Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Brown Faculty Club

We didn't have to linger in the stately entranceway of the Faculty Club more than a minute before someone approached us and asked if we were waiting for someone.

When first entering, it is hard to make sense of the spatial layout of the floor as walls or partitions separate and break up space on the first floor. When turning a corner or walking around, there are rooms that are unable to be seen from certain angles in the house. In fact, whole areas of the house seem to be out of view until you turn a corner or go through a threshold of a doorway. What is also interesting about the layout of the first floor is the partitioning and concealment of the kitchen and staff that work behind the scenes at the Faculty club. For example, swinging doors that lead to the kitchen and prep spaces for the staff occupy almost half of the first floor. In the back of the house, there is a card machine, where a register lies, dimly lit, in order to swipe a student’s card. It is relatively unseen, neatly tucked away in the recesses of the space.

It was easy to see the hierarchy of command that flows throughout the space. The presence of waiters is most obvious, followed by chefs who periodically walk in and out of the swinging door. With closer observation, one can notice the lower ranks of the administrative staff -- receptionists, staff in charge of day-to-day maintenance. Finally, there is the management, who travel through the building, serving as both authoritative figure as well as greeter and public relationship spokesperson.

It was a member of the management who explained to us that the club plan is now, for the first time, available to seniors as an add-on to the normal meal. As a part of joining, members are invited to all of the events that the Faculty Club hosts including jazz nights, readings, and various theme nights throughout the academic year. Seniors can now “hand someone their card” and arrange a luncheon or dinner at the stately club, an ideal site for professional networking.

Spatial Arrangement:

The building, located on 1 Magee St (the only building on the street), is elevated so that one is unable to see into the windows. In fact, if it were not for the two flags, one that has “Brown Faculty Club” embroidered into the white cloth hanging above the covered door entrance, one would not know that this building hosts a particularly exclusive location.

The layout is such that when one first walks in, past the foyer, to the left one can find a waiting room of sort, adorned with plush couches and chairs, and portraits hanging along the walls, underlit with a dim lighting. In fact, the whole room is illuminated with soft light, giving the impression of a home away from home. Opposite this waiting room, which also serves as a reading room, lies one of 5 dining rooms, each with the possibility of becoming private with a simple close of the heavy wooden doors that are scattered throughout the house.

We were offered to take a tour of the facility. When we hesitated as to whether or not to leave our purses in the waiting room during the tour, the management assured us that this place was a safe place and that we could feel comfortable leaving items unattended. What makes the environment so reliable could be any combination of its manageable size, constant surveillance / administrative traffic, or exclusive nature.

We were left wondering to what extent is the quality of the food at the Faculty Club any better than the daily offerings at the Ratty. We looked at the daily special of the faculty club and today’s offering at the Roots and Shoots section of the Ratty and found the following menus:

Faculty Club Menu:

Chef of the day – Grilled Chicken with Mustard Dill Cream over Garden Rice with Asparagus

Catch of the Day - Grilled Swordfish simply prepared with Lemon, Scallion and Extra Virgin Olive Oil over Autumn Rice, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli


Ratty Menu: Roots and Shoots Selection

Vegan Italian white beans, brown rice, spicy black bean veggie patties, sliced American and provolone cheeses, couscous & chickpea salad, vegetarian burrito bar

Could it be that only a select few seniors who take on the plan at the Faculty Club will ever be able to describe the difference between Garden Rice, Autumn Rice and Brown Rice?

In any case, the club certainly makes a great effort to excite with diverse offerings. The Faculty club incorporates local products into their menu and tends to “buy from local farms through Community Harvest and Farm Fresh Rhode Island initiatives. During the growing season, [one] can find greens, tomatoes, herbs and cucumbers from Arcadian Fields and other family farms.”

The Faculty club boasts private spaces for groups of six to sixty. Dining services suggested it could be an ideal space for seniors to host small parties or entertain family. Rooms and areas are compartmentalized while others serve no purpose but to be a comfortable place to wait before gaining entry and enjoying a meal.

As a member of the Brown Faculty club, you also have privileges at over one hundred clubs around North American, Israel, England and Spain, as a part of the Association of College and University Clubs. This creates an interesting global network far from the McGee address.

Overall, the Faculty Club can be seen as both a threat and a lure. It's atmosphere is welcoming, warm – we were even offered bottles of chilled water while waiting in the cozy entrance - but the effort to “see and be seen” can stir feelings of uneasiness. It is also the subtleties -- the elevation of the building, the specific separation and use of each room, and the incredible immaculateness made us feel somewhat out of place. Every mechanism is hidden. This feature of the Faculty Club illustrates an excerpt of Foucault in his discussion of the most successful conditions of power: "power is tolerable only on the condition that it masks a substantial part of itself. Its success is proportional to its ability to hide its own mechanisms" (Foucault, 86).

Lydia & Monica

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