There’s a Motley-Shaped Hole in Our Hearts — Will it Ever be Filled?

Lindsay Ravetz ’25 and Belen Yudess ’25
Staff Writers

When first-years and sophomores walk by Seal Court, they see a vacant building with dark blinds shielding the windows. Juniors and seniors see this area as it once was: the heart of Scripps culture, otherwise known as The Motley Coffeehouse.

“The longest line would be right when we opened at 8 a.m.,” said Victoria Genao ’22, a former music manager for The Motley, “It would go out the door.” Those who have never experienced the vibrancy of The Motley have one question on their minds: what is going on?

The Motley has been closed since March 2020 when Scripps shut down due to an increase in COVID-19 cases last spring. Upon returning to campus, students believed the reopening of the Motley would be on the horizon. Much to the dismay of the Scripps community, the Motley has remained closed, even though other 5C cafes, such as Pitzer’s The Pit Stop, and Pomona’s The Coop Foundation, have opened.

The Motley, an exclusively student-run business, traditionally employs around 60 baristas and 10 managers. At the bare minimum, The Motley requires one head manager, as well as facilities, products, and personnel managers.

This past summer, only 3-4 managers indicated that they were willing to return in full capacity due to the heavy workload and pressures of these positions. Without a full staff, it was challenging to take the necessary steps to begin the process of reopening.

However, after returning to campus and giving people time to adjust to in-person learning, many students are eager to join The Motley team. The focus has now shifted to training managers and staff as quickly as possibly. “We are really speed lining everything,” said former Lead Barista Diya Pereira ’22. “The problem is …getting trained by Bon Appetite…We also have to hire new managers and hire baristas.”

While some obstacles have been overcome, a much greater one still stands. Since the closing of the Motley, delayed communication from Scripps administration has prevented Motley leadership from taking further action to reopen as soon as possible.

“I think we just honestly weren’t a priority,” said Genao.

A small group of former Motley employees have been spearheading the struggle to reopen the coffeehouse as soon as possible. This includes seniors Julia Thomason ’22, Uma Nagarajan-Swenson ’22, and Pereira. After originally being told that The Motley would not be opening in Fall 2021, Pereira had a strong reaction.

“I had a big issue with that because…you are taking away a piece of the community, you are putting people out of jobs who are relying [on working] at the Motley and [having] that source of income,” Pereira said. “It’s a space on campus that is central to Scripps. I can’t imagine Scripps without the Motley.”

The clock is ticking on preserving The Motley’s culture, as seniors are the only class who have experienced a full year of Scripps’ beloved cafe. Managers reminisce on their time at The Motley fondly.

“We would be blasting music, usually Kali Uchis or, I don’t know, something upbeat,” said Genao. “You can chat with the baristas…and then the sitting room space is usually super crowded.”

Former staff agree that there is hope for The Motley to re-open as early as this semester with COVID-19 protocols in place. This is dependent upon communication between administration, the faculty primary director of The Motley, and The Motley head managers.

“We are hoping to get it open this semester…we are really trying to make it work. It also depends on what the administration expects from us and they really expect a lot from us now, especially with COVID,” said Pereira.

“I feel like we’re very hopeful to [open in] some capacity, whatever that looks like. Even if the space is open and we’re not serving any coffee or anything…I think [it] is hopefully feasible.” said Thomason.

Upon its reopening, the staff is trying to fulfill an ongoing initiative to create a more inclusive environment for students. According to Medha Gelli ’23, a former events manager, this includes a narrower focus on sustainability and physical accessibility through the creation of committees among the managers and baristas.

“The [sustainability] subcommittee was…making sure that all the ingredients of the things we were selling [have] labels…We were trying to figure out a better way of disposing [of] waste water as well,” said Gelli. Additional plans to remodel The Motley were put to a halt, but conversations to make the entryway to the cafe more accessible for people with wheelchairs and other needs continued. Gelli then said, “We were all working towards the same theme…trying to make the Motley better one step at a time.”

From daily innovative whipped cream flavors to the Valentine’s Day Drag Show, The Motley was a unifying force within the Scripps community and helped showcase the vibrant student body. “The Motley [is] not only geographically the center of campus, but it really was the heart of all social life in my opinion,” said Genao.

This is a shared sentiment among many upperclassmen, who consistently express utter shock when reminded that first and second years have never stepped foot in the coffeehouse. “I feel so bad… Honestly freshmen and sophomore year were two of the best years of my college experience here… And that was because of the Motley,” said Periera.

It is safe to say that the community is anxiously awaiting The Motley to liven up Seal Court. “I’ve had enough of this weird vibe,” said Pereira. “I need my coffee. I need to be around the people I love. And I want other people to be a part of that.”

Image Source: Voices at Pomona College