In light of the recent announcement regarding changes to Elizabethtown College’s dining facilities, two students have started a petition on Change.org to keep the Blue Bean Café in the BSC.
Senior Nicholas Stratton and sophomore Abby Zeek started the petition. They are both employees of Dining Services and see sentimental and logistical value in the Blue Bean’s current location.
“It doesn’t make sense to add another grab-and-go place here when the Jay’s Nest is 20 feet away,” Zeek said.
“The Blue Bean has that Etown charm and I’d hate to see that go,” Stratton added. “For us, this is just a way to say, ‘Hey, some of us don’t actually want this to happen.’”
If all goes according to the College’s current plan, the Blue Bean Café will close. However, the space will not go unused.
A survey was recently sent to the campus community asking what type of food venue people would like to see in that location.
Options ranged from an ice cream venue to an Asian noodle bar.
A café will then be constructed in the High Library. Finally, the Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Wellness will feature a dining facility when it opens. These changes will be implemented over the next couple of years.
Vice President for Administration and Finance Robert Wallett said the petition is a “new, significant twist” to the College’s plans.
“The fact that they can get so many signatures in such a short time is definitely a sign we need to pay attention to,” Wallett said. As of Sunday, Nov. 12, the petition had garnered over 300 signatures.
“I feel like we really got the ball rolling, and people have said to me that they’ve noticed things changing,” Zeek said.
The idea for the changes came after the College brought in outside consultants to offer suggestions for campus improvements.
Some of the changes suggested by the consultants became part of the College’s Campus Enhancement Plan (CEP). In addition to the dining facilities, the consultants also had ideas for places from the Quad Commons and the Birdcage to the walkways near the Masters Center and Leffler Chapel and Performance Center.
Wallett said a lot of students the consultants spoke with said they were dissatisfied with the food options on campus and that some wanted more branded options like Starbucks or Chick-fil-A.
However, he said he wanted to make it clear that while the library café might serve a branded coffee like Starbucks, it would not be a Starbucks. Instead, it would just be an Etown café that features some branded coffee. Not all students are opposed to a library café either.
“I spend so much time in the library studying that a coffee shop there is way more helpful to me than a coffee shop in the BSC,” junior Angela Wesneski said. “If I’m studying late at night, I’d much rather coffee be easily accessible to me in the largest place that we have for studying on campus.”
Zeek pointed out other downsides to the plan, though, expressing concerns over how Dining Services would staff the new library café.
She and Stratton suggested increasing wages as a way to entice more students to work in Dining Services, which is currently so short-staffed that the Blue Bean and the Jay’s Nest had to adapt some of their hours.
She also said that with a smoothie bar in the Bowers Center, having a third beverage venue in the library (which she said she would not use) will not be necessary.
Stratton and Zeek plan to further advertise the petition on campus with posters and fliers. Meanwhile, the petition has received several online comments from alumni and Stratton said that a former Blue Bean employee is against the change as well.
Kathy Fry served as the Blue Bean’s barista from the day the café opened until May 2016.
She said the Blue Bean holds a special place in her heart and that she is disappointed with the College’s plan.
“I spoke to many alumni on Homecoming and other times they stopped and expressed that they sure wish the Blue Bean would’ve been there when they were students!” Fry said in an email. “If in fact the Blue Bean would move, it would be a sad day for many people and the Elizabethtown College community.”
Wallett said that if the petition gets enough signatures, the administration would debate whether or not having two coffee shops on campus is a good option.
He said another survey may be sent to find out exactly what students like about the Blue Bean (the location, the coffee itself, etc.).
“The original goal of the project is to serve students, and we have to balance what everyone wants. We’ll do all we can to deliver but someone’s got to decide,” Wallett said.
Stratton said the petition is not an act of aggression against the school.
“We’re not even against adding more diverse dining options,” Stratton said. “The petition’s name says our cause: Keep the Blue Bean in the BSC.”
For more information about dining services or current information about the hours and weekly specials at the Blue Bean Café, please visit https://www.etown.edu/offices/dining/index.aspx.