The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Garden Room combats apathy

The Faculty Senate is seeking ways to revitalize the struggling Garden Room, a dining facility that opened last fall as part of an effort to cultivate the University's intellectual community.

The facility, located on the West Range, is supposed to foster student, staff and faculty interaction, but has not been attracting enough patrons, Director of Dining Services Edward Gutauskas said.

The Garden Room needs to become more profitable, Gutaukas said.

"It's a popular place but it doesn't cover its own cost," he said.

About 75 faculty, staff, graduate students and invited undergraduates now eat lunch each weekday at the Garden Room, he added.

"If we can increase the usage 15 or 20 people a day" the facility will cover its own cost, Faculty Senate Chairman David T. Gies said.

Gies also said the Garden Room could use some improvement.

"The Garden Room has been successful in that it's provided a place for faculty, staff, grad students and undergrads to come together. The problems have all been focused on the quality of the service and the quality of the food," he said.

Dining Services officials said they have been brainstorming ways to attract more customers by improving the Garden Room's food and service, Gutaukas said.

"We have been working with the Faculty Senate and getting input from faculty members about what they liked and what they didn't like from last year," he said. "Based on that information, we wrote a new menu for this fall. We also are working on making the service more timely, so people can get in and out in an hour or less."

Two years ago, former Senate Chairman Jahan Ramazani and Gies, the Senate's Research and Scholarship committee chairman at the time, proposed the Garden Room -- "a space where faculty could exchange ideas over good food, inviting students to join them," Ramazani said.

Part of its appeal is that it is designed as a place where students and faculty can dine together for free.

Undergraduate College students can pick up a Cavalier Card through Assoc. College Dean Gordon Stewart's office, which they can use to pay for taking a faculty member to lunch at the Garden Room.

"We want to get the word out to undergraduates -- they can invite faculty out and the College pays," Gies said.

Both Gies and Ramazani said they hope that the Garden Room will become more popular with the community once improvements have been made.

The Garden Room was part of Ramazani's push for an "intellectual community" where faculty, staff and students could meet and talk together outside of the classroom.

"Our experience has been that many faculty members feel cut off from colleagues in different disciplines and from a real sense of community, so we hoped a good dining facility would be one part of the solution," Ramazani said.

Computer Science and Engineering Prof. Jane Prey said she enjoyed the Garden Room and has not experienced any problems with service or food.

"I have been to the Garden Room several times and I think it is a nice place to have lunch and it's very convenient. It's good to have a place where we can sit down and not eat fast food, that's quiet so you can talk and that is close by," Prey said.