Student Voices Go Unheard

Student body absent from student-body-made decision

When it comes to the Cactus Cafe and informal classes, President Bill Powers is careful to say that he backs the student body in whatever decision it ultimately makes. But with two rival plans for the Cactus' future up for discussion at the Texas Union board's Feb. 26 meeting (see "Off the Record," Music), there's a question as to which students get their voices heard.

Hayley Gillespie, co-founder of Student Friends of the Cactus Cafe, said, "The first thing [the administration] said was, 'Oh, it's the students that want this,' and we all looked at each other and said, 'Hmm, not so much.'" Part of the problem, she suggested, is the board's composition: Even though graduates registered in fall 2009 account for 22.5% of students, there is no graduate representative on the board.

The cafe's closure would mean the loss of the only full bar in the Union. Explaining his concerns about having beer in a building frequented by undergraduates, Executive Director Andy Smith said, "Aggressively selling alcohol ... is something we can't appear to be doing." That presumption may come as a surprise to the 39% of registered students – including 99.5% of the 11,127 graduate students – who are of drinking age.

It also seems that not all former students are getting an equal voice. Smith has forwarded messages of support from certain UT alumni and the Texas Union Advisory Council (see "Still Prickly: UT Students vs. Cactus Cuts," Feb. 19) to help bolster the board's resolve. However, Whole Foods Vice President Michael Clifford has withdrawn from the Management Information Sys­tems Steering Committee at the McCombs School of Business in protest of both the closure of the cafe and the discontinuation of the classes. In an e-mail to other committee members, he attacked "the arrogance [the University of] Texas is demonstrating," and added, "The argument that these programs take benefits from the students has to be balanced against what the students get from the community in return."

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University of Texas, Informal Classes, Cactus Cafe, Bill Powers, Hayley Gillespie, Student Friends of the Cactus Cafe

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