Bacchanal has already sold out. However, many members of the Columbia community are upset about this year’s new charge for the show, which limits the amount of concert-goers this year to just 4,000 — excluding most graduate students and outsiders. Editor in Chief Taylor Grasdalen and Managing Editor Courtney Couillard report on the situation.
For the first time in Bacchanal history, students will have to pay a ticket fee to see the annual Spring concert this coming April. The fee, $7, is small but controversial. With major headliner Big Sean after previous years’ less exciting names, students are again looking forward to celebrating this tradition, yet most of the conversation now revolves around the new charge instead of the act.
Bacchanal has indeed faced numerous changes in the past year. Complaints from students and the administration cited that Bacchanal was an “unsafe experience” due to its nature, that it engenders excessive student drinking and dangerous behavior. These complaints led to the cancellation of a potential Bacchanal concert this past Fall 2014 semester. The committee (headed by Ben Kornick, CC ’16, and Mare Venerus, SEAS ’15), with the help of the administration, has in response focused on making the concert a safer experience. One of these changes includes the “Lion Tamers” initiative, where student volunteers will join the concert crowd to watch out for their peers.
While students expected these changes to the concert experience after the Bacchanal committee shared a letter earlier in the semester, many were surprised by today’s news that tickets would cost them. Some argue that $7 might be cost-prohibitive for many (though the show sold out my within the day that tickets were available), and others point out the Activities Fee — which has historically helped cover Bacchanal’s costs — all students already pay in to Columbia.
There is discrepancy over the cause of the new fee. Bacchanal is a group under the Activities Board at Columbia, which allocates funds for Bacchanal to pay for the concert, primarily for the cost of performers. Speaking Sunday evening with ABC President Tony Lee, CC ’15, the Bacchanal Executive Board “did not state that they would be charging money for tickets.” Knowing their intent to charge “would have probably lowered their allocation, since instead of each individual’s student life fees going to Bacchanal, students would be paying directly to attend Bacchanal.”
ABC is still in discussion over the issue, but Lee was able to comment further: “A few important factors would be their margin after ticket sales and also the proposed Student Activities Fee increase. If we can divert enough of the increased funds to Bacchanal such that students don’t have to pay for tickets, that could be an option. But I would assume that without more money, we would give them fewer Student Life fees since they’re charging students directly, although I don’t have a vote as President unless it’s a tiebreaker.”
“This news is literally news to a lot of students,” Lee says, and may in fact be cost-prohibitive for some. “I would assume that for some members of our community, having to pay extra out of their pockets for an event that has always been covered by their student life fees would be prohibitive. ”
Outside of cost, there is also debate over the effect the concert’s crowd limit will impose on the community. In previous years, Bacchanal was open to all undergraduate students as well as graduate students. CU students could bring one guest to the concert. The only provision students faced was flashing their ID before entering the concert space. “In terms of attendance,” Lee continues, “I would assume that it would limit attendance at the hard cap of 4,000. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I am pretty sure a lot more than 4,000 students attend Bacchanal each year from the four schools (and including alumni).”
Bwog reached out the Office of Undergraduate Student Life, which did not comment and deferred to the Bacchanal Executive Board. The Bacchanal Executive Board declined to comment, but will release a non-exclusive statement later tonight on the sell-out.
Correction: A previous version of this post listed Mare Venerus’s name and school incorrectly. We regret the error.