The University of Texas at Austin
  • New Cactus Cafe options considered

    Published: April 7, 2010
    New
    Photo from Cactus Cafe Facebook page

    From April 6 Cactus Comments blog post

    Over the past months, Vice President for Student Affairs Juan González and Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly have initiated and led a series of “Cactus Conversations” with students, faculty and community representatives regarding the future programming and operation of the Cactus Cafe. This dialogue was in response to the Texas Union Board’s recommendation for a review of three student proposals submitted to the board and a report back to them at their April 30 meeting.

    Guiding Concepts

    Based on these conversations and the proposals, this draft set of guiding concepts was developed in collaboration with student and community input:

    • Continuation of current diverse Cactus Cafe programming to assure the preservation of the fundamental character of the venue, with expansion to include additional diverse programming.
    • Continuation of daily (six days per week) cafe and bar operations with supervision by professional, experienced staff.
    • Increased student involvement in operations and programming of, and performing in, the Cactus Cafe, working with professional and experienced staff, and interfacing with professional musicians, through student artist-in-residence and internship programs, and employment opportunities.
    • Enhance student hands-on learning through the Cactus Cafe.
    • A financially self-sustaining business model that will support the above.
    • Provide a structure for short- and long-term community input and support.

    Three Options Under Consideration

    The following three options are under consideration by the university and will be discussed during Cactus Cafe conversations scheduled for April 8:

    1. A contractual relationship, by which the university enters into a contract with an external third party to manage the Cactus Cafe.
    2. A self-operating model by which a university office oversees the Cactus Cafe program, as it is currently managed.
    3. A partnership with KUT Radio in which KUT will share Cactus Cafe programming responsibilities with student organizations. Under this proposal, KUT would book professional performers and manage the Cactus Cafe on agreed upon evenings during the year.

    Each option has been studied by legal counsel to fully outline the pros and cons. The ultimate goal is to preserve the character of the Cactus Cafe while expanding student involvement and programming in a financially self-sustaining program.

    The timeline for further discussion and consideration includes an extended Cactus Conversation meeting on April 15 that will include student leaders and members of the Texas Union Board.

    At 4:30 p.m. on April 21, Dr. González will host an open forum to seek additional student and community input. Location of the forum will be posted on the Texas Union Web site and on the Cactus Comments blog.

    On April 30, the matter will be presented to the Texas Union Board.

