In the Red

Opinion - Rocio Plascencia May 15The Che Cafe has spent the last couple of years in a sort of limbo while its financial status was under review, and the student-run cooperative building may be shut down for the next year until necessary repairs to the building are made. Unfortunately, the uncertainty surrounding the venue’s future has been due to the cooperative’s reputation among university planners as a money pit consistently plagued with safety issues. Hopefully, if University Centers decides to pour nearly a million dollars of student fee money into renovations, the establishment can also get the smart fiscal management that it needs to stay open.

It’s particularly sad that a building with such historical value on our campus may be forced to close its doors after so many years, but there’s no avoiding all the upgrades that are required for it to even be usable. According to the University Centers Advisory Board’s report, the cafe still requires several renovations to maintain active use of the facility, such as updating restrooms that have exceeded life cycle, as well as sprinkler and alarms systems in event of a fire. Ultimately, the safety of UCSD students and affiliates should always come first, regardless of the establishment’s rich history. Because of these potential hazards, closing down the building is not only a sensible decision but a necessary one.

The spate of safety problems, coupled with the cafe’s inability to even pay reasonable rent, makes us question the competence of the venue’s management. The first step to putting the Che Cafe back on its feet is getting enough attendance to generate revenue, but that hasn’t happened. Unfortunately for the co-op, a University Centers campus survey indicated that 77 percent of students consider the cafe a low priority venue on campus, while 83 percent stated that they never attend Che events. With this apparent lack of patronage and no visible effort on the part of the management to generate any, it’s no surprise that the Cafe can’t generate sufficient cash. Moreover, without greater student involvement, the prospect of spending so much on the Cafe’s renovation does not seem like it’s in the students’ best interest.

Many students also don’t realize that the money being spent on the cafe’s renovation comes directly from student fees; in other words, we are collectively pouring almost one million dollars of our money into repairing a cooperative that the vast majority of us don’t even use. Last year, students voted down a referendum that asked for a fee increase of $11 per quarter to go toward necessary renovations for both Price Center and the Old Student Center, which many students use on a daily basis. If we refuse to even spend a few extra dollars per quarter to help support these popular centers and their services, it doesn’t seem reasonable for our fees to go into fixing up something so generally disused.

Exacerbating the monetary problem is that the Che Cafe has been known for hosting several concerts and gigs at exorbitantly low cost to attendees. While, of course, we’re all for the idea of student-run collectives providing competitively priced goods and services, it doesn’t seem like a good strategy in the midst of such pressing financial problems — particularly when this translates into ignoring rent obligations. At the end of the day, students will end up shouldering the burden of repairs and upgrades in order to keep the Che afloat, and if financial management does not improve, we don’t want to spend such princely sums on a place that’s likely to stay in the red indefinitely.

Ultimately, drastic changes must be implemented if the cafe plans on keeping its doors open. From a fiscal standpoint, the cooperative continues to struggle and has even had to give up its non-profit status along the way. If the Che Cafe wishes to remain a successful co-op on campus and avoid potentially being replaced by another venue, the management will need to take responsibility to keep the co-op sustainable both in terms of the building’s safety and budget.

We understand just as well as anyone the difficulties associated with maintaining a profitable student-run organization, but students cannot afford to simply throw money at the cooperative to support it.

If the Che Cafe building is to reopen after future renovations, the management will need to focus on covering its own expenses. We unequivocally support the Che Cafe and its efforts to provide low-cost, if not cost-free, events and services for the UCSD community. However, safety, sustainability and fiscal responsibility must remain priorities after the renovation, whether or not the Che Cafe is able to stay intact.

CORRECTION: The article previously stated that “the cafe was under threat of closure from the fire marshal if necessary upgrades, such as fire alarms and sprinklers, were not made.” The establishment received a .52 score based on the Facility Condition Needs Index scale of .1 being excellent to .6 being replacement necessary. The establishment had “highly recommended” upgrades, but not under threat of closure. Information from the University Centers Advisory Board Facility Report.

10 thoughts on “In the Red

  1. It’s unfortunate, but The Guardian has almost been exclusively reporting statements by administration and UCAB. They stated that they were unable to reach someone from the Che for comment before printing. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they put in sufficient effort to talk to somebody. Regardless, the result has been that they are acting as the mouthpiece of the administration.

