Campus traditions make undergraduate degrees bearable and elicit the value in campus community. But a University of Calgary Students’ Union policy change puts this sense of community in jeopardy.
Previously, if clubs were to use the Den for cabarets or other events, they paid a $500 deposit. To be reimbursed, an event would have to make at least $2,000 in liquor sales. In the past, bigger events such as Gender Bender — hosted by Queers on Campus — have made the minimum in liquor sales and then some. However, there have been cases where smaller clubs have not. The new policy is intended to help alleviate the burden of failed events on the SU.
There is now a flat fee of $1,550 for the Den and $1,250 for the Black Lounge that clubs must pay before being able to use those spaces. The fees are not reimbursed and are in place in order to recover the costs of features like ticket and poster printing, staff and the general cost of operating the space. This will result in the loss of vital campus events like Gender Bender, which is moving off campus this year as a direct result of this policy change. Surely, there is a solution somewhere between a $500 returnable deposit and a $1,550 flat fee that still allows important events like this to happen on campus.
For over a decade, Gender Bender has taken place at the Den, usually at the end of March each year. It is a day — and night -— that marks the unapologetic possession of the space. Drag queens, kings and all other royal queertisans gather for the cabaret, the U of C’s only queer event set at the campus pub. With usually 200–300 people in attendance, it is a time where the connection between the queer community on campus can forge with the broader community — a vital support network that would not otherwise be present for those who need it.
Due to the financial inaccessibility of the Den, Queers on Campus ––have taken the prime queer night off campus to Dickens Pub.
Though a more reasonable venue — a downtown location with a later event end time and other pros — the crux of the matter is that Gender Bender will no longer be the queer event of the U of C campus.
SU vice-president operations and finance Branden Cave says that the new fee system is more secure for both the SU and clubs looking to use the Den or the Black Lounge. It is a clear format where the space is paid for and the SU wouldn’t face too much damage if an event flops. Knowing the cost of the event upfront will also provide the motivation needed to make enough ticket sales or perhaps will be a flag for the event to be reevaluated — can the club event make at least $1,550 to recover and then perhaps some money on top of that to keep the club afloat?
Logistically, the policy makes sense. The Den is a business that needs a secure way to recoup their costs. However, it has unintended negative consequences like losing vital campus club events such as Gender Bender. A non-reimbursable $1,550 is simply not feasible for many clubs at the U of C. The Den and Black Lounge, which are home to many community oriented events, become inaccessible and we lose cherished traditions that thrive because of their physical location on campus.
Dickens Pub may be an easier choice, but that’s not the point of events like Gender Bender. Rather, they are meant to engage the community in campus spaces and host a unique event for all students. It is called Queers On Campus and not Queers Off Campus for a reason.
While the policy may make financial sense, the SU’s job is to serve and represent students. Unique campus events such as Gender Bender are an important part of student life, which the SU ought to protect. The SU needs to find ways to cultivate campus traditions while protecting its financial interests.
Gurman Sahota, Gauntlet Editorial Board