    • Quote 2
      hulett jones said on April 19, 2010 at 5:54 p.m.
      i am unable to attend the forum on wednesday. as an alum of this fine university, i must say i am appalled by how this whole thing came about and how it has been handled since. the graduate student assembly has voted to keep the cactus as currently managed. the undergraduate student government followed suit unanimously. the faculty would have except for a shill being thrown into the mix. the austin community clearly wants it to remain as is. there is a growing global community that wants it to remain as is. and i have joined a growing number of alumni who have vowed to no longer donate to the university if you change the cactus. this includes the KUT ridiculous proposal. in a time when people are becoming more and more distrustful of those who have been placed in power to represent them, this whole thing is a debacle. enormous institutions NEED places like the cactus. they NEED small places/organizations that have a distinct personality. if you put a committee in here to oversee this, if you put KUT (which is also undergoing a debacle of change), certainly if you put ARAMARK in here (or any other third party business), you are essentially ruining the personality of this great university. i worked at the cactus cafe for several years while a student at UT. lately, i have been trying to determine what i learned from working there. so many lessons, but perhaps the deepest was that i learned how to listen. i learned to listen to customers...the raggedly dressed person on the other side of the bar often turned out to be an elected official of an eastern european nation, or an expert on quantum physics. then the more obvious lesson in listening. the cactus is a listening room, after all. i learned how to connect with music, musicians, the people in the room, and with myself, in a way that i have rarely been able to find anywhere else. these lessons in listening taught me something very important... i am not the center. i have something to absorb here. and that lesson is at the heart of what being a student is. the cactus and what it promotes gets to the heart at what it means to learn...the PROCESS of learning...the MINDSET it takes to learn. keep the cactus cafe as is. if you do anything differently, you are in effect telling all students, faculty and the community at large that you do not know how to represent them. that you have not learned how to listen. some are whispering, some are shouting, but there is a chorus of everyone you represent telling you to keep this place as is. if you don't, i, for one, will no longer donate to my own alma mater.
    • Quote 2
      tiffany walker said on April 19, 2010 at 3:44 p.m.
      On January 30, 2010, I sat in a dark and comfortable room, peering over a pitcher of beer as gritty voice filled with gall and doubt sang out, “I used to be somebody, but now I am somebody else / Who I might be tomorrow is anybody’s guess….” Mr. Stephen Bruton’s lyrics could have been written about the Cactus Cafe; for what started out as a campus coffeehouse was transformed into a world class listening room, and yet nobody but you knows what fate lies ahead for this venerable venue. Those lines did not open a show at the Cactus Cafe, however, but rather the movie Crazy Heart, and I first heard them at the Alamo Drafthouse as I watched the tale of Bad Blake play out on the silver screen. Walking out of theater, as our eyes struggled to adjust to the late afternoon sun, a friend and I were hit with news that was much more difficult to adjust to: the Cactus Cafe was closing. My immediate reaction was a mixture of dismay and disbelief, as if I’d been told a dear friend of many years was suddenly dying of a terrible disease. It was awful, and it just didn’t make sense. I went to Todd Snider’s show at the Texas Union Ballroom that night, and when I saw the worried face of one of the Cactus bartenders, I knew that the news was true. Rumors were flying as I left the Texas Union hungry for answers as to why the University, from which I earned two degrees, would even consider closing the Cactus Cafe. My late night Google searches lead me to the “Save the Cactus Cafe” Facebook group. When I joined the group in the wee hours of Sunday morning, the newly formed group had nearly 50 members. By 1:45 Sunday afternoon, there were more than 1,000, and by the following Saturday, more than 20,000 individuals had joined the effort to “Save the Cactus Cafe.” As details regarding the decision to close the Cactus came to light, my initial sadness and disbelief turned to anger and frustration. How could the decisions of a handful of University employees destroy one of the true gems of the UT campus? Even worse was the apparent attempt to pass the decision off to the students. My frustration has only intensified with the University’s subsequent recommendations to “repurpose” the Cactus. For despite the outpouring of support from the Cactus community, it seems that you all still don’t quite understand. You set up the Cactus conversations under the auspices of seeking input from the community, and have proceeded to arrogantly and blatantly ignore what the community is saying. Nearly 25,000 individuals did not sign up to save a Cactus Cafe that is run by students, run by a radio station, or run by a third party vendor. The outpouring of love and support from students and alumni alike is for the Cactus Cafe that existed on January 29 and that exists today. The Cactus Cafe is a treasure, and the University should promote and