A Proposal for a George Mason Faculty Club
Faculty members at many colleges and universities have created faculty clubs to provide faculty, administrators and staff with a place to meet and get to know each other over coffee, lunch or an afternoon drink. At Mason, many of us have wondered why we didn’t have such a place. As the university has grown in size and stature, and as the faculty has become more diverse, the need for such a common “watering hole” has become apparent. And given the current emphasis on interdisciplinary teaching and research, there is now an even greater need for a place where professors from different departments and disciplines can get to know each other and exchange ideas.
A faculty club on the Fairfax campus would provide opportunities to break down the intellectual and social walls that now separate various schools and departments. It would provide a space for the kind of informal social interaction and intellectual discourse that inevitably lead to greater cooperation, innovation and inspiration. It would create a greater sense of collegiality and common purpose among the faculty and between faculty and administration. For many of us, it would enhance our work and campus life by making both more stimulating and satisfying.
Neither the old ”George’s” in the Johnson Center nor the bar and restaurant at the Mason Inn was successful in satisfying this need for a convenient and intellectually nourishing meeting place. With the support of the university and a sufficient number of our colleagues, we propose to try again, this time with an independent faculty club run by and for its members—a place we can truly call our own.
Structure and Membership
We propose to establish a non-profit association or corporation to be called the George Mason Faculty Club, a membership organization that would be open to all faculty members, full-time, part-time, adjunct and retired. Membership would also be offered to current and retired administrators and past and present members of the Board of Visitors.
The Club would be governed by a Board of Directors elected by the members. The Board would be authorized to maintain its own accounts and have the authority to enter into contracts and hire auxiliary personnel to perform services under the direction of a club manager, to be chosen jointly by the Board and the food service provider.
The Club would charge a membership fee of $25 per semester. It would also offer charter membership to faculty members, administrators and to the University on behalf of its senior administrators, for $250. Charter members would be exempt from regular membership fees. All membership fees would be deposited into a Reserve Account, and be used to cover unanticipated operating losses and pay for capital expenditures. Membership fees would be waived for professors and administrators in their first year at the University, and for retired professors and administrators.
Space and Place
The Club would lease the necessary space, kitchen equipment, bar and dining room furniture from the University for a dining area, bar and lounge at a guaranteed annual rental rate sufficient to compensate the University for its incremental out-of-pocket costs associated with providing such space and equipment. The Club would also make annual contingent lease payments equal to a negotiated percentage of any operating profit the Club might realize. In negotiating a contract, our aim would be to insure that the university will not “subsidize” the Club and that the Club will not be a source of “profit” for the University.
The University would reserve the right to use the space when it is not in use by the Club, at nights, on weekends, during the summer and during semester breaks.
After discussion with University officials, we recommend the Club occupy the location on the third floor of the Johnson Center once occupied by George’s. This would include the kitchen, the open dining area and the space currently used as a Faculty Lounge.
The Club would be open Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters, offering continental breakfast, lunch and late afternoon bar service. Limited service might also be available on Fridays. The Club lounge would offer complimentary morning and afternoon coffee and tea to all faculty and administrators, members and non-members, with voluntary contributions requested of non-members.
Food and Beverage Service
The Club would contract with an outside vendor to provide the food and beverage service. After conversations with officials from the university and Sodexo, we anticipate that the contract would be with Sodexo under terms of the master contract already in place with the University. We anticipate that as part of the contractual agreement, Sodexo would assign one of its chefs to work directly with the Club’s Board of Directors and serve as full-time chef-manager of the food and beverage operation.
For a Club to be financially viable, we believe there would need to be 400 active members who, on average, eat one lunch a week at the Club during the fall and spring semesters, plus the occasional breakfast and late-afternoon drink at the bar. Our initial pro forma assumes that continental breakfast would cost $7 and the cost of lunch would range from $10 to $15, excluding wine and beer. For billing purposes, members may be required to keep a credit card on file with the club for payment of charges. There would be no tipping or cash transactions. To assure financial viability, the Board may decide it is necessary to require members to spend a minimum on food and beverage each semester.
Members would be allowed to bring guests to the club for meals or drinks, but no one guest will more than three times per semester.
The Club would be authorized to provide breakfast, lunch or cocktail service to groups of up to 25 people at the request of any member, who shall be present and responsible for payment. Such special events shall not be allowed to disrupt the regular food and beverage service.
The Club would be responsible for any operating losses from the food and beverage service, with any losses covered by Reserve Account.
Rutledge Dennis Steven Pearlstein Joseph Scimecca