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DA: Should Students Make Money off of Events?

No - Isabel Loubser

Ah, the lovely capitalistic paradise we live in. St Andrews, the only university where students can be (and regularly are) conned out of £50 for a bus ride to a barn in the middle of nowhere and a “once in a life-time” experience. To clarify, dear Reader, we’re talking about a unique experience that entails being pushed around by freshers having a snog, drinks being spilled all over you and being subjected to smalltalk about how Emily is just so crazy (she once stole a glass from The Rule - wild!). All this, and more, accompanied by the soundtrack of 22-year-old boys having a power trip off standing behind a box with some buttons on it. Idyllic.

“It’s just entrepreneurship”, one might argue “If you had the money to invest in setting up a student event, you’d do it”. Call me bitter, call me jaded, call me jealous. I don’t care. I like to see myself sitting on the right side of history on this one. I can’t quite explain it, but there’s something icky about students making a profit off their classmates. Student events should be about having fun. They should be driven by a passion for creating a platform for musicians and artists. And surely making these events accessible to everyone goes hand in hand with that. And, I don’t know about you, but tickets priced anywhere from £40 to £75 doesn’t scream accessibility to me.

Look this isn’t a debate about ticket prices in St Andrews and, frankly, I do think that the Charity aspect of events takes the sting out of the pressing pay on FIXR. But the major problem of these for-profit events, is that a lot of students don’t even realise that, when they’re buying their ticket, they’re funding Jeremy or Jemima’s summer holiday to Jamaica. They just assume that the justification for the price is that there’s some money going to charity. No-one wants to put a disclaimer clarifying where exactly the profit is going, and to be honest, they’re not obliged to. But, regardless, the lack of clarity tends to be (even unintentionally) misleading. And the ticket-buyers' reasonable assumptions about a charitable end goal turn out just to be a case of misplaced idealism.

But, in a town with a chronic lack of reasonably-priced nights out, student run events that are neither for-profit nor for charity would be welcomed with both excitement and gratitude. Forget the fancy red carpets and the champagne reception (it’s definitely the cheapest aldi prosecco on offer). If you want to set up an event, let it be driven by passion and creativity. Yes, you need some money to pull it together (I’m not advocating for events to be free) but there’s no reason why these ventures should be money-making endeavours characterised by greed. Student societies offer a platform for people to explore their interests and see through their visions. The best events are always those where it is clear the organisers loved pulling it all together – the late nights, the endless meetings, the close calls. And when you remove profit as motive, this becomes even more clear. So, leave the big black tie balls to the Charity Committees – if you’re going to run an event, make it small and make it cost under £20.

More important than any of this is the underlying morality of the situation. You have to be in a very unique financial position in order to pull off a huge for-profit event. It’s simply untrue that everyone “has the same 24hrs in a day” (thanks for that one Molly Mae). Let’s be honest, if mummy and daddy (or the returns from investing your inheritance) aren’t around to foot the upfront costs, you have zero means of renting out Kinky Byre. So no, not anyone can run an event like this. And endorsing them in any way goes fundamentally against the idea of a meritocratic culture at University. Those running them are the people who need the profits the absolute least. They’ve got their trust funds, they simply don’t need more money to spend on Adamson cocktails and hunting trips to the highlands.

Frankly, I would compare those who organise for-profit events to people who put hairs in their main course, eat all of it and then ask for a refund. Absolute scammers. Look, you’re not a paid professional. You’re not a party planner. You haven’t done an Events Management (BA Hons) at Brookes. Stop pretending you know what you’re doing – you can’t guarantee that it won’t be a fundamentally s*** night out. And, as a result, you’ve no right to be frauding 40 grand off poor unassuming freshers.

Yes - Amelia Perry

Oh, Izzy, Izzy, Izzy, how wrong you are. Now, you are correct in thinking that the question at the heart of this problem is a fundamentally moral one: whether or not it’s right to charge your fellow students (admittedly sometimes extortionate ticket prices) to attend a sub-par night at Kinky Byre in order to fund your own coke habit. And while I acknowledge it might initially seem like a bit of a grey area, fear not, budding event planners. I’m here to tell you there’s no problem with it. From Kim Kardashian to Molly-Mae, we’re constantly told to just “get up and f***ing work” (honourable mention to Paris Hilton’s “Stop being poor”). With such influential and down-to-earth voices ramming that particular message down our throats on a seemingly weekly basis, can you honestly blame anyone for trying to get in on a piece of the action?

Now, we’ve all been there. It was a sunny(ish) day in September, when fresh-faced you, morale not yet eroded by one too many rainy days, all-nighters and deadlines, decided to buy a ticket for an event you are definitely going to attend. You all had SO much fun last year and vowed to go again so, why wouldn't you? Cut to three and a half weeks later, it’s the morning of and you literally cannot imagine anything worse than going out that night. The brainwave of the century hits you — you’ll resell on Class of 2024 and, if you’re really lucky, you’ll make a £5 profit (it’s always more pleasing when you manage to scam a fresher, for some reason). You might think I’m frantically trying to fill up my word count here, but there is a point to it, I promise. If it’s okay to make money re-selling tickets, why can’t you make money selling them to an event for your profit in the first place?

Most (not all before you accuse me of generalising) St Andrews students seem to LOVE a black tie event, so someone has to take one for the team and organise them. Sure, it might make you feel a lot better partying the night away if you’re doing so in aid of a charitable cause, but why can’t that charitable cause be the bottom of Tallulah’s wallet? After all, if someone is willing to put in all the effort that comes with planning, organising and (hopefully) pulling off a successful event, why shouldn’t they reap all the benefits? It goes without saying, I hope, that this only applies to events where it is made clear from the very outset that that is what is going on. I’m in no way supporting those committees which conveniently forget to donate the last £500 to split it between the executive team, but anyone who’s honest about it isn’t actually doing anything wrong.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all also been there, when you’ve optimistically gone to check Monzo and discovered the sum total of 3p in your bank account. It’s at this point, if you are anything like me, you start considering your options: put your worldly possessions on eBay, tutor some poor eleven-year-olds or start selling feet pics to anyone who’ll take them. Why shouldn’t a fundraiser of sorts slot into that list as a healthy midpoint between Depop and giving strangers a peep at your dactyls? Not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with that, but you can’t really argue it’s for everyone, can you?

As for the “you aren’t a paid professional” argument, isn’t that the case with the majority of student committees? Here at The Saint, we are a perfect example, no one’s paying us to stay up until 3:43am putting a free newspaper together. You put the effort in because you enjoy it and find the benefits to be rewarding. Is there really a difference between standing outside the Union on a rainy Thursday shoving our hard work down the throat and into the hands of unwilling pedestrians, and offering people a ticket to an event you’ve planned? Presumably, you aren’t forcing attendees to buy the tickets, they are choosing to do so purely of their own volition. It’s their money, they can choose what to do with it.

My final argument, no one will be surprised, relates to the British Royal Family. Kate Middleton worked for her parents’ party planning business Party Pieces in the years before she became a working royal. If Kate did it, so can you.

Illustration: Unsplash

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