Students respond to closing of Etta’s Cafe
Etta’s Cafe, frequented mostly by students and faculty in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, will close after the 2016-17 academic year, the Sam Fox School Associate Dean for Finance Bobbe Winters told students and faculty in an email Friday.
The email, citing a decline of patronage to Etta’s, located in Steinberg Hall near the Kemper Lane Art Museum, over the past few years, announced the decision to close it and noted that surrounding cafes, including Hillman Hall’s Grounds for Change and Ridgley Hall’s Holmes Lounge, will remain open and available to students.
The email sparked an immediate reaction from Sam Fox students, some of whom were upset by the closing of what has become a favorite eatery.
“I eat breakfast there; I meet up with people there. I am friends with the women who work behind the counter,” senior and communication design major Shannon Levin said. “I’m in Etta’s at least once, twice, three times a day, just because we’re at the art school for so many hours. And you just can’t miss it—it’s a staple.”
Some students feel the alternative options proposed by administrators are inconvenient, especially for those who have limited time to travel to other campus eateries between studios. In addition, the limited hours of both Grounds for Change and Holmes leave students without access to food on the East End of Danforth Campus after 3 p.m, whereas Etta’s was open until 5:45 p.m.
“A common complaint is that Etta’s is not open late enough. Not all of us have time to go elsewhere for food, and since we are not allowed to eat in studio, the closing of Etta’s is upsetting and reveals how little this school cares about our well-being over its bottom line,” sophomore fine arts major Amy Chen wrote.
Following the emailed announcement, many students contacted Dining Services, Winters and other Sam Fox administrators to express their disappointment about Etta’s closing. In response to student concern, Dean of the Sam Fox School Carmon Colangelo a second email acknowledging the exclusion of students in discussions about Etta’s future Saturday.
“In retrospect, we should have discussed this more directly with the students and rest assured, I will do so now before we make any final decisions,” Colangelo wrote.
According to Levin, Etta’s acts as a communal gathering space within Sam Fox.
“The number one thing that is most important at the art school is morale and community. That’s what keeps people going because other than that, you just have sheer stress, and food is a big part of morale. Etta’s provides food and community. So without Etta’s, I feel like the art school would kind of fall apart,” she said.
In addition to concerns about losing the food and drink options Etta’s currently provides, students also expressed concerned for the cafe’s Bon Appetit workers.
“They’re a part of our faculty almost, and when we’re stressed or whatever, since they recognize us, they might do something nice like give us an extra cream cheese,” senior and communications design major Susan Lee said. “It’s nice when people at your eatery do small things like that that really show they care.”
“Sandy, Chandress and Tamara know me by name, face and order,” Chen wrote in a Facebook post. “Etta’s is a cultural institution among Sam Fox that is valued.”
In a statement to Student Life, Associate Vice Chancellor for Resource Management Alan Kuebler confirmed workers will be relocated elsewhere on campus.
In light of student and faculty response, Kuebler also noted that the University would continue to explore alternative options for Sam Fox students.
“The Etta’s location has required a subsidy for years and the [Sam] Fox School determined that that situation was not sustainable. As stated earlier, the parties will huddle to again consider the various factors that are involved as we work to meet our students’ needs. We will consider all options including changing operating hours of other dining locations,” the statement read.
Additional reporting by Chalaun Lomax