I like free stuff. I like free food, free T-shirts and most of all, free admission to Royce Hall. In fact, all of the shows I’ve seen there that were done by student groups have been free. Little did I know that those groups were shelling out up to $20,000 for their one-night show.
Shockingly, student groups on campus must pay exorbitant sums of money for certain facilities at UCLA, even after substantial student discounts. An unlikely overpriced venue is the Intramural Field, which cost the American Indian Student Association a whopping $25,000 for its Pow Wow last year.
UCLA administrators ought to remember that one of the tenets of a liberal arts education is diversity. Grandiose facility costs privilege big, established groups and dissuade smaller, newer groups from holding big events. Plus, many shows are about various cultures from around the world ““ less of them would be a serious loss to the school.
As administrators will quickly point out, there are multiple sources of funding available to groups. For some organizations, this is enough money to cover all costs. The American Indian Student Association, for example, received enough funding from the school.
But hunting for funding within the university is a waste of time when costs could just be lowered. As motivated as student group coordinators are, they shouldn’t have to go through superfluous administrative paperwork when they could be working on other aspects of the show ““ or studying.
More importantly, why should using a grass field be such a hefty burden in the first place?
As Undergraduate Students Association Council President Jasmine Hill said, “They were charged ($25,000) just to use the Intramural Field on a day when no one else would need it, and they didn’t need much equipment.”
The hundreds of spectators that the event attracts generate positive publicity for the school, as well as a good deal of revenue through parking.
Groups that can’t make ends meet solely through university funding must look elsewhere. The Nikkei Student Union was able to gather all the funds it needed for its $17,000 show at Royce last year by going to off-campus sponsors.
This year, the show is expected to cost more than $20,000, said Hiromi Aoyama, a third-year communications studies student and treasurer for the Nikkei Student Union. That’s partly because of a 30 percent increase in Royce’s fees caused by a freeze in increases during the past two years.
“For us, it’s a big year. It’s our 25th cultural night, so we really want to do it no matter how much it costs,” she said. “It’s a big concern for our organization.”
Associated Students UCLA seems to understand this concern. Ackerman Grand Ballroom, a space frequently used by student groups, is free for student group use, while outside private organizations pay $2,600 for a full day. Labor and staff costs are covered under a “waiver pool,” and groups even receive $500 of credit toward rental equipment. Janine La Croix, the division manager for Student Union Event Services, said that student groups’ bills often amount to less than $100.
This is far more reasonable than the other facility price tags. But the fact that ASUCLA provides welcome alternatives doesn’t justify the cost of the IM Field or even Royce.
I can understand that Royce’s prestige and splendor, as well as technical facilities, would make it a more expensive place than the Grand Ballroom.
But I don’t see how it should cost as much as undergraduate tuition for a whole year. And according to Steve Keeley, director of operations for Theater Management Services, competition for space plays no part in Royce’s sky-high fees.
Like ASUCLA’s venues, Royce should be a viable resource for more than just the eight student groups (out of more than 950 on campus) that used the hall last year.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for student groups. After all, if they have to start charging for admission, I ““ and many others”“ might just miss out on an essential part of UCLA’s education.