Once serving as William and Sarah Lawrence's open air gazebo called the "summer house,” The Tea Haus has been around since before the founding of the college, but recently, some of the Tea Haus employees have noticed a change of pace in the space.
Sommer Mahoney (‘18), a shift worker, said, "I think there's actually a more diverse flow of people these days, especially lately. I've been getting a lot of people who've been coming in saying 'Hey I've never been here before' which is unusual because usually the Tea Haus starts to attract its own crowd.”
Another change is that the Tea Haus has now become even more affordable. "Everything is a dollar this year,” said, Meg Trask (‘15), one of the Tea Haus managers, “and that is another way to make sure that its welcoming to everyone.” She continued, “Because lot of people don't really carry cash on them, people can [now] start a tab."
This year, there have also been minor changes to the Tea Haus physically. The desk that once stood to the side of the entrance is now further into the room. "One thing that we noticed happening with the original positioning was that people would be in line and they would fill up the doorway and there would be some trouble getting people in and out," said Trask. The Tea Haus now allows for a more inward flow of customers, allowing visitors to get a fuller experience of the space and be more encouraged to stay.
There is a continual drive to make the Tea House more of an open space to foster more of a community. In the 1940s the Tea Haus was called "The Community House" and had student organizations that met inside. Throughout the years the Tea Haus has remained a community space. The managers are now trying to create more of a community for the student workers by improving communication between them. “I don't necessarily see our shift workers on a day-to-day basis or even when I come in for my shift so it's been really nice," said Mahoney.
A 'safe space' is a space on campus that is designated as a welcoming and respectful space to all students. The Tea Haus has been designated as a safe space on campus. "I think that in general Sarah Lawrence strives to be a safe space, meaning that no one feels discriminated against and no one feels uncomfortable, but I think that it's important to have designated safe spaces" said Trask.
The reason making the Tea Haus safe space that a few of the shift workers pointed out was that with a designated safe space they have justification to enforce certain codes of conduct as a worker in the space. "If someone says some sort of remark you can't necessarily call them out and be like 'I really need you not to say this here',”said Mahoney. “People would be like, 'what's your problem? We're just hanging out on the north lawn.' Well, actually in the Tea Haus...you can say something like this: It's just a space where we don't even […] play with certain sorts of language."
Reinforcing the fact that it is a safe space, along with the new physical alterations and the attempt for a better community not just for the customers but for the shift workers is part of an ongoing process to make the Tea Haus feel like more of an open space on campus for everyone. Paige Fernandez (‘17), a shift worker, said, "It feels really homey and every time I come in here I just get really happy and I think its a place that's very relaxing and the community is really supportive.”
by Joseph McFarland '16