protect it, not attempt to compromise or kill it. There are few, if any, live music venues in the world can match the storied past of the Cactus Cafe. Consistent operation and management, strict attention to detail and adherence to the artistic vision of the Cactus’ management and staff is what made the Cactus an iconic venue. As a result of the Cactus’ history and reputation, it attracts music legends like Guy Clark, Richard Thompson and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, as well as the stars of today and tomorrow. Ryan Bingham is just one recent example of “what starts at the Cactus changes the world.” Several years ago, Ryan caught the eye of Kim Buie of Lost Highway records when he opened for Joe Ely at the Cactus. The moment he walked off stage, Kim gave him his first big record deal, and this year he won an Academy Award for his song “The Weary Kind”. Who knows which new artists playing the Cactus stage today will become the legends of tomorrow? Furthermore, years of quality Cactus programming have cultivated a literate and sophisticated audience. Songwriters live to play venues like the Cactus, and connoisseurs of live music prefer to see artists play the Cactus over any other venue in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Perhaps more importantly, because the Cactus is housed on the University of Texas campus, it exposes students to the great songwriters and musicians of today and tomorrow, providing them with a world-class education in live music. In short, today’s Cactus fits perfectly within the University’s spirit of excellence, standing beside winning athletic programs and world-class libraries and museums and promoting a more enlightened society. Loyal Cactus patrons will accept nothing less, and it is for this reason that the University should build upon the Cactus of today. The University proffered two justifications for closing the Cactus Cafe: (1) a lack of student involvement, and (2) the financial losses sustained by the Cactus in recent years. None of the three options currently under consideration for “saving” the Cactus both address these concerns while saving the Cactus Cafe’s “fundamental character”, heritage and tradition of excellence. In fact, two options compromise today’s Cactus Cafe so severely that future generations will be left with nothing more than a bastardized remnant that is the Cactus Cafe in name only. I realize that the solution isn’t easy. However, building on the current model is an excellent basis for meeting the University’s needs while addressing the concerns of loyal Cactus supporters. First, encourage the SEC to work with current management to book shows that students want. Second, add a student internship program to give students the opportunity to draw on the knowledge and experience of the professionals that have made the Cactus an iconic institution. Finally, establish a nonprofit funding mechanism to enable the leagues of loyal Cactus supporters to provide financial support. Saving today’s Cactus Cafe is the only way to ensure that the necessary financial support will be forthcoming. Doctor Gonzalez, you hold the fate of a rare gem in your hands. The Cactus is truly an irreplaceable institution. If it is killed or compromised, it cannot be resurrected. It will live only in the hearts and memories of the artists who played there and the patrons who came to listen over the past 30 years. The Cactus’ history, heritage and reputation are worth saving. Rather than tear it apart, build upon the foundation that was so carefully constructed so that today’s Cactus can continue to cultivate artists, educate audiences, and bring recognition and respect to the great University of Texas. I beg of you, save the Cactus Cafe of today for the Longhorns of tomorrow.
    • Quote 2
      Von Allen said on April 15, 2010 at 11:53 a.m.
      As a long time UT staffer, the only way to make the UT officials listen is to protest. This means bringing students, staff, and outsiders into the main building and sitting in, taking up space, and making it very inconvenient for UT to do its daily business until you get what you want. If keeping Griff and the Cactus staff, the venue in tact is your goal, then this is the ONLY way you will achieve it. Eliza Gilkyson has it right when she says the UT officials will 'throw the dog a bone' until the resistance dies out. The Save the Cactus group needs to decide independently the game plan and then keep protesting until they get it. UT has the money. They can divert it from different areas if they want to. They made a decision and they will stick to it until its inconvenient. That's how Players got saved and wasn't bulldozed for the ATT center. If you want to do it, then decide what you want, present a united front, and make it difficult for the Powers that Be to ignore you. Until it becomes an embarrassment and news headlines day-after-day, nothing will change.
    • Quote 2
      Hayley Gillespie said on April 14, 2010 at 11:31 p.m.
