Selling more cups of coffee than the top-ranking Starbucks outlet in Australia is one measure of the success of the refurbished Lazenby’s; another is observing four members of the history department sitting in one corner writing a book together or a morning advanced Honours tutorial taking place in another corner.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Rathjen, made this observation yesterday (Wednesday August 15) at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official re-opening of the bistro overlooking the Sandy Bay campus’ Central Mall.
Guests of honour were Emeritus Professor Alec Lazenby, who was Vice-Chancellor of UTAS from late 1982 to early 1991, and his wife Ann.
“As we position this university, we need to think through what is it that will draw students to us, in a world where competition for students is increasingly intense, in a world where all the store of human knowledge will be found online,” Prof Rathjen said in his introduction.
“We recognise that it is not just the facts they learn or the lectures they attend, it’s that broader and more amorphous thing called the student experience.
“We need to restore to the university, or continue to invest in, the joy of the intellectual life that it is we come here to share. A large amount of that is found in contact with colleagues and it is in the social spaces within the university.
“In that spirit we have chosen as best as we are able to upgrade the quality of the food, the coffee and the social settings for our staff and students. And it is working - we did 500 cups in an hour the other day!”
One of the roles played by universities is that of a conduit between the past and the future, Prof Rathjen added, and this occasion allowed the University to recognise one of the “great figures of UTAS’ history”.
Yorkshire-born Prof Lazenby, for his part, pointed to a historical link between the Rathjen and Lazenby families.
“The Rathjens and the Lazenbys go back a long way,” he revealed. “I first met Peter’s father, Tony, in Cambridge in the early 1960s, then he was a PhD candidate under my then boss, the Professor of Agriculture. We got to know the Rathjens very well during that time. Peter came back to Adelaide in 1965, and that was the year that we came to Australia for the first time.”
He recalled being “very honoured when the students union decided to name their restaurant Lazenby’s in the late 1980s. We enjoyed many a meal there both privately and on more formal occasions.”
While here Prof Lazenby made his first visit to the Domain site for many years, and was also shown the new Medical Science Precinct and the IMAS waterfront site. He was also introduced to some of UTAS’ human capital.
“Today I met three University of Tasmania scholarship winners at lunch. If they are typical (students) then UTAS’ future is in safe hands.”
A second Sandy Bay campus eatery is about to throw open its doors again after refurbishment. The Ref is due to reopen next Wednesday (22 August) in its new guise as a contemporary food court and cafe.