UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Coffee Considerate: Atrium Cafe or Wit’s End?

As the fall semester revs into high gear and students start walking around campus looking like zombies, coffee begins to crawl up the scale to become a highly treasured commodity. It helps that UMass Boston students and faculty have coffee readily available throughout several campus locations.

With the addition of the new Campus Center, members of the UMB community now have one more option of where to get their fix. At the heart of the Campus Center sits the Atrium Café, the latest UMB retreat, where students, faculty, and staff can enjoy drip coffees, espresso drinks, sandwiches, and hot soups while they read and recline in comfortable chairs. However, this latest retreat may be at the expense of an old time UMB favorite.

When asked if the opening of the Campus Center has affected business, Mellanie Gould, manager of the Wit’s End Café stated that it did. “With the relocation of the student centers, clubs and offices from the fourth floor of Wheatley to the Campus Center, most of our customers are no longer here.”

With the closing of the two cafeterias in McCormack and Wheatley, the Wit’s End staff conceives it is more convenient for students, staff, and faculty to remain at the Campus Center than to go all the way up to the upper floors of Wheatley where not much remains in terms of student life. But the Wit’s End still has a strong clientele remaining devoted to the student-run establishment.

“The Wit’s End is more casual and comfortable,” stated Farah Ali-Khan who sat with a hot chocolate and friends. “The Campus Center does not have that homey feel that this place does.” Friends of Ali-Khan agreed.

“The staff here is friendlier and the crowd is better, it’s more private,” said Sharon Nambudripad sitting with her books.” “The staff there is too stiff, customer service is not as friendly as the students serving us at the Wits End will be,” stated a third friend, Nemisha Jawra.

Camille Crawford, who sat at Wit’s for her office hours as a student mentor, admitted she had never been to the Atrium Café. In fact, she said that she chose this location on purpose because “there is more sense of community. I know more people, and I come here because of the familiarity.”

Eric Haaland also confessed to not frequenting the new Campus Center. “I am a philosophy major, so I am here all the time,” stated Haaland. But when asked what he would do if the Philosophy Department moved to the Campus Center, Haaland said that he’d still go out of his way to visit the Wit’s. “I thought that building would be more for students, but because the administrative offices have been shifted there, the Campus Center doesn’t have that feel. I wish there were more student run services on this campus,” Haaland said after a pause, “I like the Wit’s because it’s student-run.”

The Wits End employs approximately 15-20 UMB students who handle the café’s entire operation.

Student Elizabeth Hill bluntly declared, “I come here because it’s cheaper.” In fact, all customers interviewed at Wit’s End mentioned the benefits of low-cost coffee on the student budget. “It’s still Sodexho, but they raised the prices. Why? Because it’s in a brand new building?” asked Ali-Khan.

Gould felt that there is a benefit for students to patron a café that is student run because, “we go to school with our customers, so we know their average day. We know their schedules, we know what they like, what they can afford – more so than a corporation like Sodexho.”

And indeed, students like Jawra recoiled at the idea of corporate-run café.

“That place is way too commercial!” she exclaimed. Drink requests at the Atrium may sound eerily familiar. That is to say, if you think you’d have to find a Starbucks to order a “Grande Mocha-Latte,” think again. One might be a lot nearer to you than you realize. That’s right, drink sizes are named “Tall” and “Grande,” just like the corporate conglomerate. Also, the coffee comes from Seattle’s Best.

But many UMB students appreciate the atmosphere provided by the Atrium Café. “I study at the Wit’s End too, but I’ve been coming here lately because the chairs are more comfortable,” stated Corey Taylor. “It’s a nice sunny open space and there is more food available here.” Taylor also felt that, “the coffee here is better, so it is worth paying a bit extra.”

Several students relaxing and enjoying their coffees at the Atrium admitted to never having been to Wit’s End Café. “I go to wherever is closer. It doesn’t make much of a difference to me,” stated an anonymous patron to the Atrium.

The staff at the Wit’s End would like members of the UMB community to consider differently as they are now undergoing a process of having to actively promote the café back to business. When asked what she would say to UMB students to encourage them to visit the Wits End, Gould responded “we’re a student-run café – we know what our customers go through every day, we understand your needs because we’re students too. We understand your stresses, we understand your pressures.”

The bridge that exists between Wit’s staff and customers is what keeps customers like Ali-Khan, Jawra, Nambudripad, Crawford, and Haaland loyal. “The Wit’s End is festive! Where else can you go to watch The Simpsons during exam period?” exlaimed Crawford.

The Wits End Café is located on the third floor of Wheatley Hall.