things that people appreciate about the coffeehouses, what are the things that they would like to see changed, what kind of menu items would they like to see, what do they want to use the space for,” Carolyn Golz said.
Within the first 24 hours, there were 176 responses to the survey, said Caren Camblin, Stevenson faculty member and member of the advisory committee.
“Transparency is an important part of this process, and that was the whole reason for doing this survey,” said Camblin, an avid proponent of making the independent coffeehouses either student or college-run.
She worked with lecturer Bruce Thompson to create a petition signed by over 50 faculty, staff and grad students in March to contest dining’s takeover of the Stevenson Coffee House. Camblin’s petition cycled in conjunction with an online campaign created by Stevenson Coffee House staff that reached over 2,500 signatures.
“When I talk to students about their experiences, what really defines Stevenson — what makes them feel like Stevenson students and have a sense of belonging and a sense of home — it is the core course, the coffee shop and the knoll,” she said.
Camblin is working with the Stevenson Faculty Executive Committee to create a plan to return the two coffeehouses to college control if Student Union Assembly (SUA) President Julie Foster’s plan to make the shops student-run falls through.
Camblin supports SUA’s ideas and says the committee is waiting on a few endorsements before submitting their “plan B” option. “The reason that we are calling it Plan B is that we really like the idea of students running it … But if that is not satisfactory to the administration, then we want to have another way that the coffeehouse can stay college-run,” she said.
Student committeemembers Gabriella Cory and Sarah Adler, who interns for Foster, are both proponents of a student-owned and operated space. However, because of the success of the committee, they feel less concerned about the university absorption of the coffeehouses.
“Seeing John [Hadley], the current manager, and Bill [Prime], the head of dining, talk is really comforting to me,” Cory said. “To see that there is an open dialogue and it’s not just a cold harsh takeover. We are all doing our best to handle it.”
To take the survey and input your feedback, you can go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/ucsccoffeeshops