September 16, 2013

Changes Needed at Bear’s Den, Cornell Student Assembly Says

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One year after its official opening, Cornell’s on-campus pub, the Bear’s Den, is still struggling to attract students, the Student Assembly Appropriations Committee said at a meeting Monday.

The Bear’s Den opened in Willard Straight Hall in September 2012. Reflecting on the difficulties the pub has faced since its opening, S.A. appropriations committee members said the Willard Straight Hall Student Union Board — which organizes events for students and sets policies for WSH — needs to establish the pub as an environment on campus where students can drink and socialize.

“Cornell Dining has spent a lot of money in trying to get a liquor license for the pub,” Geoffrey Block ’14, chair of the appropriations committee, said. “How do we make drinking in the Ivy Room more fun?”

Student Union Board President Andrew Newman ’14 said the board needs to expand the pub’s appeal to the general student body by diversifying its programming, which would require additional funding.

“We’ve had a tough time getting people to come on a week-to-week basis to the pub,” Newman said. “We’d like $300 a week for groups to throw really cool events at the pub and inspire people to go.”

Currently, the pub caters its programming to niche organizations, with a large portion of its activity coming from cultural groups on campus, Newman said.

“A lot of our best events actually come from multicultural organizations,” Newman said. “They love it down there.”

Ian Harris ’16, S.A. vice president for public relations, said the programming board should perhaps “reach out to larger campus organizations, such as club sports or Greek life,” for programming at the Bear’s Den.

Newman said the pub currently has 13 weeks a year available to different campus interest groups for programming.

Ihsan Kabir ’14, a member of the appropriations committee, added that beyond expanding programming, the pub should also work on improving its ambiance.

“We should focus on making the pub more fun so it’s more than ‘the Ivy Room at night,’” he said.

Juliana Batista ’16, S.A. vice president for outreach, echoed Kabir’s sentiment, saying she thought one source of the pub’s dirth of consistent customers was its lack of an identity on campus.

Members of the programming board also lamented that many planned events at the Bear’s Den fail to occur due to a lack of funding and enthusiasm among student organizations.

“A lot of the initial inertia to get events planned out there did not happen. The more programs we can do, the more students we can affect,” said David Bell, the Student Union Board’s advisor.

Noah Tulsky ’16, S.A. representative for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the pub is a way the University can promote the safe use of alcohol. However, he said that the union needs to “recruit a diverse spectrum of students who represent the various aspects of the Cornell community to join their programming board.”

As a potential solution, Carol James, advisor to the Bear’s Den and director of Community Center Programs, said the pub is considering creating a paid programming role for students in order to help increase publicity.

“The creation of a paid event coordinator student position would help increase student activity,” she said. “We’re a programming venue, and we want to see what the pub grows into in the long run.”

Harris suggested that the board promote other late night programming activities to provide alcohol-free alternatives for students.

“Do[es] [the Bear’s Den] have an incentive to have more late night programming and events students would want to go to instead of drinking in light of the increase in alcohol emergencies,” he said.

Newman responded that Willard Straight Hall holds several other events, including a chili cook-off, AIDS awareness week and coffee study breaks.

“These are programs that have the potential for a lot of people from different interest groups to come together,” he said.