I’ve made a new friend. He’s the new tenant on the library’s first floor next to the Learning Commons café. A barista of sorts, for $1.50 a cup he dispenses a consistent 70/30 water-to-coffee ratio reminiscent of George Carlin’s “diarrhea in a cup” joke.
But between midnight to 7:30 a.m. when all campus stores are closed and a damp bike ride to 7/11 is the tipping straw on the camel’s back, this machine is my savior from the overpriced Starbucks frappes and other intestinal explosives glowing enviously in the adjacent “Grady twin” beverage machines. In these moments during the witching hour I’m sure many of you, like myself, wish the Arbor wasn’t closed, and we could get more bang for our buck on hot coffee and $2 Chester Puffs.
By around midnight, dining commons and campus stores retire for the night, giving life to the few vending machines sprinkled in the library and around campus. Whether you’re the occasional night owl or a late library regular, like myself, carrying your own overnight travel kit equipped with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and most importantly deodorant, the notion of a 24 hour campus café has probably crossed your mind at least once.
The obvious counterarguments to consider includes the cost of staffing and maintaining a 24 hour facility which no doubt relies on the manpower of busy students. But I also see great benefits for students who gain their second wind for classwork late at night after a day of classes, work, and extracurriculars.
Only during finals time do students have slightly longer shopping hours at the Arbor, with free coffee and snacks at study jams around campus. The assumption that there isn’t enough student traffic early in the quarter to warrant a late night café doesn’t consider our sinusoidally intertwined midterm, assignment, project, and lab schedules. The reality is there are many of us holed up in the library, campus classrooms, and camouflaged into dorm study lounges that would appreciate having late night access to more sustainable food and drinks that just aren’t practical for vending machines to provide like strong hot coffee or food thicker than my thumb.
However, studying night owls aren’t the only ones likely to benefit from a late night café. Not every student has a meal plan, and even those who do might have limitations in adhering to dining schedules. Students living on or near campus housing would value getting a quick bite to eat outside of the rigid hours of dining halls, reducing compounding fiscal and health costs of ordering food or compromising regularly on cheap instant noodles available in vending machines.
Still, the issue of assessing costs is an important one especially from students’ financial perspectives. If the solution is to extend the Arbor’s hours of operation, the benefits for students aren’t necessarily expanding. While we would have more food and beverage choices at night, the nutritional value of those items coupled with their price markup doesn’t offer sustainable options for students. Understandably the store has their own profit margins to maintain, but for those students who turn to the Arbor as a Mecca for sustenance, the compounding expenses incurred can be heavy. I spend at least three nights in the library, and just the financial difference between spending $3.75 on Starbucks vending machine frappuccinos to the $1.85 Arbor diesel coffee I’ve trained my stomach to handle adds up overtime.
Of course there are students who’ve mastered the art of healthy living, combating costs by carrying their own coffee and snacks to the library, and finishing their work at a reasonable hour. But to me that seems like a niche market of people that have their shit together.
Rather than extending the service hours of an existing café during pre-finals season, I would suggest maintaining a food and coffee cart in the library that stays open until at least 3 a.m. Along with the usual chips and nuts, the cart should include more substantial foods like sandwiches and bagels at a reasonable price.
Very few people choose the nocturnal lifestyle. If we really have no other choice, which is surprisingly the case for many students, having more options to maintain our health and focus in an already rigorous lifestyle can be the difference between catching up and falling behind.