One of the major changes on campus this year has been the closing of the Oakes Room café in the Fogler Library and the reopening of Union Central in the Memorial Union. Although the café is closed in the Oakes room the space is still open for students to eat in the library. But if students don’t have their own food they have to go to the union to get something to eat while studying.
Students spend hours on end in the library, especially later in the afternoon and into the night. But Union Central is only open until two everyday, so if students wanted a quick pick-me-up after two they would have to leave campus to get one.
The loss of the Oakes Room is very inconvenient to many students. Universities across the country have cafés in their libraries and it is a valuable thing for a campus to have. It is important to have easy access to food while studying, and the closing of the Oakes Room now takes away that accessibility.
During my first-year, I often remember studying in the library late at night while the Oakes Room was still open. Being able to go down and get a sandwich so I didn’t have to walk to the dining hall was really helpful in getting my work done. It’s unfortunate that students no longer have this option and might even skip out on eating in order to get their work done.
Bringing back Union Central in place of this makes sense for the university because they will make more money from employees that go to the union. But it doesn’t make sense for students, which should be the university’s top priority over profit. It especially doesn’t make sense for their hours to only be from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Many students are in their classes at these times so they may not even get a chance to order something even if they wanted to. Now that the Oakes Room is closed, it would be beneficial for most students to have Union Central’s hours of operation changed. It makes more sense to have the café open later into the evening when most students are studying at the library.
Another café added to campus was the café in the new engineering building, Ferland, which works to serve mainly engineering students. From a non-engineering student’s point of view, this café is really frustrating. The reason behind the closing of the Oakes Room was due to staffing issues, but now the university has added another café that will mainly only serve engineering students, essentially moving that staff elsewhere. The replacement doesn’t make sense for the rest of the university, especially when the Oakes Room is accessible to students of all majors. Had the student body been asked, the Oakes Room would have kept their staff instead of moving to Ferland. Unfortunately, students were not considered in the matter.
One solution that I think would be valuable for students is adding a free coffee bar into the old Oakes Room. It would require limited maintenance and be easily accessible to students studying in the library.
I think ultimately the loss of the Oakes Room café discourages more students from going to the library. Many students find it easier to do work while having coffee or eating a snack, and unfortunately that is no longer an easy option for students on campus. Putting in a self-serve coffee bar could be a temporary solution until the university hopefully finds a way to bring back the Oakes Room to its former glory.