      UT administrators released a "new" plan for the Cactus Cafe that is essentially a dressed-up version of the Student Events Center (SEC) proposal, but adds programming by KUT radio during the summer, holidays and special occasions. In the SEC plan, the space would go into room inventory and be programmed by a student committee during the long semesters. The SEC does not advocate closing the Cactus, and their plan was contingent on the administration's decision to close it. The Cactus is more than reserveable space with occasional music, and the new KUT plan gets us no closer to saving the venue. The KUT plan was a surprise to those of us in weekly 'Cactus conversations' with administrators. It fails to meet the so-called 'guiding concepts' that took us four weeks to draft (available on the administration's Cactus Comments blog, along with the KUT plan: http://blogs.utexas.edu/cactuscafe). These are the major flaws: 1. The "Cactus" would be operated by an ad hoc student committee during the school year, and not professional management — meaning no opportunity for students to learn from professionals through internship programs. 2. The KUT plan significantly fragments Cactus operations. The administration now wants to break the Cactus into three segments: management by student committee, management by KUT, and franchising to a food service provider to run the daytime cafe and bar (only if profitable). A fragmented programming model will significantly compromise decades-long relationships between the Cactus and its performers as well as patrons of the establishment. 3. The KUT plan is vague about establishing a mechanism to add community funding. The $23,000 already raised by Friends of the Cactus Cafe (a nonprofit) is proof that the community stands ready to financially support the Cactus. It is doubtful, however, that they would donate if the KUT plan were adopted, because it does not preserve the fundamental character of the venue. 4. Say goodbye to the last pub on campus — the KUT plan ends daily cafe and bar operations that contribute significantly to the Cactus' character and atmosphere. The venue is a hub of student activity during the day; it opens at 11 a.m. and is run by loyal student and staff employees. 5. It is risky to ask KUT to step in and take financial and programming responsibility for the Cactus outside the academic year. Last summer KUT lost some major street cred with the Austin community by cutting local programming and DJ's, citing budget difficulties. A better collaboration with KUT (or KVRX for that matter) would be in improving the current business model through live broadcasting of shows like the old Live at the Cactus sets. The admin blog states that three options for the Cactus are being "thoroughly reviewed" — third-party franchising, the KUT plan, and improving the current business model. It is clear they are only considering the third party franchising and KUT options. In fact, they seem willing to do anything necessary to make their plans workable, including working around IRS tax rules on private use of public facilities. They don't seem willing to do the same for the two student proposals by Student Friends of the Cactus Cafe (SFOTCC) and students Taylor Steinberg and John Meller. Both student proposals recommend keeping the current management structure and improving the business model. Students are in overwhelming support of the Cactus. Both the Graduate Student Assembly and Student Government Assembly (SGA) have passed unanimous resolutions in support of the Cactus, and the College Council Presidents issued a statement against the administration's actions. The SGA resolution specifically states that the SEC proposal would "negatively affect the character of the venue". Adding to student support, the Faculty Council plans to take action on a resolution in support of the Cactus Cafe today. It's time for the administration to stop paying lip service to and actually act on student wishes. We do not want more franchising in our Union. We value student jobs and current Cactus employees. We want to keep the current management structure, improve the business model, and increase student involvement. How long will the administration remain deaf to student and community wishes before finally getting on board? Hayley Gillespie Graduate Student and co-founder of Student Friends of the Cactus Cafe
    • Quote 2
      Will Blackmon said on April 13, 2010 at 4:04 p.m.
      This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I love KUT and the music they spin…on the radio. But they are not booking agents or knowledgeable of producing LIVE music shows…6 days a week! It is a MUCH different ball of wax. I don’t see any synergy in what KUT does and the Cactus. A second major argument is why burden KUT with something outside their competency when they have been having their own issues?
    • Quote 2
      S&P said on April 12, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.
      Even to someone like me, who may not be familiar as others with the way to conduct business, it is obvious that Option 2 is the only option that can truly save the Cactus. I really hope that they do the right thing.
    • Quote 2
      eliza gilkyson said on April 11, 2010 at 11:36 a.m.
      These new "plan options" sound like a way to circumvent the process, throw the dog a bone, and wait til the current resistance effort dies down before dealing the final death blow. I can't imagine the Cactus without the staff, their knowledge of the business, and their relationships with the artists, management and public. This doesn't mean they shouldn't be open to trying new, more UT inclusive formats, but turning it over to Third Parties certainly would send me and other artists scurrying to look for a new venue. This new proposal reveals to me the depth of the lack of understanding, not to mention disrespect, the administration holds for the actual running of a real (successful) music venue. It is no accident the Cafe (along with a few other survivors) has managed while almost all other venues in town have folded or changed hands many times over the years. As for the 3rd option listed: why not a KUT/Cactus support system, rather than such a divisive measure as KUT control? This plan sets KUT up as being the divisive party that takes out the old management, when they should be allies. Smoke and Mirrors... get the rabblerousers to go up against each other. I hope all parties think this through before they get on board this train, or consider any of the above mentioned options.
