he closing of the Thirsty Scholar Pub has some students mobilizing in resistance, while others see it as a positive move.
The University of Windsor recently announced a deal with the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance to close the Thirsty Scholar and move the university Bookstore into its place. Up to 2,000 square feet of the appoximately 12,000 would be allocated to a UWSA to create a licensed café.
Ramzi Nassereddine, a recent graduate, is disappointed with the decision to close down the pub. “The pub was part of my student experience, and it should be part of every student’s experience. Not having a pub at a university is very strange.”
“We have a lot of international students. We should have more of an international flavour, more international food,” Nassereddine suggested as a solution to the pub, which is $1.1 million in debt. “Turn it away from a pub, and more into a restaurant.”
Nassereddine has channeled his concerns by starting a Facebook campaign titled “Save UWIN Pub.” The Facebook page, which has accrued 145 likes so far, is filled with comments from students questioning why they were not informed by the UWSA of the decision to close the pub.
Nassereddine accused the UWSA of hiding the contract because they did not want a repeat of their last attempt to close the pub in 2008, when hundreds of students turned out to the UWSA’s annual general meeting and overturned the UWSA’s decision to get rid of the pub. At the AGM, undergraduate students have the right to put forward and vote on their own motions if quorum is met.
Campus pubs losing money is not unusual. “Eighty per cent of the campus pubs out there were losing money,” said Mick Kingston, executive director of the CHMA, which promotes professional development and networking for campus-based bars, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs and food and beverage services.
Campus pubs are a service first and a business second, added Kingston. “One that comes at a cost. Schools need to look at that and put a dollar figure to what that service is worth to them.”
UWSA director of student life Josh Paglione is positive about the move, viewing it as an “opportunity to expand what we think of as student life.”
He views this as a chance to hold student events at different venues such as sports events across the river or arts and cultural festivals. “Obviously the pub was a cool venue … but it really only offered a space or a service for only a small portion of student life.”
Many campus events are held at the Thirsty Scholar each year, but Paglione is looking at spaces in the CAW Student Centre that can be used instead. During an May 1 board of directors meeting, the UWSA reveiled plans to hold events in the building’s Ambassador Auditorium.
Paglione believes that moving a portion of the campus downtown creates new opportunities, and hopes to look at hosting recreational events in the core or along the riverfront. “Now is the time to start expanding,” he said.
Student clubs’ events will likely have to stay on campus because of insurance and liability issues, according to Paglione. Alcoholic events will also remain on campus.
Amanda Grossi, a fourth-year geology student who occasionally dropped by the Thirsty Scholar for lunch or a drink, asked of the new café, “Will it be cheap? Because sometimes they have really good deals at the pub.”
If it’s anything like the CAW Student Centre’s Marketplace, Grossi said, it will be too expensive.
Abhi Nayyar, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, recognizes that it may be in the university’s best interests to let the pub go after its latest incident. In March, three students were stabbed outside of the CAW Student Centre, prompting a safety review and a curtailing of the pub’s nightly events.
“They should turn it back [into a pub], there’s no chill spots on campus otherwise,” Nayyar remarked.
“I think it sucks,” said Sara Al-Kudady, a third-year engineering student who went to the Thirsty Scholar occasionally. “But if there’s no chance of getting it back as it was, then a café would be great.”