“Patsy’s Place”: Unrest over reduced cafe hours on east side of campus

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“Patsy’s Place”: Unrest over reduced cafe hours on east side of campus

Photo by Annette Espinoza

Photo by Annette Espinoza

Photo by Annette Espinoza

Photo by Annette Espinoza

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Reduced hours for the DeVos Grab-n-Go Cafe have stirred unrest among those on the east side of campus, particularly for friends of Patsy Westra, the cafe’s designated operator.

Budget cuts have placed a constraint on the number of hours Patsy is allowed to work at the kiosk. Recently, she asked to resume her 40-hour work week but was told that all cafe employees are only allowed to work up to 37.5 hours per week.

At the beginning of this school year, the cafe hours changed from 8 a.m.–3 p.m. to 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m., then changed again to the current Monday–Thursday 9:45 a.m.–2 p.m. and Friday 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Faculty and staff expressed concern over the changes, citing difficulties for the east side of campus as a whole as well as for Patsy Westra, who is widely loved in this area.

“Where we sit now is about as far east as you could be and still get an education. On this side of campus, there’s a certain degree of isolation. So one of the features of our building [the DeVos Communication Center] that helps maintain a culture of our own is that kiosk,” said Kevin den Dulk, a political science professor and executive director of the Henry Institute. “Folks are calling it “Patsy’s Place,” and that name tells you a little bit about the culture.”

Den Dulk went on to explain that the adjustments to the cafe’s hours of operation were inconvenient because of the distance from DeVos to Johnny’s to grab a quick snack or cup of coffee. For professors or students looking to grab something quickly, it is difficult to get across campus and back within ten minutes.

“It’s also about a person, and Patsy is a culture maker,” den Dulk added. “I’ve sometimes referred to her as the den mother of the building: she’s not only providing for this human need for sustenance, she’s also mentoring and engaging our students. I’ve always noticed that our alums will often go visit her first before visiting their professors, and that also speaks to the culture she has created.”

Margie Styf, the political science administrative assistant, added, “It’s easy to look at a spreadsheet and think about cost efficiency and say, ‘this is not cost efficient,’ but it’s so much bigger than that; it’s a mission, a sort of ministry that she has. [Patsy] is an integral part of Calvin’s campus, and it’s just not something you can designate with a dollar amount. She goes above and beyond her job description.”

Styf added, ”I understand if people say it’s not her job, but she has filled a need. Patsy embodies Calvin’s mission actively everyday: she is an agent of renewal, she encourages students to act justly, think deeply, and live wholeheartedly! Calvin, don’t you want more of that?”

Emily Vedra, the clinical department assistant of the speech pathology and audiology department, even created a sign (pictured) in honor of Patsy. “Patsy’s Place” is the unofficial name many faculty and staff use to refer to the Grab-n-Go cafe. Those who work in the building expressed support for both Patsy and the desire to keep “Patsy’s Place” intact despite any budget changes.

When asked to comment about the changes in the cafe’s hours, retail manager Nikolai Gorski explained, “We noticed that there were a lot of hours that weren’t making the best use of what she has to offer. So we re-assigned the hours to the best flow of business.”

Gorski went on to say that in making decisions, they went by past sales trends. With the response they’ve received, Gorski noted that they might need to restructure themselves a bit, but they’ll “always go back to whatever hours are needed.”

Asked about the concerns that Calvin Dining Services appears to be placing a higher value on profits rather than their employees, Gorski said, “I think [Calvin Dining Services] had that structure before I was here, but I have an open door policy and I want my employees to feel valued and cared for.” He added that he values Patsy and appreciates the atmosphere she has been able to create.

Reflecting on her position, Patsy said, “For years I was single and I wanted kids. I prayed to God ‘please give me kids,’ but I wanted a package. I wanted a family.”

She expressed that God answered her prayers through her job. She has worked for Calvin Dining Services for 26 years, and each year she meets new students whom she mentors.

“You’re all young adults, but to me you’re my kids. I love my job so much.”