Photo by Oliver Chapin-Eiserloh
Last spring, the annual Lunar New Year celebration had a confirmed location and date. That wasn’t the case by this October, three months before the holiday. The scheduling issue was due to a conflict with a potential university-sponsored lecture.
For about 20 years, the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), Chinese Language and Culture Association, Japanese Culture Club and Filipino Student Association have hosted live performances at the annual Lunar New Year celebration. Lunar New Year marks the start of the lunar cycle which traditionally begins in February. For the past few years, the event has been held in Laurie Auditorium and has brought in an average of 350 attendees.
Normally, groups reserve venues almost a year in advance. Following 2019’s event, the Lunar New Year planning committee, made up of students from the aforementioned cultural organizations, scheduled the 2020 celebration in March. At this point in the year, the academic calendar had not been released for 2019–2020. The date was initially set to be Feb. 7.
When the committee reconvened in September, they decided to move the performance date back to Feb. 28 to give the performers enough time to practice after returning from winter break on Jan. 15. At the time, there were no events scheduled on TSpace for that date in Laurie Auditorium.
“We normally aren’t exactly on the weekend of the actual holiday, which is fine because it’s about a month of celebration. But, this year, Jan. 25 is the actual date of Lunar New Year, so having it be in January instead of February makes it so that there’s a lot less time for us to do any kind of coordinating logistics,” said Alex Motter, senior and president of VSA and head of the planning committee. (Motter is a member of the Board of Campus Publications.)
Following the change, the committee received confirmations for the tech and dress rehearsals, scheduled for the two days preceding the event.
“We moved the reservations and for two of them we got the confirmations, so it was great. You know how sometimes TSpace doesn’t always send out the emails, so I figured that if for the dress rehearsal and the tech rehearsal we’d received email confirmations that we’d be fine for the main show,” Motter said.
In early October, Motter checked TSpace and the reservation for Feb. 28 had been deleted. The event was removed to accommodate the Flora Cameron Lecture on Politics and Public Affairs, though the lecture had not been confirmed at the time, according to Motter.
Kevin Hawkins, director of Laurie Auditorium, uses a background calendar to manage date “holds.” Certain dates can be held ahead of an event and they will not be visible on TSpace.
“We have a background calendar that we use as just kind of a hold. It’s not public, and it’s not official, and we just look at that to see what’s coming up. It gives us a chance to talk to any of our clients,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins emphasized that it is unusual for there to be a scheduling conflict.
“Because of TSpace we rarely, rarely have scheduling conflicts. I mean this is one of those rare times where something major — university event — came up and kind of got a little miscommunication in there, and then we just fixed it,” Hawkins said.
According to Motter, the planning committee was told that the earliest the show could be scheduled was Feb. 7. Otherwise, they would need to wait until March.
“The elephant in the room is that a lecture happens based off of availability and certain other factors, but Lunar New Year is based off of an actual holiday — it’s the beginning of the lunar cycle. So, if we were to take the current situation, we would have to reserve the space in April which would be a full two months after the end of the holiday,” Motter said.
On Nov. 4, when two members of the committee presented their budget request to the Student Government Association (SGA). At this time, the venue had not been confirmed. The group received the full amount of $4,598.90 that they requested. At the time, the group was working to reserve the Stieren Theater.
Motter believes that there was a lack of transparency regarding this conflict.
“For student organizations, we’re doing all of this work completely for free with no benefit to us. And so for us to not only receive no recognition and no compensation for what we’re doing but for us to actually have more barriers put in our place to where we don’t have transparent understanding to even schedule what date we can have our event, it creates a multitude of problems,” Motter said.
Following the SGA meeting, the committee was able to confirm Laurie.
“Right after we had done our funding conversation, basically the next day, I was reached out to by the Laurie office, and they had freed up the 26th, 27th and 28th. Originally, two of those dates were declined for conflict, so clearly they were able to move some things around which is really great, so the dates are now confirmed and we have a space for the show,” Motter said.
According to Hawkins, he was able to work with Bruce Bravo, senior director of Conferences and Auxiliary Services, to release the “hold” date for the Cameron Lecture.
Bravo explained the process to do this.
“We receive a preliminary list of spring dates that are open in Laurie. I confer with the calendar committee, the President’s Office, and the Speakers Bureau in an attempt to secure a date that is convenient for all stakeholders and does not conflict with any scheduled event. If that process becomes tedious, as this event has become, we are regularly updated by all parties as to revisions, including dates that subsequently become unavailable in Laurie,” Bravo said.
Hawkins emphasized that he works with both parties to confirm reservations.
“Even if it’s somebody just asking for a date, saying we may not use this, we’ll put it down as a draft just to hold the space. But if somebody comes along and asks for it, then we’ll come back and say, ‘Hey, do you still need this space?’ If you do, great. If not, we’ll release it,” Hawkins said.
According to Motter, though the date and location of the Lunar New Year celebration are now confirmed, there is more work to be done.
“It’s definitely not on track. We wasted several months in time that could have been spent towards the actual event. So, obviously that’s time we can’t get back, but it’s also something we can’t really do anything about. So, we’ve modified our regular schedule so that we’ll be able to continue as planned,” Motter said.
| Class of 2021 | Majors: Sociology and Economics |