University News

UCS aims to bring Bear Bucks to Thayer

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Undergraduate Council of Students is discussing a proposal that would allow students to use their Bear Bucks accounts at restaurants and local businesses on Thayer Street. The Bear Bucks system replaced the declining balance account this semester and functions as a centralized vending system through which student ID cards act as debit cards on campus.

“The idea for this project was convenience — not having to carry around your wallet and your credit cards — just your ID card is enough to make you self-sufficient around this campus,” said Alexander Sherry ’15, a member of the UCS Admissions and Student Services Committee, who is spearheading the project to make ID cards usable at Thayer Street businesses.

The project is currently still in its research phase, Sherry said. He has contacted seven schools on the East Coast — including Harvard, Cornell and Georgetown University — to learn more about outside dining options at these schools and to see if a similar concept will work at Brown, he said.

“We don’t want to waste the administration’s time,” Sherry said.

The idea is similar to the MunchCard, a restaurant discount program established by students last spring. Both Benjamin Vishny ’14, director of MunchCard, and Sherry said that they do not believe either MunchCard or the proposed Bear Bucks plan are in competition with Brown Dining Services. Sherry said UCS will discuss the idea with Dining Services later this spring, but he added that he does not see a connection between the two.

Vishny said most MunchCard users who go off meal plan have said they use the card as a complement to cooking for themselves or to a smaller meal plan option, not as a replacement for an on-campus meal plan.

Logan Mutz ‘13.5 called the Bear Bucks project “decently convenient,” adding that it would be nice to have all his money in one place, but that it is not a great inconvenience to have to pay with cash or card.

The Admissions and Student Services Committee is also considering whether the idea is financially feasible. Sherry said that cost is a concern in the proposal, since he knows the University will not support something expensive without good reason.

Daouda Ndiaye, general manager at Au Bon Pain, said University officials talked to the restaurant’s management around 2008 about whether paying with student cards at the restaurant might be possible. But the losses the restaurant would have accrued due to the costs of required software and hardware, as well as the percentage of each purchase that would have gone to Brown, “didn’t make sense,” Ndiaye said.

Both Sherry and Vishny see a combination of the three plans — meal plan, MunchCard and Bear Bucks — as the solution. “I think having options will be good for students,” Sherry said. “If (the University) had had a system where Bear Bucks had been accepted at the restaurants, we wouldn’t have started MunchCard,” Vishny said.

Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential and dining services, declined to comment since the project is still in its early stages.