Though the semester is just beginning, clubs and student organizations are already deep in planning for their big events of the spring, from the Barnstormers’ annual musical to Homecoming Weekend. It’s impossible not to be reminded of upcoming events – any walk around campus or a scroll through social media features flyers and notifications.
Yet one prominent group has been silent, not just in the last few weeks but for months.
The Spring Fair Committee is normally among the more active student organizations. Up until this year, recruitment would begin in the fall. In September, they would begin planning the three-day event, a cornerstone of the Hopkins experience. This included finding performers, planning the headliner concert and working with local vendors. After all, the largest student-run fair in the country can’t be planned in just a few months.
But this year, that’s exactly what is going to happen. Spring Fair was under review from Aug. 27 to Oct. 21 due to alleged misconduct. In September, the group was found responsible for hazing, underage drinking and misuse of University property, among other violations.
All of the above are violations of the Student Conduct Code. Any club — especially a club with so much influence on student life — should hold itself accountable.
However, we would like to question the validity of some of the review’s conclusions. Moreover, we take issue with the rash, disorganized process by which the University tried to hold the Committee accountable.
The Spring Fair Committee learned that they were going to be under review in June 2019. Former members of the committee told The News-Letter that they were ignored over the summer when they emailed questions about their upcoming hearing. Former members also noted that the University did not consult Liz Pence, the committee’s former advisor, during the review process. Had the University consulted with Pence, they would have been able to more quickly verify whether the allegations were true.
Our sources — most of whom were former members — also claimed that they were mistreated by the administrators who led the review. That most of the committee was either fired by the administration or chose to quit this past year does not reflect well on the University.
Additionally, we do not understand why the student body was kept in the dark about the Spring Fair review, especially when that review meant that the committee was losing months of time to plan for one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. JHUnions & Programming Director Hal Turner thinks that Spring Fair will still be the event we all know and love, but the committee has been unable to complete many of its most important background tasks.
Note, for instance, the lack of updates from the Spring Fair social media platforms, all of which have been inactive since last spring. Around this time last year, the Spring Fair Committee had already announced a theme and was encouraging student groups to sign up for the Kids Quad booths. This year the committee has failed to post dates, let alone any promotional material.
Since the Spring Fair Committee has lost so many of its key players, and cannot act without approval from Laura Stott, executive director of student engagement until June 1, we doubt that they will be able to live up to previous years. How can we anticipate the same success if the University is blocking the Spring Fair Committee from getting anything done?
The festive atmosphere that surrounds Spring Fair weekend has always been a refreshing break from the stereotypically unspirited Hopkins environment that exists the rest of the year. Spring Fair is one of few Hopkins traditions. The whole campus takes a break from their studies and comes together to enjoy Spring Fair activities. It is the one of the few times when the Beach is packed with students having fun and enjoying their time with friends.
Spring Fair not only brings Hopkins students together, but is also an important event for the Baltimore community. From Turkish towel stands to vinyl booths and food stalls, a wide variety of Baltimore-based vendors set up shop at Spring Fair. In addition, the plethora of shops and activities attract many community members who bring their children to Homewood Campus for a fun weekend, while local musicians come together to perform on the Beach.
Hopkins is well-known for its rigorous academics and lack of school spirit. We are concerned that Hopkins administrators, including those who are in charge of student life, don’t seem to realize how important Spring Fair is to the entire student body.
There are still about three months before Spring Fair actually occurs. We are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the headliner and theme, as well as the invitations for student club involvement. We hope that even if Spring Fair is smaller in scale this year that the fair will be as exciting an occasion in future years as it has been in the past.
Going forward, it is imperative that the administration does more to support the committee. When potential students apply to colleges, they want a campus with a dynamic student life. Spring Fair is not just an occasion for students to have fun; it has also done much to improve our reputation as a university. It is in the administration’s interest to work with its students to ensure Spring Fair’s success.