Big Green Bean to close its doors
If you believed the BlitzMail messages circulating through campus this past weekend implying the Student Assembly had shut down the Big Green Bean, you were right. Almost.
The Bean, the late night coffee and dessert bar open seven nights a week on the first floor of Collis Center, will no longer exist come Fall term. Students will not serve other students at their tables.
But much of the menu -- including desserts -- will be transferred to Lone Pine Tavern, just downstairs from Collis, and, as suggested in the message, the atmosphere of the area -- an environment appropriate for studying with dimmed lighting, tables for students and occasional music and entertainment -- will remain the same, according to the parties that worked on the decision.
The Assembly was asked by DDS, which runs Lone Pine Tavern, and the Student Activities Office, which runs the Bean, for advice about the decision, but the final decision was not the Assembly's.
Assembly President Janos Marton said he had not widely circulated information about the effort to close the Bean because he had not considered it a "big deal" and had not been sure about the final decision.
"The reason this is becoming such a big deal is people were provided with misinformation," Marton said. "When you have this grassroots campaign -- 'save the Big Green Bean' -- people assume the worst."
Asked whether knowing that so many people were so passionate about the Bean when he was first contacted to make recommendations about the space might have impacted his efforts, Marton said "It's tough to say because I don't think [students] would have blitzed if they understood" details about the plan.
"I wouldn't call this 'shut down.' I think it's potentially making a more efficient system."
For his part, Dartmouth Dining Services Director Tucker Rossiter said he saw responsibility for circulating information as lying with the Assembly. Both Rossiter and Marton said DDS was planning how to advertise the newly redesigned Lone Pine in the fall, so DDS had not seen a need to circulate information before then.
DDS, which runs Lone Pine Tavern, the Student Activities Office, which runs the Bean and Marton said that no students would be fired as part of the Bean closing.
The Office of the Dean of the College was the first to ask that Lone Pine and the Bean, two services offered in the same building during similar hours, be scaled back, according to the directors of the Student Activities Office. The Bean is subsidized by the office to the tune of $28,000 a year, according to Linda Kennedy, the director of the Student Activities Office.
Rossiter and Joe Cassidy, the associate dean of student life and the director of Collis, found themselves in similar positions and were the first to come up with the option of combining Lone Pine and the Bean in January. The alternative was to scale back hours at both places.
Rossiter contacted the Assembly through a third party in order to obtain student input.
Cassidy, Rossiter and Assistant Director of Dining Services David Newlove met three times with Assembly members including Mats Lemberger '06, Cameron Nienaber '04 and sometimes Marton, Rossiter said.
The Assembly was presented with a need to make cuts, and administrators supported the option of striking the Bean, according to Rossiter. The students made a number of recommendations, including implementing efforts to maintain the study-friendly atmosphere of the Bean.
Few students knew about the final decision until Aekta Shah '05 found out about it from a friend who was one of the four student managers at the Bean and penned the original message that circulated this past weekend.
She acknowledges that that message contained a number of inaccuracies. It had the accidental effect of prompting hundreds of emails to Marton, many of them angry and, Marton said, uninformed.
The Bean was created by Kennedy as part of the Student Life Initiative in response to student demands for a late-night space that could provide a social alternative, Kennedy said.
"There was never a belief it could make money, or even sustain itself, so it was given a College budget," she said. The money was spent on everything the Bean needed, namely student employees, who made up the bulk of expenses, and food.
Food was more expensive than at DDS-run dining halls because it could not be made in the Bean's tiny kitchen.
Rossiter said Lone Pine was picked out as making a loss because of the way other dining halls are organized, with all of the Thayer dining halls lumped together, for example, because they use many of the same resources and staff.
Lone Pine Tavern is not grouped with any other dining hall.
The Bean gathered a "clientele that's quite passionate about it," Kennedy said. "I think it's a niche -- it's cozy, it's friendly, it's quirky -- on purpose -- and it's comfortable."
Lone Pine may be able to offer the same services on paper, but "I think Lone Pine was set up to be different," Kennedy said. "Trying to capture the Big Green Bean audience; I think they'll find that difficult."