Spring Fair 2019 overcomes budget constraints

By CLAIRE GOUDREAU | May 2, 2019

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Homewood Campus held its annual Spring Fair this weekend. The event was open to the entire Baltimore community. It kicked off the evening of Thursday, April 25 with fireworks and included a concert headlined by electronic dance music group Cash Cash, other musical performances, vendors, dances, games and a beer garden.

Although the Spring Fair committee underwent serious budget cuts and had several disagreements with the administration, Co-Chairs Sofya Freyman and Meera McLane told The News-Letter in a joint email that they were pleased with how the weekend turned out.

“Considering the major changes that had been enforced on Spring Fair this year, we think it went great,” they wrote. “All of our committees either had no budget to work with or [their budget] was cut significantly, and all of their events were a success.”

Earlier this year Spring Fair discovered that they were significantly in debt from previous spending. As a result this year’s committee was forced to reduce their budget.

Spring Fair music committee member Sonomi Oyagi said that although the concert came together in the end, the debt proved to be a serious hurdle.

“We’re in debt, but we weren’t really made aware of that, and we weren’t really made aware of the extent of the debt until pretty late in the game,” she said. “It impacted the budgets of a lot of different committees, and personally our budget for the headliner concert was repeatedly adjusted so it was hard for us to be sure what we would be able to cover.”

Oyagi said that one of the main deciding factors in choosing Cash Cash was ensuring that ticket prices could be affordable.

“It was a combination of who we could afford and then the vibe we wanted,” she said. “It was really important to us to keep the price of the tickets low to make it accessible.”  

Freyman and McLane said that budget restrictions forced the committee to reconsider who they were able to hire.

“Since ticket sales had to be allocated for incidents and the debt, we were working with a very limited budget,” they wrote. “Initially, we of course wanted to continue with having two headliner artists; however, despite all other budget cuts and very hard work by our Staff to bring in revenue, the administration did not allow us to proceed with a second artist.”

The concert itself was a success, selling out at about 1300 tickets. This was an improvement from last year’s concert, which had lukewarm ticket sales and mixed reviews.

Freshman Sylvana Schaffer, who attended the Spring Fair concert, said that although the performance was high-energy and very fun, most students were not thrilled with the selection of Cash Cash as the headliner.

“It was not ideal, especially considering that, on the day of, I would ask people if they were going to Cash Cash, and they would say ‘Who’s Cash Cash?’” she said.

The Spring Fair committee ran into problems dealing with the administration, specifically the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI). Spring Fair committee member Xandi Egginton added that SLI’s volunteers did not understand how Spring Fair was supposed to function.

“These employees, by no fault of their own, actually stopped us from doing our jobs. Many of them had never experienced Hopkins Spring Fair before, let alone run it,” he said. “They brought more questions to the table than answers. In effect, we weren’t only responsible for running all of Spring Fair, we were also responsible for guiding the staff volunteers along the way.”

Some of the Spring Fair committee, such as Oyagi, reported feeling like their experience and prior knowledge were not valued by these volunteers and the administration.

“[There were] discrepancies between how we know how to run a fair and changes they thought we should make,” Oyagi said. “Reconciling those were sometimes difficult.”

Freyman and McLane explained that SLI and their volunteers would implement new rules without communicating with the Spring Fair staff beforehand.

“At this point we have more experience in planning and understanding the logistics of this event, and they implemented these new things without considering that,” they wrote. “This led to the volunteers often assuming they knew better than us, and instead of listening to our suggestions, would simply restrict us, if not yell, which significantly hurt our staff.”

SLI also removed some of the staff’s golf cart privileges throughout the weekend, even though the Spring Fair committee had ordered and paid for the exact number of golf carts needed for operations.

“The administration took more than half of our golf carts away from us which forced our staff members to carry tables, tents, trash, ice, generators and more to locations across campus in order to continue operations,” Freyman and McLane wrote. “Without golf carts it was very difficult to balance the success of everything while also not over-exhausting our staff members.”

The Spring Fair staff eventually got the carts back on Sunday. Egginton said that this was because SLI realized they were necessary for cleaning up. 

“[SLI] didn’t realize how critical the carts were until they took some of them away,” he said.

This year’s Spring Fair also marked the first year that the administration strictly enforced its no-open container policy. Dean of Student Life Smita Ruzicka sent emails to the student body to remind recipients of the school’s alcohol policies. This message was also posted on the Spring Fair website. 

Furthermore, Director of Student Leadership and Involvement Calvin Smith, Jr. spoke before the Student Government Association to tell them that any student caught underage drinking would have a report filed against them and would be required to attend a student conduct meeting and hearing.

Freyman and McLane wrote that they were disappointed in how this policy change was carried out.

“We were very sad to see this change enforced so strictly and, honestly, executed inappropriately,” they wrote. “We have heard from multiple students that administration volunteers would force people on the Beach to open their backpack and would smell containers with liquid.”

Freshman Sera Bailey-Emberson, who helped her family run a booth at Spring Fair, said that as a vendor she was happy that the policy was being enforced.

“I didn’t know it wasn’t enforced beforehand,” she said. “I kind of like it, because it makes the campus feel less like a crazy party city when Spring Fair happens, and all of that drinking will be in the beer garden.”

Her sister, Yvette Bailey-Emberson, another freshman at Hopkins, said that she was less convinced that the policy change would have any real impact.

“It’s not going to change anything,” she said. “They can just put it [alcohol] in their water bottles.”

Freyman and McLane believed that this new policy was ineffective as well.

“We can all agree that enforcing this does not stop the drinking — instead, students continue their day in their homes, which turns their time at Spring Fair, meant to bring the community together and enjoy the outside, into another weekend at Hopkins,” they wrote.

Sophomore Abigail Weyer said that the enforcement of the open-container policy seemed to affect the environment of the fair as a whole, especially in comparison to previous years.

“I know some of my older friends were disappointed with the stricter rules and thought that the experience was less fun or relaxed,” Weyer said. 

Although Freyman and McLane said that they were proud of how Spring Fair turned out, they expressed wishes for the University to make serious changes next year.

“We hope that future Fairs see an increase in funding from the school, especially since Hopkins prides themselves so much on having Spring Fair as an event,” they wrote. “It appears in almost every incoming student package, email, and flyer; yet, our job is only becoming harder and harder, both logistically and financially, with no support from the school.”

As of press time, The News-Letter was unable to reach out to SLI for comment.

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