    • Quote 2
      Tomoko Ikeda said on April 11, 2010 at 7:14 a.m.
      Option 2 is the ONLY answer if UT aspires to become a respected institution again. I'm using the word "again" here since the University has unfortunately fallen out of that status because of the administrators' inability to admit and correct their mistakes, which is manifest in a series of events starting in December last year. The diminished reputation of the University I graduated from has greatly concerned me. Please do the right thing by eliminating Options 1 and 3, for which NO logical or persuasive reason has been provided by anybody so far. Although virtually everybody interested in the future of the Cactus Cafe has stressed that the Cactus, in its current form and under current management, is an irreplaceable treasure, UT administrators do not seem to understand this for some reason. Since the artistic, cultural and educational value of the Cactus is not understood by UT officials, I'd like to point out what negative *financial* consequences UT will have to face by NOT choosing Option 2. There are two things to note: (1) The Cactus Cafe has become a legendary music venue respected and loved by musicians and music fans around the world because of the dedication of the CURRENT management & staff. People actually fly from other parts of the world to see shows at the Cactus. Big names who started their careers at the Cactus as well as other big names who have come to love this intimate room keep coming back to the Cactus to perform even though they normally play much bigger venues in other cities / states / countries. Why is this? It is because of the EXCELLENT job that the current management has been doing and the mutual respect built over the years between the artist and the current management. It is because the music fans know that the MUSIC is the focus at the Cactus. As a live music fan & former Cactus regular (when I was a grad student at UT), I witnessed firsthand what a tremendous effort they make, taking great care of really small details, to provide the best possible listening environment for both the artist and the audience at the Cactus. You simply don't see this at other venues. I hate to discuss this in monetary terms, but what the current management & staff does brings in money because people come back for more precisely because they love what has been presented at the Cactus and HOW it is presented. To think that a radio station (or any third party) can replace the current management and be successful is simply absurd. I suspect that the UT administrators have come to realize the value of the established brand name, and that this is why they at least seem to have abandoned the initial decision to close it. However, the fact that they are considering Options 1 and 3 suggest that they do not realize that the Cactus Cafe, which has drawn music fans and tourists to Austin and to the UT campus, is a special place created by a specific group of people, i.e., the current staff. WHY would anyone in their right mind try to replace the very people who have made the Cactus Cafe what it is today with someone whose ability to keep the daily operation of this legendary venue totally unknown? Once the Cactus management is taken over by someone else, people who have loved and trusted this room for so many years will surely stop coming to the Cactus. (2) A number of alums have expressed that they will NOT donate to the University again until they know that the Cactus will be saved as is. On the other hand, people have donated to save the Cactus since this debacle started despite the fact that it is still not clear whether the Cactus will be kept open after August. Therefore, we can safely assume that, once the Cactus Cafe that people have loved for many years (and NOT the re-purposed Cactus run by people that were not part of its history), money will start coming in. All UT needs to do is allow such donations that will straight go to the Cactus. Texas Performing Arts receives "charitable contributions" to support their program. Why not do the same thing to support the Cactus? Compared to Texas Performing Arts, that says "ticket sales and state funding alone cover only 63% of our budget," the Cactus is doing well. (And please do not forget that Andy Smith harmed the daytime business of the Cactus by bringing in a Starbucks right next to the Cactus and blamed the Cactus for not being profitable. This does not make any sense.) Again, let me ask you these questions, VP Gonzalez and Dean Reagins-Lilly: Why are you doing this? Why are you trying to destroy the Cactus, which has contributed to the University in so may ways? WHY? NO student needs had been expressed to use that room until after January this year. (Also, please note that SEC already makes appropriate use of the room by hosting events like a songwriter contest.) NOBODY had even mentioned KUT until now. Who wants to have KUT "programming responsibilities" for the Cactus? The current management has worked with student organizations in the past, and there is no need to replace them with KUT to do that. Why would anyone