Davenport to remain autonomous

Petition drive gains over 800 signatures

The Davenport Coffee Lounge in the School of International Service building will reopen next week and remain exclusively student-run, in spite of recent talks of restructuring, Provost Cornelius Kerwin said.

When the building was closed for renovation this summer, there were some regulatory issues in regards to serving food, and the University considered having Marriott run the shop. The talks prompted the creation of a petition by the students who work in the shop and wanted it to remain a non-profit student-run organization, Randa El-Rashidi, the volunteer manager for Davenport, said.

Within a period of less than 24 hours, over 800 people signed the petition, El-Rashidi said.

El-Rashidi, who received her undergraduate degrees from AU and now works for an international organization in D.C., said that Davenport aims to create more of a co-op experience for its employees and family feel for its customers.

"Marriott is a fine corporation, but we're not a corporation," El-Rashidi said.

The students who work at Davenport provided free coffee and cookies on Friday, the day that Marriott was brought in to check out the facilities, El-Rashidi said.

"We wanted to make the statement that we are here for students, and that we will continue to support and serve the community. Everything [cookies, coffee] was out-of-pocket today from the staff," El-Rashidi said.

SIS senior Aaron Smethurst, who has worked in Davenport for the past year, said that a switch of control could make the lounge more like an expensive chain coffee shop.

"Starbucks has uncomfortable furniture that is designed to make you want to leave in a hurry and bring in new customers. We have comfortable couches... we charge $0.70 for a cup of coffee and $0.50 for a cup of tea. Prices would have to go up," Smethurst said.

There is a different kind of relationship with customers in a place that is run by fellow students than a place where people are hired to work in a restaurant, Smethurst said. One of the goals for Davenport has been to give students the chance to learn about running a business and to provide high quality food at low prices.

"Our idea has been to create a home away from home for people and maintain the essence of a university environment. Professorscan have their office hours in here," El-Rashidi said.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle