The Trinitonian reported on the floundering Tigers' Den in its March 20 issue. I wish more space had been dedicated to this story, because the presence of this facility is important to this campus. Its lack of use by students endangers it as a viable social space in the future. There are currently no plans in the works to address the future of the Tigers' Den. It will limp along as is for the time being.
As background, the 2001 Quality of Student Life Task Force recommended that the University have a pub on campus as a social space for students, faculty, and staff to gather. Everyone likes that in theory. I like that we have this space and that we serve beer and wine on campus. It reinforces our message that we are not opposed to lawful and responsible alcohol use. Also, by having this facility we don't have the fight. That fight was often the panacea students imagined when invoking the memory of the former Rathskeller at the same location. That was a true pub and was closed around the time the drinking age changed.
Despite efforts by ARAMARK and Student Affairs to try different things and to market the Tigers' Den it has never met the expectations envisioned. One of the reasons is obvious: alcohol is not served to a majority of our students, who happen to be underage. When alcohol is more freely accessible off campus and in dorm rooms, why would underage students choose to go to the Tigers' Den?
At Sewanee they have a very successful pub but it is THE only game in town on most nights. (Sewanee is isolated in a remote location in Tennessee - pardon the redundancies.)
Last year Student Affairs did some preliminary investigative work and found that for underage students there is little to draw them to the spot. There is not a full kitchen there and there are not other pub-type games, entertainment, and things to draw a crowd. I should note that when this room was strictly a game room/tv room it didn't draw a crowd either. Nor did it draw a crowd when it was a coffeehouse or when it was simply a cozy, dark, comfy study room. We have "been there - done that" in this space and there is a little fatigue around turning this into a winner.
For Student Affairs this raises two issues. First, is this just a crummy location? Since the 1980's it has been poorly functioning. Second, is the idea of a campus pub (not unlike the idea of a convenience store) just a fine idea, but not good in practice. Where this goes from here is any one's guess. The solution will have to be based on student needs and desires for an attractive social gathering space on campus. While the Tigers' Den was never set up to make money, it can't continue to lose it either.
Whether a pub, a coffee shop that also serves beer and wine, or a restaurant-type facility, the Tigers' Den could be a campus jewel. Losing the opportunity to make it a viable space for students would be a shame. We probably wouldn't get it back. (Weigh in on the short poll at right.)