I understand that there’s a certain level of distrust and wariness regarding the relationships between third-party organizations and student groups. Of course, there should be safeguards to prevent outside parties from using students to circumvent restrictive policies, or influence them to their own end. Campuses alway foster a murky environment for money and interests to play their game. It’s important that a student union puts policy forward to fight for student rights, interests, and investments.
However, Evered Hall is not the venue for that fight, and the recent SUS decision to start charging student groups a prohibitive hall rental fee if they fundraise on behalf of charities is a mistake that I won’t even give the benefit of being well intentioned, because of how clumsy its implementation was. This might change, depending on new information being released in the coming weeks, like a budget detailing how much we actually stand to gain in revenue, or actual verifiable instances of past shady goings-on. But with the reality in front of us, I don’t see much room to be idle on this issue.
Like others have already said, blocking Child’s Play, of all events, really sends the wrong message to students interested in getting involved in their communities. To treat a charity the same as a corporate or political entity is wrong (obvious exceptions being organizations like Susan G. Komen and some Red Cross initiatives that have proven ineffective). The interests of nonprofits and for-profits won’t be the same, and neither will the net outcomes. It actively stifles campus activity, engagement, and enthusiasm for good work and human connection.
The student union uses language about student benefit, but they seem to ignore their obligation to the students themselves. I think it’s pretty clear that many people who ARE the organizers and active leaders on campus are against this. People aren’t worried about recouping building costs a few years earlier, if that means we’ll have to go without student organized charitable fundraisers. (Also, I think we all know that even if the building fee goes, it’s just going to be replaced with some future bullshit VR rental fee for off-world classes.) Not to mention how a less active campus might actually make the venue less appealing to external groups whose money we want to grift.
However, in their pursuit of more revenue from the building, I think an even more glaring fact has been overlooked in this entire conversation: the Evered Hall is never going to be the cash cow that SUS hopes it will — ‘cause unfortunately, it ain’t that Great.
The airflow in there is bad, so it’s hard to balance not only a comfortable temperature in there (especially during the summer), but also manage general body odour when it gets really packed. While it’s kind of cool to see the dividers fold out, they aren’t entirely noise blocking, and you don’t have full lighting or sound control for each section. The lack of that control, as well as screens and multimedia options, makes individual section rentals unappealing. That big gray wall isn’t really a sight to inspire creativity and merriment. It would be nice, too, if there was glass or windows on the wall facing the atrium. Then, events could actually drive in foot traffic and curious students. As it is now, you have dinky sandwich boards, and people awkwardly poking their heads in, while not being willing to fully commit to being seen in whatever event is going on.
I’ve only heard rumours of initial building plans to have the restaurant on the first floor, or a beer garden/patio adjacent/overlooking the Evered Hall — but everytime I do, I can’t help but think of how much easier it would be to have licensed events and food service. That’s not really something that can be changed, but like many aspects of this campus, the only joy I feel anymore is in griping about things that will never be different. (Although, while we are on it, sledge hammer the wall behind the bar in the Canoe, and let’s get a proper barstool situation going there.)
So, what’s the answer? Let Child’s Play continue as it has every year, and allow Student Life/UFV to do the actual leg work to properly vet events and outside parties, in case there are worries about outside and third parties avoiding payment for rental. But do so in a way that does not inhibit student engagement. Mistakes might happen, some things might slip through, but at least people will feel like they are welcome to explore, lead, and be engaged here.
Sound hard? Yeah, it’ll probably be more work, but it’s that, or we turn into a no-fun and overly expensive campus, where initiative and community building are discouraged and in turn everyone is fucking miserable and just counting down the hours till they can leave.