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event observer
Credit: Sam Holland

In response to student criticism of the hefty costs of event registration, Penn’s administration is piloting a new program that will subsidize up to four on-campus social events per semester for any organization registered with the Office of Student Affairs. 

The OSA decided to subsidize four events after looking at “historical trends” of on-campus events to estimate the cost and frequency of registered parties. The University will cover the costs of security and bartenders for these events, Associate Vice Provost of Student Affairs Hikaru Kozuma said.

In accordance with recommendations made by the Task Force on a Safe and Responsible Campus Community, the administration rolled out a series of new rules for social events on campus last semester. While these rules were intended to make the campus "safe and responsible," they often ended up imposing financial burdens on many organizations that couldn't afford the high prices the new rules demanded.

In addition to registering an event 10 days before it's scheduled to take place, any organization wanting to host a social event has to hire a University-approved bartender, which typically costs $25 per hour, and two security guards, who cost organizations $32.50 per hour. 

The cost of hosting a five-hour event, coming in at more than $400, frustrated many party hosts.

Credit: Camille Rapay

Kozuma said that the Interfraternity Council and the Intercultural Greek Council brought this “financial barrier” to the administration’s attention, and issuing four free events was a way to show students that the University cared about these concerns. He acknowledged that this barrier seemed to be a deterrent to consider registering a party.

“It’s just to be able to recognize that we want to lower that barrier,” Kozuma said. 

In the fall semester — prior to the administration’s initiative — the IFC decided to subsidize some fraternity events in response to the new registration costs. Using money from a pool of collected fraternity fines, the IFC subsidized 50 percent of the costs associated with hiring bartenders and security guards for on-campus fraternities. 

Their efforts were meant to convince more fraternities to register their events with the lowered associated costs. 

President of the Diversity and Inclusion Board and College senior Conrad Mascarenhas said that this new program may “address” financial concerns, but that it would rely on how the funds are distributed. A more equitable distribution, he said, would allow smaller fraternities to get funding as opposed to larger fraternities that may need it less.

“There are some fraternities with much fewer members compared to others and also different fraternities charge different dues,” Mascarenhas said. “I can imagine if a fraternity has maybe less of an operating budget than other fraternities, it could be harder for them to throw parties on campus.” 

Due to its limited budget — an amount Kozuma would not disclose — the OSA is trying to save some of the budget for the end of the semester. 

“If a group wants to register a party for the first time in April, we don’t want it to be like, well, we just ran out in March,” Kozuma said. “So there is a limit. It’s not a bottomless pit.”

Former Delta Kappa Epsilon president and Engineering senior Kevin Hayes said that although the free events initiative is a “stepping stone” in the right direction, it will not solve the main reason that many on campus Greek organizations are frustrated with the stringent social life regulations. 

“I think it helps, but it’s not going to solve anything, because I think the problem lies more with off-campus social life than [with] incentivizing what’s on campus right now,” Hayes said. “Because at the end of the day, on-campus social life is the only thing that really has to follow the rules.”

Hayes added that although he hates to admit it, “as of right now, the positives of registering a social event as compared to not registering are just not equal.”

IFC president and College junior Reginal Murphy said that although he is glad the program was adopted by the University, the initiative could pose certain safety problems. 

“There are a lot of organizations that can now be recognized as student groups that do not have to go through the same trainings that we as IFC chapters have to do,” Murphy said, “IFC and IGC, I think that we go through a lot of training, you know part of it is new member education and just training for accreditation that allows us to have a safer party.” 

The new program is being piloted for the semester, and will be reassessed during the summer, Kozuma said.