Campus cafe allows students to snack while studying

Students crowd Free Speech Movement Cafe in an attempt to search for study spots.
Tony Zhou/Staff
Students crowd Free Speech Movement Cafe in an attempt to search for study spots.

UC Berkeley senior Alex Horowitz has traditionally spent dead week buried under a pile of books and course readers in Gardner Main Stacks.

He usually spends four or five hours at a time surrounded by silence and the pitter-patter of laptop keystrokes, emerging only to feed his need for sustenance, caffeine and human contact.

And because the Free Speech Movement Cafe is inside of Moffitt Library, he does not have to go far to get what he needs.

“It’s kind of nice to come up here and be around all the people and the noise,” Horowitz said, reflecting on his prior experiences after biting into one of the cafe’s roast beef sandwiches. “It’s a nice study break even if I’m just up here to down some coffee real quick.”

Like many other students, Horowitz counts his blessings since the cafe, library and Main Stacks stay open 24 hours a day during dead and finals weeks.

As a result, students tend to develop a kinship to the tables at the cafe much as they would with cubicles and desks not far away.

Daryl Ross, who owns the cafe along with Cafe Zeb in Boalt Hall and Caffe Strada on Bancroft Way, has seen people become more and more at home in the cafes as the nights grow long.

“When it’s in the wee hours and people are studying for finals, a nice, close-knit feeling is created,” Ross said. “People are really appreciative, even the ones who camp out and fall asleep on their tables.”

Horowitz has noticed that the cafe even provides some relief in contrast to the libraries since they tend to fill up quickly.

“People compete for these tables almost as much as they do for the ones in the libraries,” he said. “I try not to stay unless I’m having a meal, but I get that there’s often nowhere else for people to go.”

While adjusting small bits of green leaf lettuce forcing their way out of his sandwich, Horowitz also noted that the light, healthy food offered at the cafe is more conducive to studying.

The concept behind the menu was no mistake, according to Ross, a UC Berkeley alumnus from the class of 1985. He said that the only options back then were pizza or hamburgers, and those were only to be found off-campus.
“If you eat a big heavy meal, you’re going to want to sleep after,” Horowitz said. “Light stuff like this makes more sense.”

Elizabeth Dupuis, director of the Doe and Moffitt libraries, said that future renovations will eventually allow students more flexibility as far as snacking while studying goes, but those renovations are constrained by budgetary concerns.

“FSM Cafe is the best place for students to take a break to snack,” Dupuis said. “Also, the Moffitt classrooms accessible via the separate stairway are open during this period and another good place nearby to eat and drink while studying.”

Ross said that his employees never urge students to leave since he knows what they are going through during this time of year.

“I’ve always felt it’s important to have places where students could go and study undisturbed and not have someone say, ‘Hey, it’s been an hour, get moving, kid,’” Ross said.

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