UT Cites Budget Woes In Closing Cactus Cafe, Informal Classes

As music makers and lovers celebrated successes at the Grammys this weekend, Austin’s music community was heartbroken after the Austin-American Statesman reported the Texas Union‘s Cactus Cafe will close in August.

The Union announced on its website Friday that “to reduce costs and repurpose resources to better serve student needs,” its board of directors (largely made up of students) had given its support to closing the Cactus Cafe and canceling Informal Classes. 

Since the Cactus Cafe opened in 1979, it has hosted and boosted the careers of musicians like Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, the Dixie Chicks, and the late, great Townes Van Zandt, who played there more than 100 times.

Eight years earlier, in 1971, the Union’s Informal Classes were introduced, offering courses to students, faculty, and the Austin community for a nominal fee. Classes focused on education, hobbies, fitness, personal growth, and professional development. UT officials told the Statesman about 10,000 people enrolled in informal classes last year.

Texas Union executive director Andy Smith said in a statement that most of the patrons of the Cactus Cafe and Informal Classes were not UT students.

“Athough popular with some audiences,” Smith said, “these programs are no longer profitable and do not fit within the core mission of the Texas Union and Student Affairs.”

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Speaker of the House Joe Straus recently called for state agencies to submit budget reduction plans by Feb. 15. UT has been examining several ways to reduce the state-funded portion of its budget by 5 percent, or $29 million. 

The Tuition Policy Advisory Committee suggested in January raising tuition for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years by 3.95 percent.

Both Informal Classes and the Cactus Cafe were previously self-sustaining but hadn’t been in years, according to the Union’s announcement.

Smith estimates shutting down the programs will save the Union about $122,000 a year.

The Austin community is largely unsatisfied with these reasons for shutting down the Cactus Cafe. Fans of the venue quickly spread the news on Twitter over the weekend and continued to sound off on it Monday morning. Three facebook groups were created dedicated to the cause. The largest, Save the Cactus Cafe (Austin, Texas), had 7,300 members by 10 a.m. Monday. 

President Powers is holding a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss the University’s overall budget cuts and reallocations, and many Cactus fans tweeted that they planned to attend.

The meeting will be from 4-6 in an auditorium in the ACES building, room 2.302. It is open to the public.



Post a Comment