think they can do a better job booking shows than the current staff when there is no logical reason to believe they can? Options 3 is not congruent with the "Guiding Concepts" developed through the "Cactus Conversations" because this option does NOT preserve "the fundamental character of the venue." Also, who will take care of all aspects of running the cafe? Running the Cactus entails much more than booking shows. All Cactus fans know that part-time student workers run the daily operation of the cafe under current management. What will we gain from Options 1 and 3? Loss is much bigger than the gain. If you replace the current management & staff, the venue name should be changed to something else because it is deceiving, and music fans visiting Austin will be disappointed to find out it's not what they were looking forward to visiting. If the heart and soul of the Cactus (i.e., the current staff) is not there, it is no longer the Cactus Cafe, which has contributed to the positive image of the University for many years.
    • Quote 2
      Don McLeese said on April 11, 2010 at 6:18 a.m.
      As a former music critic and columnist at the Austin American-Statesman (and now a journalism professor at the University of Iowa), I wholeheartedly endorse option two. The Cactus Cafe is an Austin treasure, one of the best listening rooms in the country (likely the absolute best), devoted to the sort of creative artistry that has put Austin on the musical map. Fans and musicians alike recognize what a special place it is, an intimate room that brings out the best in the artists it books, with a commitment to quality that booker/manager Griff Luneberg has maintained throughout his extended tenure. It certainly fulfills part of the cultural and educational mission of a state university, particularly in a state as rich in music as Texas. Other clubs that have been recognized throughout the music world as Austin institutions have fallen victim to market pressures, real estate dictates that fail to recognize a value beyond a price tag. A great university needs to respect such cultural value, to protect it, to nurture it. Closing the Cactus, or even changing its management structure, would seem to be an arbitrary decision that would result in irreparable loss. As we say in academe, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
    • Quote 2
      BillW said on April 9, 2010 at 6:16 p.m.
      I think UT should do everything in its power to keep the Cactus Cafe open as it has been for many years! It is an Austin music venue legend, as much as Austin City Limits, and is a true asset to UT.
    • Quote 2
      Music Lover said on April 9, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.
      Any option that does not include the current Cactus management is NOT saving the fundamental character of the Cactus Cafe. Why on earth would anyone consider dismantling the very crew that is responsible for making this venue what it is today? Several of the people who work there have been there for over 20 years and are directly responsible for building the very thing so many people have been trying to save. The current staff is the heartbeat of the Cactus. You cannot save the spirit of the place by ripping out its very heart. Otherwise you're left with nothing but a name and a generic room. Option 2 is the ONLY option.
    • Quote 2
      David Kobierowski said on April 9, 2010 at 10:51 a.m.
      I've been volunteering with the Save the Cactus Cafe' team since it's inception, along with numerous others, I've personally putting in hundreds of volunteer hours over the last 8 weeks. Being on the front lines of this effort, which meant hosting a "Save the Cactus Cafe" table at local events like Farmer's Markets and other community events, hearing feedback daily, I'm able to speak with authority on how critical this venue is to students, faculty, and the Austin community. To put it simply, there may not be another effort in recent TX history that has had a stronger reaction from practically anyone you talk to. From the NY Times writing about it, to TX State Representatives, to City Council Members, to thousands of artists and musicians, students, the Austin Chronicle, the Austin American-Statesman, over 24,000 individuals on Facebook, to over 5,000 people that have physically signed the "Save the Cactus Cafe" hardcopy petition in the last few weeks, to thousands of individuals from all over the world including elected officials as far as Australia, to musicians like Chip Taylor who wrote a song about Saving the Cactus Cafe', it's clear that cutting the Cactus would be tantamount to cutting the lifeblood of Austin. I don't know how this message could be made anymore clear to UT Officials. I trust that UT Officials will do the right thing and preserve the character of this irreplaceable live music paradise. Best, David Kobierowski
    • Quote 2
      Michael Scully said on April 8, 2010 at 3:57 p.m.
