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In midst of COVID-19 pandemic, community aids GCB

GoFundMe campaign has raised over $6,500 for GCB staff in light of bar’s temporary closure

Ever since Susan Yund became manager of the Graduate Center Bar in 1994, Brown students and faculty could always count on the bar to open its doors every night for good drinks and good company.

That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit — the bar has been forced to temporarily shutter its doors since March 14. 

Despite not being able to physically meet at their favorite place for drinks and conversation, customers found a new way to help the bar and its staff in these challenging times. James Campbell MA'06 PhD’11, who started going to the bar as a grad student and now volunteers at the GCB as quizmaster, started a GoFundMe to support the bar’s staff. Over $6,500 have been donated, and Campbell will continue to keep the fundraiser going until the current shutdown is over. The money raised is given to Yund, who then distributes the money to the staff, many of whom rely on the bar as an important source of income. 

“We’re trying to find a way to keep our staff with enough money to pay the rent and buy groceries and the utilities,” Yund said. She hopes the money will help the GCB’s staff, most of whom either have had to rely on unemployment insurance or find new sources of temporary income. According to Yund, the staff “were really touched … a couple of the (staff) who did read through donors knew who a great many of them were and were really delighted.”

While the GoFundMe has been extremely successful, it comes to no surprise to Campbell that “people wanted to step up once they found out about it.” 

“The bar has always been important for the grad student community, kind of just as a place to congregate. It’s the kind of place that grad students need … a place to belong.” Campbell said. “It’s a home away from home. People (from the GCB) become part of your family.” 

Kathryn Thompson PhD’22, president of the Graduate Student Council, agreed, saying that “the GCB is very much a staple within the Brown community as a whole … it’s a really central meeting place for students.” The GSC has long supported the GCB by paying for all graduate students’ bar membership fees from their student activity fee, but no additional funds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have yet been donated.

But Thompson said that financial assistance from the GSC is definitely an option. “I would love to (help the GCB), especially since a lot of the funds that would go (toward) other events or the rest of the semester are no longer going to,” Thompson said. “We do have this extra funding that can be allocated not only to help graduate students and to provide resources for graduate students but to help staples within our community.”

Even though its name may suggest otherwise, the GCB reaches out to more than just the graduate community at Brown.

“(Going to the GCB) was a very exciting thing, because I feel like turning 21 … always leads up to the GCB,” said Cricket McNally ’22.

Olivia Tulkoff ’22 agreed, saying that “it’s like a big rite of passage for people … it’s like the one thing you can’t do until you’re 21 at Brown.” For the Brown community, it’s a place where “you’ll always see people there that you know … it’s just good cheap drinks within the same community,” Tulkoff added.

“It was a melting pot,” said Raymond Sultan MA’06, a former GCB staff member. “I met undergrads who I became very friendly with, guys from the neighborhood ... (and) I became very good friends with guys working engineering and maintenance jobs at Brown.” 

Part of why people were so willing to donate and have such strong attachments to the GCB is its safe and welcoming culture. “The thing that I think is most special about the GCB is that it is a really safe environment, and it’s a comfortable environment,” said Ivy Brennan ’16. “You don’t need to worry about being unsafe or anything being weird,” Campbell added. 

“The mission (of the bar) is a bit different … we have the luxury of being able to prioritize the community and the environment that we’ve created in that particular space, as opposed to thinking about … the bottom line,” said Ivan Monzon-Natareno ’10, a current GCB staff member. 

Even though the GCB is a non-profit, it also works to support other endeavors in Providence. According to Yund, the GCB hosts food drives for local food banks and has long sponsored a Little League baseball team, with some staff members even becoming coaches.

“The bar has been such an amazing part of the Brown community and really not just Providence, but Rhode Island, for so many years,” Sultan said. Yund “has just done an astonishingly good job of building this culture that is deeply caring and where people really pick each other up. ... It’s not surprising to me at all that people who are fortunate enough to be able to would want to return the favor.”


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