    1. Probably because their comments would be devoid of anything approaching sanity, similarly to yours.

  2. You take a very bold stance on this issue. It’s too bad that your opinion is based on false information.

    You state that renovating the Che will require “nearly a million dollars of student fee money.” A report from University Centers had the number at less than half a million dollars. That’s 100% error on your part. Although you reported on Monday that it would cost $1.5 million, so at least you are getting closer to the truth.

    Half a million dollars — sounds like a lot, right? It does, until you consider that UCEN raised its expenditures on staff salaries and benefits by more than one million dollars this year alone. Renovating the Che would be a ONE TIME expenditure of less than half of that.

    Furthermore, you state that “the cafe was under the threat of closure by the fire marshall”. This is untrue. The fire marshall’s report listed a sprinkler system as “strongly recommended”, but not mandatory. UCEN does not need to close the Che at all if it does not want to.

    I stated both of these facts at the A.S. Council meeting on Wednesday, which I attended at the Coop Union representative. I know that The Guardian always has a reporter at those meetings. It is a shame that that person did not catch the errors in this editorial before apparently approving it for print.

    There are so many more things that I could write here, such as how the Che is unique on this campus and worth funding, but I hope that realizing that your facts are wrong will at least cause you to change your opinion a little bit.

    One last thing: you cite the University Centers survey in which 83% of respondents said they had not been to the Che. That means that 17% of respondents (and if we are to believe that the sample was representative, !7% of students) had been there. That’s more than 3,000 people. How many institutions on campus have been used by 17% or even fewer than 17% of students? Probably the majority. I have never been to The Loft (which, by the way, is funded by students and LOSES $310,000 per year — far more than the Che costs to operate). I would not care if The Loft closed, but some people would. Few institutions on campus are used by even a majority of students, but that does not mean that they are useless.

    Expect a letter to the editor soon, which I hope you will publish tomorrow.

    1. Holy shit. Your “right” to vote should be taken away, it’s too dangerous to allow imbeciles like this the ability to vote for other peoples’ money.

  3. Your rather harsh editorial stance on the Che seems to be predicated primarily on the ” cooperative’s reputation among university planners as a money pit consistently plagued with safety issues”. Sounds like lazy journalism to me based strictly on what the University Center Board states. There’s usually more to a story than just one side.

    1. You know, on a free comment board anyone can post their side of the story. Why don’t you post a rebuttal instead of calling someone a mouthpiece?

  4. Agree completely. What particularly bothers me is that the majority of the people protesting the closing of the Che cafe (the 7000 signatures on the petition) are not even students! While Che Cafe has been an amazing source of music for the SD population, it has not catered to the UCSD population and as such students should not be the ones paying for the upkeep.

    If Che Cafe wants to remain open, they should get the million dollars from people who actually use the building.

    I will be extremely disappointed if the university decides to put our student fees towards this! If they do, they are clearly not listening to their students’ voices from the previous survey conducted.

    1. You are right that many alumni and non-student members of the San Diego community are signing the petition. However, they are certainly not in the majority. This means that more than 6,000 students, at this point, have come out in support of the Che. Compare this to the 1,000 people represented in the University Centers survey that this editorial cites. That survey suggested that only 17% of students, or 3,000 people, had used the Che. Based on the support that has come out in the past week, I would conclude that the survey was skewed by voluntary response bias.

      In response to your statement: “they should get the million dollars from people who actually use the building”, first of all, that number is more than twice the actual cost. Second of all, THEY DO! If you go by the UCEN survey, which we will call a conservative estimate, 3,000 students use the building. Guess what? They pay the fees that go to the building.

      Here is a list of some things to which my fees go, but I have never used:
      Commuter lounges
      AS Safe Rides
      AS Pancake breakfast
      The Loft
      OASIS Tutoring
      Most AS events

      If these services were eliminated, it would not affect me directly in any way except to save me some money on student fees. I gladly pay my fees toward these services, because I know that they are used by some people. If we did not all contribute to these public goods, campus would be a much less diverse, less active place. The Che is an institution that contributes to the campus in many ways, and for that reason, it is something that we should all be willing to support.

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