Venue Fees Out of Place
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 03:09
A small group on campus called THiNK — Truth and Human Rights in North Korea — says it would like to hold events in Copley Formal Lounge. But the price tag for using this prominent space, which on a weekend exceeds $150 for just a few hours, has forced the group to look elsewhere.
Despite the variety of expansive and distinguished locations for staging events on campus, the cost of reserving these rooms precludes some student groups from taking advantage of them. Space on campus ought to be made available to help student groups flourish, not scrap for cash. The Office of Campus Activity Facilities should discontinue its policy of charging student groups for room reservations and instead adopt practices that maintain the integrity of these resources while giving students the opportunity to utilize all of the venues the Hilltop has to offer.
In contrast to OCAF’s billing system, the Office of the University Registrar simply requires anyone who wants to reserve a classroom to fill out a brief online form outlining purpose and needs. If a classroom is available, it will be delegated to the group. Larger spaces, such as Gaston Hall and Lohrfink Auditorium, require reservations through OCAF. The cost of these room reservations isn’t stated upfront, and it should be. Lohrfink Auditorium, for example, costs students $37 per hour — $58 on Saturdays — plus mandatory hall manager fees, which might as well be included in the hourly rate.
There are, of course, costs to maintaining these venues: electricity, janitorial services and technicians, to name a few. But student groups should not be expected to shoulder these costs, nor should this service be expected to cover debts incurred in other university operations. For many groups like THiNK, the cost of reserving a room can be the difference between holding an event, moving it someplace less desirable and cancelling it altogether. If there are other ways of gaining access to these rooms when financial obligations cannot be met, they are not sufficiently advertised.
OCAF must also take into account understandable considerations for its management of space aside from cost, such as curtailing overuse and misuse. But charging student groups a hefty fee is not an appropriate way of achieving those goals. Instead, we propose that OCAF drop the room fees and require a monetary security deposit.
A security deposit still demonstrates a serious commitment from a student group to use the space both on time and responsibly, and OCAF could keep the deposit if the group failed to uphold its end of the bargain. For instance, if a space were messy or damaged after an event, the deposit would be used to cover the maintenance costs to clean and repair. OCAF is not left hung out to dry, and student groups do not suffer for having financial constraints.
A security deposit system could easily be implemented in the same way that intramural sports manage participation. Each team must pay a certain entry fee, and given full and proper participation, the team has a portion of its payment returned. Even if student groups making room reservations have to make this type of partial payment, it’s a worthwhile step in the right direction.
Our recommendation that OCAF not charge for room reservations should not be interpreted as a disregard for the prestige of many campus spaces. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: These venues are treasures to the Georgetown experience, and OCAF shortchanges their value by making it so difficult for students to use them.