Shakedown Takeover?

The Shakedown Café, a student-run cafe at Pitzer, will likely be taken over next semester by Bon Appétit, McConnell’s food service provider. This is a result of the $200,000 recently unearthed by Pitzer, as a large portion will be used to revitalize the Gold Student Center to increase satisfaction among students. 

According to one of The Shakedown founders, Alden Towler PZ ‘08, The Shakedown was created in 2006 by himself and 5 other students, is entirely run by Pitzer students, and focuses on serving sustainably sourced and local organic food. 

According to one of The Shakedown’s current managers, Thomas Martinez PZ ‘22, The Shakedown employs over 30 students, but that number will likely be reduced to make space for the Bon Appétit management and staff. Martinez expressed his opposition to the Bon Appétit takeover. 

 “I see The Shakedown now as a quasi art gallery-kitchen-music hub student space… I think [it would be] taking away a space that cultivated a lifelong passion for a lot of students,” he said.

Martinez believes that the current plan to spend $200,000 on the Gold Student center is an inadequate and short term solution to student dissatisfaction and that it might be better spent addressing the shortage of employment opportunities for Pitzer students and alumni.

Shakedown managers were told that Bon Appétit is planning on extending operating hours, but more specific information regarding changes is still unknown.

According to the Student Senate meeting minutes from February 23, 2020, Student Senator Abdulla Alexander PZ ‘21, is in favor of the takeover. 

“Part of the plan was to make the kitchen faster and more efficient… I think it will become more efficient with Bon Appétit,” he said.

Shakedown employee Andy Nhiv PZ ‘23 expressed his concern about potential changes in employment.

“It is an important source of income for me… there’s no limit on the number of shifts I can take [as a work-study student], unlike some other jobs I have on campus,” he said. 

According to Martinez, Student managers are in charge of everything—from human resources to advertising to menu-making—they are even in charge of finding food suppliers. 

According to Towler, these experiences have kickstarted careers in the food industry. Towler opened the first cooperatively-owned and operated cafe in Philadelphia, Win-Win Coffee, and Karan Kapur PZ ‘19 works at chocolate company Moka Origins.

Towler noted that the administration talking about a Bon Appétit takeover was not a new phenomenon and that it seemed to resurface every five years. 

“[It is] a reminder that even at a progressive liberal arts college that touts student empowerment… a large multinational corporation is given preference over a community-based, grassroots organization. It feels like a microcosm of the food and eco-justice movements which get green-washed and hijacked by corporate interests,” wrote Towler in an email to the Outback. 

Sherman indicated that they hope to advocate for The Shakedown as a space that continues to allow for student leadership, supports local suppliers, and makes the “home-style” food so many students enjoy.

Sherman and other Shakedown managers hope to discuss this with Dan Hirsch and Bon Appétit in the coming weeks.

Student Kitchens manager Zenia Gutierrez did not respond to The Outback’s request for a comment.

Maria Hernandez ‘22 is from Cartagena, Colombia. She is a Politics and French major who spends most of her time watching TV.

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