A coffee shop on campus is a place where people should be able to hang out with friends, a place to congregate and a place to have fun. Unfortunately, the Common Ground Caf is not one of these places.
The key to a coffee shop is its atmosphere, and the Common Ground does very little to create the warm, intimate feeling of a good coffee shop. It is admirable that administration is willing to make improvements to the coffee shop. We applaud their efforts, but think that they were a little misguided.
There are currently several problems with the Common Ground. Not only is there a lack of atmosphere, but there is poor, inconsistent service and products that are of too low quality. The slow service from a lack of supplies or broken machines has become something UR students expect of the Common Ground. A change needs to be made, and this alteration would benefit every student.
While improvements in service are a must, changes must also be made to the overall appearance of the coffee shop. A new non-stick floor and different lighting will not turn our coffee shop into a place where students enjoy hanging out. In fact, with the addition of a very sterile looking floor, our coffee shop looks more like a hospital cafeteria than a cool place to hang out. The few paintings that decorate the bare walls look to be taken from a local motel, and just add to the blandness of the shop. When one thinks of a coffee shop, one thinks of a place that is a little crazy, a bit eccentric and gives off a different vibe than any other place. The Common Ground is far from a “cool” place.
UR has been approached by Java’s, a popular coffee shop and hangout near the Eastman School of Music to replace the current management. By having Java’s take over the coffee shop on campus, only positive changes can take place. The advantages go beyond the look and feel of the place. The products are of an overall higher quality, with much more selection than present at the Common Ground.
Java’s has already taken on the Rochester Institute of Technology’s coffee shop, and is flourishing. Java’s runs a good business on a college campus. The shop itself exudes color and energy, with many paintings and various other items to spice up the atmosphere.
The use of many couches adds to the appearance and makes the shop feel more like home. The little details like a disco ball or a large, artificial shark present in Java’s make a huge difference in the atmosphere.
We understand that whoever controls what is now the Common Ground is working with limited space in its current location. Whoever designs the coffee shop is going to have to work extra hard to make a loud, windowless room seem comfortable and inviting. UR should look into other locations for the coffee shop, regardless of who controls it. The key is to find a place that allows for the appropriate atmosphere while offering a central location that offers students convenient access.
The Java’s at RIT is adjacent to their library, and while it stops serving coffee at 11 p.m., the space remains open 24 hours a day for student use. That exact location may not be possible on UR’s campus, but an ideal college coffee shop should function as a place for students to congregate and utilize for more purposes than just buying a coffee and leaving.
The question remains, however, is why should the common UR student care? For almost every student who has stood in a 20 minute line in the Common Ground, this is quite a simple thing to answer. We have the opportunity to see a vast improvement on campus in something that benefits everyone.
The SA President and Senate should advocate for the students and work to make sure this happens. Students can only gain from the addition of a high quality coffeehouse, one that looks and feels like a great place to hang out.
The addition of a successful and well-managed operation like Java’s would be a great asset to UR and one that should be encouraged. Regardless of whether or not Java’s gains control of the coffee shop, a change has to be made.