News | Student Life

Events Management looks to ease event-booking system

  • Stephanie Frescas for Spectator
    TEACH ME HOW TO PRECALENDAR | Indian dance group Dhoom practices in Lerner. University Event Management is starting Friday afternoon classes to clarify Columbia's event-booking system.

University Event Management is bringing some changes to the campus event-booking system this semester, but students are skeptical that issues with the system—a perennial annoyance for club leaders—will be resolved. 

Student Services Vice President Scott Wright and UEM Executive Director Joe Ricciutti have started Friday afternoon classes in Lerner to clarify the event-booking system and the option for same-day space registration in Lerner. 

“The idea behind the classes was to provide a regular, weekly forum that helps demystify the process of event booking,” said Ricciutti, who will teach the courses with Rodney Mirabal, assistant manager of student events. “Let’s walk through the process of navigating and producing events on campus.”

The classes, which will run for an hour and a half each, will include a lecture and an open forum for students to voice their concerns and questions about booking space. 

Some classes will also feature special sessions on preparing for tech reviews and rehearsals. 

“The event-planning process should not be that complicated,” Ricciutti said.

Some student leaders are unsure whether UEM’s classes will be effective, as organizations with an institutional memory already pass down tips on navigating the arcane event-booking process to newer club members.

“I’m the only one who books space, and I’ve been doing it for four semesters now. I will train the next person who books space,” said Laura Quintela, CC ’14, who produces Orchesis and the Varsity Show.

“There are some hoops to jump through, but we understand that they are necessary and meant to aid our organization in planning and executing successful and safe events,” Alex Xu, CC ’15 and president of the Chinese Students Club, said in an email. “Once the policies and procedures are made clear, they are not difficult to follow.”

Another change this semester is that students can now reserve same-day space in Lerner Hall through UEM’s online reservation system, a change from the previous requirement of registration five days in advance. These new last-minute events must meet certain criteria, including being CUID-only.

Student leaders said they recognize this as a convenient change to the system. However, many student groups book the majority of their events before the semester starts. For these students, the real concerns are what happens behind closed doors during this precalendaring process, when groups give up control to their advisers, who book space for them. 

“If students could plead their case directly to those who decide room booking, I believe the system would become much more transparent,” Xu said, adding, “the fate of student organizations should not lie in how strongly an advisor can argue their organizations’ cases or how quickly an advisor can approve a request.”

Other leaders say booking space isn’t an issue, but the follow-up creates problems.

“It’s really what happens after you submit the booking that is the issue,” Maya Meredith, CC ’14 and president of the Philolexian Society, said. “If they would offer more information on who to talk to after something goes wrong, that would be useful. I think the only reason that I know what to do is because I have years of experience.”  

Meredith questioned whether UEM’s changes would really address the problems students experience with the system. Are administrators “building the classes around student feedback, or are they building the classes over what they think students need?” she asked.

Despite the call for more transparency, administrators say student input is the impetus for the changes.

“It’s really healthy that students tell us what they don’t like, what’s frustrated them, what doesn’t work,” Wright said. He added, chuckling, “They could be nicer.”

The classes will begin Sept. 20 and take place every Friday throughout the semester from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in 501 Lerner. Students, ironically, do not need to register in advance.  |  @ColumbiaSpec

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