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Thirsty Ear Closes Down; Pub May Reopen for Fall Semester

By Jennifer Krishnan

SENIOR EDITOR

The Thirsty Ear, the on-campus pub in Ashdown House’s basement, closed its doors Monday with students unsure if it would ever open again.

But yesterday, some were optimistic that the pub would reopen in the fall.

“At least on a temporary basis, [the Thirsty is] going to be closed,” said Dean for Graduate Students Isaac M. Colbert. “It may in fact be possible that the pub will reopen under a different structure,” but it “will not be under the [Graduate Students Office],” he said.

“There’s a possibility of reopening in the fall,” said Gregory S. Pollock G, student manager of the Thirsty Ear. “But honestly, I’m skeptical. I feel like [administrators are] throwing out the prospect.”

Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict expressed more optimism, saying the pub would probably reopen sometime soon “under some auspices of student life,” his division.

After a meeting Thursday, Ashdown House executive committee chair Albert Chin-Hoa Chow G was also optimistic, saying, “It looks like the Thirsty may be able to open again” in the fall.

Meanwhile, some students and administrators blame each other for the Thirsty’s closing. While Colbert said Pollock and other students “didn’t act in ... what I consider to be a rational manner,” Pollock argued that he had “not seen enough goodwill on the part of the administration.”

MIT wants employee as manager

Colbert said it was necessary to have an MIT employee “who will have responsibility for the pub, someone who will be responsible to the Institute. ... We cannot just have a student-run operation.”

But “no one has wanted to take it up,” said Colbert, who agreed to oversee the Thirsty through June 1.

William J. McKinney, the manager of the Muddy Charles pub in Walker Memorial, “is a staff person,” Colbert said. “He reports to me. The Thirsty needs to have someone analogous ... who is on someone’s payroll at MIT.”

The Thirsty Ear has “not been a problem,” Colbert said. There has been “no underage drinking” and “no untoward behavior,” but it has “been outside the bounds of what’s legal.”

Colbert said he and other administrators were hesitant to take on the Thirsty because of the scarcity of hiring resources. He said he lost the allocation for half of a full-time position this year, “and if I had another [allocation], ... I wouldn’t give it up for [another] pub.”

Richard D. Berlin III, the director of campus dining, said he could not hire a manager for the Thirsty because his office only makes contracts with third-party vendors. “I don’t have internally-operated businesses with MIT employees,” he said, and that “basic inconsistency” is preventing the Thirsty from falling under Berlin’s office.

Pollock, administrators, and members of the Ashdown House executive committee are currently considering a solution that “would involve the Ashdown desk captain,” under Benedict’s office, Pollock said.

“I don’t want to run a bar,” Benedict said, but it appears “they will eventually be under my operation somehow, ... much to my chagrin.”

The Ashdown House Executive Committee “is stepping up to the challenge of finding a home” for the Thirsty,” Chow said.

Specifically, “Ashdown House plans on playing more of a role in terms of the management of the Thirsty Ear,” he said.

“I’m an optimist. I think it will open up probably fairly soon,” Benedict said. But “we have to work out a system for supervision.”

“We’re hoping for next fall,” Chow said.

Students, admins point fingers

Earlier this fall, when administrators realized the pub did not have an MIT-employed manager, Colbert arranged to have McKinney temporarily oversee the Thirsty.

This arrangement was “for the spring term only,” Colbert said, to “give them a chance to figure [out] options for the future.”

“In that time, nothing happened,” Colbert said. “As far as I’m concerned, they wasted the opportunity.”

However, while Colbert described the arrangement as a “very explicit deal” with a firm deadline of June 1, Pollock said the deadline was originally more “amorphous.”

Pollock also said that after meeting with the pub oversight committee, he and Colbert agreed to wait for the committee’s recommendations.

“The pub oversight committee was going to make recommendations, [but] any wise person knowing that his operation was in trouble would have beat the bushes on his own,” Colbert said. “They just didn’t do that.”

“I was really, really disappointed that the Thirsty became so endangered,” said John P. Lock, the Graduate Student Council’s representative to the pub oversight committee. “I thought it was unfair that everything lay in Greg [Pollock]’s hands. ... I don’t think that anyone gave him the tools” he needed to solve the Thirsty’s problem,” Lock said.

“The solution is obvious,” Lock said. “You have to have the administration hiring a manager.”

“I thought it was a huge disservice of the administration to student life to let the Thirsty close,” Lock said. “I hope it reopens as soon as possible.”

Chow said Colbert and Benedict “have been very helpful, ... almost to the point of bending over backwards.”

“I’ve tried to be the good guy,” but “I’ve been painted as the bad guy,” Colbert said. “I could have let it close back in February. I stepped in to try to give them a chance at survival, [and] they just waited until 11:59.”

Over 1,800 sign petition

Last month, supporters of the Thirsty Ear organized an online petition. Addressed to Colbert and Benedict, the petition said that “the Thirsty Ear Pub is a vital resource to the campus, and it must be preserved,” and asked the deans to grant it “an administrative home.”

As of last night, 1,854 members of the MIT community had signed the petition, which is available at http://web.mit.edu/thirsty-ear.

On Monday, the last night the Thirsty was open, partons in the packed pub expressed dismay at the its closure.

“I love the Thirsty,” said Ryan Jazayeri G. “It’s a shame. ... We’ve all had many great memories here.”

“I’ll be really sad to see it go,” said Nicoli M. Ames G.