A change in the wind

Impact of University Center redirects campus traffic

Mary Cook swipes in students at the Quad Cafe, where more and more students are deciding to dine between classes
Mary Cook swipes in students at the Quad Cafe, where more and more students are deciding to dine between classes Photo by: Devin Anderson

In fall of 2014, Westside Cafe served 27,647 people between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., while the University Center’s Quad Café has already served 80,999 during those times this fall.

There are a lot of projections made when there is major construction on a college campus. The time it will be finished, the amount of materials that are necessary, the labor, etc. What isn’t always necessarily a thought is how the building will change the campus as a whole.

The University Center (UC) opened in January of 2015 and has since had a major impact on the people and other buildings around it.

There have been a number of noticeable changes, particularly in reference to buildings designated for dining, the most obvious of these being the closing of Westside Café and Between Chapters Café.

When examining similar numbers at The Rock Café as the UC and Westside, there has been a drastic decrease from last year. Last fall between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., The Rock served 122,752 patrons. This year that has decreased 34.6 percent to 80,214. The Market saw a 46 percent decrease in sales between this fall and last fall. The IRC Starbucks is hurting, too, having seen a 27 percent decrease from last year in response to the opening of a new Starbucks in the UC.

“I knew they wanted everybody to go to the UC,” said Retail Dining Service Manager Laura Seay. “That was kind of the plan, but you just don’t realize in a huge project like that all of the little ramifications.” Those ramifications aren’t just showing in the Food and Dining Services department either. Scott Garrison, Dean of FLITE, has noticed some shifts as well.

While FLITE hasn’t seen a noticeable decrease in raw foot traffic since the opening of the UC, there is a set of numbers that reflects a change: the amount of space rented for us by students in FLITE versus the UC. From Jan. 1 to the present, FLITE has had 1,698 rooms booked by student organizations, whereas the UC has had 952 in less than half that time, from Jul. 1 to the present.  The goal of the UC is ultimately 4,000 rooms booked this academic school year, according to UC reservation coordinator Shana Beisiegel. Currently at 2,564, Beisiegel believes the goal will be met and exceeded.

“They talk about the residence halls as being your bedroom,” said Beisiegel. “That’s your personal space. Then The Rock and The Quad are your kitchen, and then we have actually referred to the University Center as being like a living room. This is the social spot.”

Ferris biology senior Megan Loftus is happy to have somewhere convenient to eat and spend time between classes.

“When Rankin was still around, there was Westview and Quiznos on that side of campus,” she said. “When Rankin was knocked down, the only dining options were Westside and The Rock. So, if you only had an hour between classes, it wasn’t really an option to walk to either of those locations. In these situations, I personally packed myself a lunch so I did not have to walk back and forth across campus.”

The University Center isn’t just a place to meet for different organizations or to socialize, though. In addition to this, for approximately 24 students, excluding those in food service at The Quad Cafe, it is also where they work.

“We have increased our student staff largely for this academic school year,” said Beisiegel. “There are lots of jobs, we did a huge job fair when we were in Helen Ferris this past year. It was great, we got to see students of all different phases at the institution.”

While the changes can be hard to read, the Ferris administration is more than ready to adapt with the campus.

“Who knows what’s going to happen?” said Seay. “The UC changed everything, it changed the whole dynamic, and anything can cause that change again.”