      I understand that in their “conversations” with student and community representatives, VP Gonzalez and Dean Reagins-Lilly have made it plain that the future of the Cactus Cafe does not include Griff Luneberg. When asked why, they say that he’s got another job, evading the fact that he has another job because they decided he would. Why won’t they change their minds? When asked why the Cactus can’t continue within the Union budget (with student involvement and a better funding plan), they say that the Union budget is a done deal, and it no longer contains the cafe. Again, that’s their decision and they can reverse it. Since the fate of the Cactus is uncertain, it’s not presently in any budget. So if it can be placed somewhere else at this date (option 2 suggests a hypothetical “University office”), why not back in the Union budget? It’s really the time for direct answers, not doublespeak. Perhaps my premise is wrong, and the admins will correct me. One thing that defines the cafe’s “fundamental character” is that it presents over 200 nights of live music per year. The guiding concepts posted by UT talk about continuing six days per week of “cafe and bar operations.” Does that include live music for those six days, or are they talking only about selling chips and beer, with the music schedule undetermined? One option talks about a partnership with KUT. Given that the University gutted much of KUT’s local flavor over strong opposition, this proposed “home” hardly gives me hope (though I know there are some fine, Cactus-loving folks there). More importantly, do we assume that because KUT plays records and CDs over the air, the staff would know how to book music professionally? I play records and CDs at home. I couldn’t step into full-time booking and do it properly. Would KUT bookers (experienced or not) – or any third-party bookers – have the time and the budget to do the job and, again, how many nights of professional music per week? The proposal says that KUT would book professional performers “on agreed upon evenings.” If we’re only talking about a few nights here and there, we’re looking at a lot of empty student-managed stages, and a lot of amateur performances. That’s not the Cactus. As far as a partnership with an “external” third party goes, we all know that the Cactus has a unique history and feel. The food court in the Union, however, looks pretty much like every mall and airport in America. Is that the Cactus’s future? Has UT identified any potential third parties? Have they talked to any third parties about this? What would be the booking policy of this third-party? We have no idea. If we can’t know, how can we evaluate the option. Until opposition arose, the only stated reason for messing with the Cactus was money. So why don’t they leave it where it is, as it is, until at least August 2011. The new community and student organizations (or people drawn from them) can work with UT on improving funding and student input? We can evaluate this effort for a full year. What’s wrong with that model? I think it’s the most likely avenue toward saving the Cafe’s “fundamental character.” I don’t think that’s what UT wants. But the execs can tell us, clearly and without evasion, “What’s wrong with that model? Why are other options better?” To summarize — Questions for VP Gonzalez and Dean Reagins-Lilly: without giving us a circular answer, why not current management, current location, and a home within the Union budget? As to other proposals, how much professional live music are we talking about, what’s the budget for it, and what’s the expertise of the bookers? If no one can say, how does anyone decide?
    • Quote 2
      Jan Haney said on April 7, 2010 at 2:40 p.m.
      No third party relationship!! Please give the current Cactus management the chance to assist with the implementation and tutoring of student interns. This way the essesnce of the Cactus is maintained, we still get the best music venue around town and the student population has better access to learning the ropes at a venerated showcase.
    • Quote 2
      Matt Portillo said on April 7, 2010 at 1:32 p.m.
      As the undergraduate student involved in these conversations, I want to (briefly--I'm at work) make some quick points regarding this announcement. First of all, I'm not sure how I feel about saying that "conversations with community, faculty and student representatives have resulted in three options under consideration." I only learned about the partnership with KUT Radio last night, so it is factually inaccurate to say that conversations with me and the other members of this group have led to consideration of this partnership. It's somewhat disappointing to see that my input is being mischaracterized not only in emails to University officials, but now also to the University's web audience as well. Regarding bringing an outside entity in to manage the cafe and bar, I am in staunch opposition to this proposed option and I have yet to speak with anyone who agrees with it. The most logical solution, in my opinion, is to postpone this decision and initiate a twelve-month trial period in which the Cactus Cafe operates under its current management structure and personnel, and try to work towards the goals of financial sustainability and increased student involvement before we rush into an insufficiently-contemplated "new system" that has to be ready for presentation by April 30. This is an unrealistic deadline and I'll be expressing all these opinions during tomorrow morning's meeting with Drs. Lilly and Gonzalez in the Dean of Students Office. I also think it would be very helpful to bring the current manager of the Cactus Cafe, Griff Luneburg, into these conversations. His insight and perspective (developed over the past 31 years) would be invaluable. I'll also bring this up for discussion in tomorrow's meeting. That's all I have time to say right now. If anyone has further questions for me, I can be reached at mattportillo@gmail.com Hook 'em and save the Cactus! -Matt Portillo Music and Rhetoric & Writing junior Undergraduate participant in the Cactus discussions
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