SU brainstorms ways to account for canceled WILD, comedy show, Trending Topics events

Ali Gold | Senior Editor

With Student Union events such as WILD, the Spring Comedy Show and the final Trending Topics speaker event now canceled, SU is exploring their options for virtual programming, postponing events to next semester and re-allocating funds.

Photo by Curran Neenan

Fall WILD 2019

This year’s WILD was scheduled to be held on the last day of classes, April 24, and the Comedy Show was originally slated for March 26. Neither of the headliners for these events had been announced by the time that students were informed that they would not be returning to campus this semester. Gymnast Aly Raisman was set to conclude this year’s Trending Topics series in Graham Chapel, April 1.

SU VP of Finance junior Alexa Jochims said that the loss of these events is disheartening for the SU officers who oversee the planning in addition to the disappointment that students may feel.

“The spring semester is often the culmination of that hard work and effort from everyone on campus,” Jochims said. “Having that canceled was especially disappointing.”

This year, SU operated on more than a $3.5 million budget. According to SU’s General Budget, the Spring Comedy show was allocated $3,250, and spring WILD was allocated $123,800.67.

“It’s obviously also disappointing to see the financial implications of all of this being cancelled,” Jochims said. “Luckily, we’ve been able to work with a lot of groups to try to get refunds for students and student groups, try to get some of our contracts postponed to the fall so we can try to hold some of these events in the fall semester. Particularly for SPB, there is a high sticker price attached to a lot of the programming they put on in the spring semester.”

These amounts are allocated from the student activity fee. The mandatory fee for the 2019-2020 academic year was $271 per semester per student.

“The most important thing is thinking about those who are paying the student activities fee and what it means for them to be able to see the benefits of their student activities fee versus having it returned to them,” Jochims said. “I think one of our highest priorities is looking at the implications of seniors having paid a student activities fee and what it means for them to graduate and not be able to reap three months of that.”

Because the current SPB Executive Board no longer has events to plan, the incoming SPB Executive Board will be inaugurated early to begin work on next year’s events. Their term will run from April 24, 2020 to April 30, 2021.

The new SPB Executive Board may decide to allow current seniors to return to campus to participate in rescheduled events next semester.

“Senior Spring WILD is something everyone looks forward to as a Wash. U. student,” senior Shelly Gupta, the finance director of Social Programming Board, said. “It does cost $30-$40 for any non-Wash. U. undergrad to come to the show. Ideally we would be able to waive that fee for any current senior now [who wants to return for the event next semester], but that would be a decision for the next exec who plans that WILD to enforce.”

SU has also considered moving some of their programming to a virtual platform. In an email to the student body on March 25, VP of Programming junior Charlotte Pohl mailed a student survey to gauge interest in online programming. According to the survey, the live event would feature an artist, comedian or other performer. All Washington University students would have access to a secure link to view the event, as well as a Q&A session.

“At this point, we are just trying to see where all our money is currently sitting,” Jochims said. “We are currently retrieving all funding from everywhere in SU’s budget, student group programming, SU programming, SU entities and pulling all of that into one account to make sure everything is being balanced and see what we can do from there. In terms of virtual programming, I think there’s a lot up in the air for that. We definitely want to make sure that groups are still staying in contact and building a community amongst group members.”

According to Jochims, SU has taken into account the fact that months of programming and general spending of the student activities fee have been canceled, Jochims said. They are trying now to develop a strategy for how to best make use of any available funds.

“We have a lot of different areas we are looking to put that money now,” Jochims said. “The COVID-19 emergency fund has really been a discussion, that’s obviously more pressing than some of our other thoughts. But also with that, thinking about the feasibility of returning the student activities fee, thinking about some of the other funds we have in operation: the student opportunities fund, the mental health fund, moving some of that programming to the fall semester.”

LIVE Sport began working through the Trending Topics nomination process last spring in order to bring Aly Raisman to campus. After being approved, they had spent the past year putting together details for their event. Now, they are working on moving Raisman’s talk to next semester.

“We were really disappointed when it became clear we weren’t going to be able to have the event as we had planned it for the spring,” co-chair of LIVE Sport AJ Dunham said. “We put a lot of work into it and were very excited for the impact we hoped the event would have. We pretty quickly rallied to looking at alternatives and looking to rescheduling it. We have been really grateful that Aly’s team has been flexible and open to working on finding another date to having the event when school is hopefully back in session on campus.”

Dunham and Jochims acknowledge that the future is uncertain. It is possible that classes may not resume as planned next semester or that students may face significant restrictions on event sizes.

“That’s more a bridge we will cross if we have to,” Dunham said. “We haven’t really been planning a Plan C yet; we’re still working on Plan B.”

For now, student groups are planning as though school will resume in the fall with no disruptions. Jochims is confident that as more information about the pandemic and return to classes becomes available over the summer, plans can be altered as needed.

Looking ahead to next fall, SPB does not necessarily intend to invite back to campus the WILD artists or the comedian who were slated to come this spring.

“We, as of now, haven’t made plans to bring the artist or have the same shows in the next academic year just because their contracts were things we could get out of, because they were farther away,” Gupta said. “So SPB has kind of decided that we’ll probably just include the artist that was supposed to come on the survey for the next round of surveys we put out. If the student body wants them to come back, we’ll go through that booking process.”

SPB does not currently plan to announce the artists and comedian that were booked to perform on campus this spring.

“I think to give that artist, and every other artist on the survey, a fair shot, it would be best to not disclose that information,” Gupta said. “But that is something SPB will talk about. It’ll be something we decide about soon.”

Freshman Taryn Seigel said that while missing out on certain SU events is disappointing, she feels more let down at the abrupt end to her daily routines and engagements on campus.

“I definitely think people were upset about WILD being canceled, but because it seemed kind of far away, it wasn’t at the forefront of people’s minds,” Seigel said. “I think my friends and I were more upset over losing the opportunity to engage in everyday things—going to class, eating at BD, going out on weekends—because those are the things we all took for granted.”

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