The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

What the Hell Happened to Brennan’s?

Sarah Koegler
Students gather to eat and work in the renovated Brennan’s Pub Feb. 22

It was quite the shock returning from winter break to see Brennan’s Pub completely stripped of the colorful chairs and tables, walls, student artwork and soft lighting. 

The cozy, “UVM” embodying space has been changed to a lifeless space with plastic chairs and tables, and plain, artless walls. 

Many students expressed strong opinions on the changes to the space. 

Senior Ava Fusco, who works for the Davis Center, described the new space as “sterile and sad.” 

First-year Andrew Ventura said, “I thought it had a lot of character but it’s just kind of boring now.” 

Other students described Brennan’s as feeling “gentrified,” “corporate” and “lifeless.”

Cristine Rowley, who is the interior designer for the campus, received a request from the facilities managers at the Davis Center for a redesign of Brennan’s. 

“They wanted to brighten it up, they wanted to lighten it up. It was kind of dark and they wanted to make it a little bit more simplistic,” Rowley said. 

Rowley said they also wanted to be able to move the furniture around more easily as the previous tables and chairs were quite heavy, making it challenging and time-consuming for student workers to turn over the space for the various student events that occur in Brennan’s. 

“What we found was there was so much going on in that room that when we installed all the new furniture and we had the new paint colors, because of the new light and less busy design of the furniture, it really showed off the carpet better,” Rowley said.  

Rowley said that they have ordered some more soft furniture for the space—comfy chairs and couches—and that will be the extent of the furniture changes to the space. 

Maddie White ‘13, assistant director of marketing for the Davis Center and director of the building’s Art Curators, said a mural project is planned to fill the side wall, but the timeline is unclear. 

As a result of the new changes, some students feel less comfortable in the space altogether and miss how cozy the space once felt. Much of this is attributed to the loss of staple chairs and tables, and soft lighting that made Brennan’s, “Brennan’s.”

Maddie White informed the Cynic that the chairs were original to the building and the art exhibited on the chairs was a result of a campaign called “Flair your Care,” where clubs would sponsor a chair and paint them with symbols and representations of their club. 

Though the tradition hasn’t operated since the pandemic started, students really identified with the artwork on the chairs and the representation of various student groups on campus

“They showed how diverse the student body is,” said junior Maren Parker-Burns. 

White said that the previous wooden chairs and tables had been locally sourced and made for the space. To replace those with plastic from who knows where is upsetting to students and seems quite contrary to UVM’s sustainability initiatives

Another student, junior Emma White said, “I think [removing the wooden chairs] just erased a lot of the history of student groups on campus which was really surprising to me that they would just do that without consulting any part of the student body.” said junior Emma White. “And also replacing it with more plastic was just shocking.”

White reassured that the tables and chairs weren’t thrown out but offered back to the clubs that decorated them. They now live in offices and club centers. 

Just last fall, a piece on the history of Brennann’s Pub emphasized the importance of this space as a place for inclusion and community and as a more personal space than others on campus. 

According to students in the article, the campus doesn’t have many spaces that feel cozy and Brennan’s was one of those key spaces where students could feel comfortable in the environment.

“Maybe they didn’t realize that people were so passionate about the interior of Brennan’s, but it’s like a place that students go to all the time. Why don’t you ask them?” Parker-Burns said. 

Changes made to Brennan’s in 2009 were driven by direct feedback from students and community members through focus groups and campus-wide surveys. 

Brennan’s Pub may be owned and operated by the University, but the chairs and artwork in the space belonged to the student body. To remove them without their knowledge and without asking students has made them feel silenced and has stripped Brennan’s of its identity.

From the display of student artwork to the diverse array of student groups on campus to the overall feel of the place as this warm, welcoming and sustainably, locally crafted space on campus, Brennan’s Pub was a direct translation of what was understood to be the school and students’ greater values.

Hopefully, in the coming months, we can see a reintroduction of artwork into the space, as well as consultation of any further changes with the student body. Brennan’s is core to UVM’s identity and should reflect the diversity, friendliness and creativity of its student body.  


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