West House offers snack bar currency at community events

by Amber Bhutta | 10/3/19 2:00am

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"West Bucks" are offered in a variety of colors and denominations.

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Staff

The West House executive board recently reintroduced “West Bucks,” a form of currency that West House residents may receive at select house community events that can be exchanged for food at the student-run “Snack Shack.” As a continuation of an initiative that began last spring, West Bucks has seen a number of improvements since its inception.

The concept of West Bucks originated from the West House executive board’s efforts to host regular evening and weekend activities in the upperclassmen dorms’ communal living spaces during the past spring term, according to West House professor Ryan Hickox. The results of these efforts included the idea for a weekly game night to be held in the first-floor Fahey-McLane Hall lounge. Hickox added that the board first chose to “spruce up” the lounge for the game nights by purchasing numerous furniture items — including a ping pong table, a television and an Xbox — to make the area more appealing to residents. 

To accompany the game nights, students on the executive board began serving food prepared in the lounge kitchen, which began to be referred to as the “Snack Shack,” Hickox said. To maintain consistency in the amount of food residents could obtain from the Snack Shack, the executive board introduced West Bucks.

“We were keen to regulate the amount of things that people were getting at the Snack Shack,” said Hickox, whose face is on the West Buck equivalent of a one-dollar bill. “The idea was to introduce a fake currency that would add a transaction element.”

According to Hickox, Snack Shack items — which include such items as ice cream sundaes, mozzarella sticks, milkshakes and tater tots — cost between one to five West Bucks. He added that more snack items could be introduced in the future.

With the assistance of newly-hired student activity coordinators, West House brought back and expanded West Bucks and Snack Shack for the fall term. The expansion was facilitated by the fact that most first-year West House students now reside in the River Cluster.

“Even though we did it last year, it was on a smaller scale,” said student activities coordinator Kiera Bernet ’23. “Since the freshmen mostly live in a concentrated place now, it was easier for us to expand Snack Shack and West Bucks to the River, which is what we’re doing now.”

 Instead of exclusively occurring in the upperclassmen residence halls, game nights and Snack Shack will occur on Wednesday evenings in Judge Hall and on Saturday evenings in the Fahey-McLane lounge.

“It could be a good motivation for attending events,” said West House resident Makayla Dixon ’23. “But I think right now they’re just trying to give them out because even at Snack Shack, we received them. At that point, I’m not sure what the purpose is, but I think they’ll stop giving so many out at every event eventually.”

According to Dixon, West Bucks are still in the process of being circulated, meaning that students who attend the next few West House events can expect to receive five to 10 West Bucks. Bernet added that although West Bucks are currently distributed freely, she said that she thinks they could eventually serve as a prize or reward at future events.

Despite the potential for change in how West Bucks are distributed, students will not be able to purchase anything aside from food with their West Bucks, although the executive board has discussed the possibilities, Bernet said.

“The key to remember is it’s not actual currency,” Hickox said. “If we start to have [West Bucks] being redeemed for other items of value, then we’d have to think carefully about how we distribute them.”

According to Hickox, he is not currently aware of any plans for other House communities to adopt a system similar to West Bucks for their own residents.

Limitations aside, Bernet said that the purpose of West Bucks is to act as a reflection of student demand.

“Right now the demand is food, but if the demand shifts to food and something else, then the board very good at being responsive to that,” Bernet said. “West Bucks can be expected to serve whatever purpose that the community is looking for, so I would encourage anyone who has ideas or has something that they’d like to see to reach out.”