March 21 2018 —
For the first time in the event’s history, students will have to pay to enter the Bermuda Shorts Day beer gardens, the annual end-of-classes celebration put on by the University of Calgary Students’ Union. While $5–10 might not break the bank for most students, it’s hard to justify paying cover for mediocre beer gardens on campus when students can go to literally any other bar in Calgary to get their fill of day-drinking and debauchery for free.
The SU cites the U of C’s administration requiring them to increase security costs for the event and the $88,000 loss they incurred last year as the reasons behind the new BSD cover charge. Administration requiring the SU to hire more security while not offsetting any of the costs is mean-spirited, largely because the school asked the SU to host a single BSD event in 1989 in order to contain festivities into one safe environment.
Imposing these exorbitant fees at this point goes against the harm-reduction narrative admin’s actions throughout the year has created. The administration will not offer any additional funding to support the event, but they are making the SU cover all the costs of the event and making them close The Den on BSD, which would offset losses for the SU. Meanwhile, the Graduate Students’ Association will have the Last Defence Lounge open on BSD, negating all arguments for closing The Den.
In a December 2017 interview with the Gauntlet about the Post-Alcohol Support Space (PASS), U of C vice-provost student experience Susan Barker said, “As university administrators, the most important thing — if we do one thing in our jobs — is to keep students from harm.” She also noted that preventing students from drinking is not an effective method of harm reduction.
Unfortunately, adding security and increasing the costs associated with hosting the event is also not an effective harm reduction mechanism. Students who choose not to attend BSD will go to other bars across Calgary and spread the BSD mayhem beyond campus. This also means those students who wander from campus will not have access to the emergency medical services and other on-campus resources that actually reduce the harm that BSD supposedly causes. As small as the cover charge is, it will act as a disincentive to go to BSD, but not enough of one to stop some students from celebrating the end of classes by partying as hard as they can.
The U of C administration needs to recognize that BSD is not inherently bad or damaging. It’s the only SU event that the majority of students participate in. For some students, it’s the only time during their degree that they engage with their SU in any capacity. It brings students together on campus unlike any other event at the U of C, which is vital to a campus that wants to create any sort of semblance of student life, “student experience” or however admin wants to denote students actually enjoying spending time on campus.
It’s high time administration support the SU with the costs of putting on the event and allow them to open their own business to further offset the costs of BSD. While the UCalgary Strong event is important as a dry alternative to the beer gardens, it should not be the only contribution to BSD that the administration provides.
While every student at the U of C celebrates BSD in their own way, most are united in their anger over BSD’s future being threatened by arbitrary costs imposed by administration. If the U of C wants to be considered a campus that fosters a positive student experience, they should support BSD instead of stifling the celebration financially.
— Gauntlet Editorial Board
Update: A previous version of this editorial included a misleading sentence about the UCalgary Strong festival. It has since been removed. The Gauntlet apologizes to the U of C community for this error.