An all too familiar feeling amongst UC San Diego students like myself is the disdain of waiting 20 minutes for a drink at the Price Center Starbucks at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday only to have no table in sight. And unfortunately, for those who wish to have a place for a late-night sip and study session, the other on-campus options are few and far between. Of UCSD’s 10 coffee shop options that are not run by Housing, Dining, and Hospitality, most close by 8 p.m., with Starbucks remaining open only until 11 p.m. Compounding this problem is the fact that most non-HDH coffee spots have limited or nonexistent seating — Muir Woods, Peet’s, and Starbucks are often filled to the brim, and the various coffee carts around campus offer very few, if any, outdoor seating options. With Oceanview Terrace being the only truly 24-hour study and snack spot on campus, it is high time that UCSD expands the presence of both large and open-late coffee bars on campus.
Providing more coffee bars would yield a variety of positive outcomes for students and the local community — the main benefit being ample safe meeting spaces for students, groups, and faculty to meet at all times of the day. Currently, the only 24-hour study space offered on campus throughout the entirety of the quarter is OVT. While a great space for Thurgood Marshall College students, for the majority of students residing on campus, this spot is too far to serve as a resource. Distance is an issue for many students who may not feel safe walking across campus at 2 a.m. Providing more on-campus coffee shops would mitigate the issue of distance many students face in getting to a 24-hour or open-late study space
Aside from the aforementioned issues with OVT, one unavoidable drawback is that it is run by HDH. People have a multiplicity of reasons for choosing non-HDH spots like Muir Woods and The Art of Espresso. For example, many people enjoy these locations because they offer niche products and lower prices, contrasting the perceivably high prices for mediocre products provided by HDH locations. One reason I personally enjoy these spots is that they serve as an oasis of comfort in the monotony that can be 24/7 life at UCSD. Overall, these coffee spots offer a sense of community and homeliness because they are removed from the UCSD dining system, making them organically student-centric.
Allowing local businesses to provide new on-campus snack and study spaces would also benefit the small business community of San Diego as a whole. By choosing vendors like Perks, a former campus favorite, or Better Buzz Coffee Roasters, which is beloved throughout San Diego county, UCSD would give students easier access to coffee bars they already enjoy. Likewise, UCSD could also offer some of the coffee carts the option to move into physical, indoor locations to allow for expanded hours of service, office hours, and study space.
Because several of the colleges already have their own coffee bars, transitioning from a coffee bar desert to an espresso shop oasis would be feasible. Eleanor Roosevelt College and the Village are currently served by Peet’s Coffee, Muir is served by Muir Woods and the Art of Espresso, and several of the colleges are home to outdoor coffee carts, some of which could be expanded to include indoor study spaces.
UCSD would only need to create two new coffee bars from scratch — one in the currently under construction North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Community to serve both Marshall and the new Sixth College, and one in the currently under construction Pepper Canyon trolley station area to serve both Earl Warren College and the area around the current Sixth. Another logical step would be for UCSD to expand the hours of some of the current coffee bars. For example, UCSD should turn the Price Center Starbucks into a 24-hour location. This option is both a realistic and practical solution because UCSD has the final say in the hours of the location.
The topic of more non-HDH study and snack spots could be explored through an intersectional lens as well — new coffee spots could both showcase student art and provide more on-campus jobs. More on this topic will be explored in part two.
What is most important right now is that the ball gets rolling. The ultimate allure of a coffee bar is that it is a community space — one which creates a certain sense of familiarity and acceptance for those who inhabit the spot routinely. By expanding the existing hours of current on-campus coffee bars while also ensuring that new ones be built with both students and the community in mind, UCSD would be taking a step in the right direction to create a better study and snack experience for those who live, work, and play on campus.