The Austin Chronicle

Can You Spell Cactus Without KUT?

By Richard Whittaker, April 7, 2010, 11:14am, Newsdesk

We'll have plenty more on this in tomorrow's paper (see Austin Powell's "Off the Record" column), but there's breaking news about a possible new direction for the Cactus Cafe: A partnership with KUT Radio.

The Texas Union's executive has previously proposed everything from closure to handing the cafe over to a third party. Only after massive outcry did they even start considering retaining it as a valued campus and city institution.

As of this morning, the three plans on the table are: Business as usual, third party, or a surprise new addition - a programming deal with KUT along with other student bodies.

Details on this new plan are sketchy (as we said before, we will have much more in tomorrow's edition), but there are some positive signs, not least that closure seems to be off the table and the new guiding principles seem to meet much of what the student body and the community requested.

However, as the old saying goes, there's many a slip between cup and lip. Before the final decision is made (again, by the executive, not the students) there will be another meeting of the Cactus Conversations advisory group on April 15, a public consultation forum on April 21 (venue TBA) and a presentation on the proposals to the Texas Union board on April 30.

Here's the full statement:

New Cactus Cafe options considered

Over the past months, Vice President for Student Affairs Juan González and Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lily 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

Conversations with students, faculty and community representatives have resulted in the following three options under consideration:
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.

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