By Kayle Van’t Klooster, February 27 2019 —
Bermuda Shorts Day is one of the University of Calgary’s oldest and most popular traditions. But it’s time that we take a good, hard look at it. The Students’ Union General Election gives us the perfect opportunity to do so.
Unfortunately, BSD is a sad shell of its former glory. The days of couch racing and campus-wide partying are gone. We need to decide what will become of the event because if we fail to let it grow into something new, it won’t last much longer. The SU hemorrhages money to put on BSD each year, running a near-$100,000 deficit in 2018. It’s a massive burden on the SU that’s becoming far more difficult to keep financially sustainable, especially considering the university doesn’t allow The Den to open on BSD.
There’s been a growing trend of right-wing politicians in Canada threatening the financial security of students’ associations across the country. Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government and Alberta’s United Conservative Party have both spoken out against students’ associations and have threatened to cut off what is the primary source of income for many of them — the mandatory fees we pay alongside our tuition. In light of these attacks, it’s essential that our dues are used responsibly to best serve the interests of the student body. Perceived wastes of SU resources, such as a $100,000 bill on a one-day mega-party, only fuel more anti-students’ union sentiment.
It isn’t entirely the SU’s fault that this event is such a money pit. A fair share of the blame lies with the university administration. Decisions like making the SU close The Den but allowing the Last Defence Lounge to stay open and making the SU pay high fees for security have made some wonder whether the administration is actively trying to shut down BSD for good — perhaps as a response to the tragic stabbing that occurred five years ago off-campus.
Similarly, the university is also poised to curtail the party at D-Block, an off-campus celebration that has gained popularity in recent years. A task force, made up of members from the university administration, the SU, the Calgary Police and the community, is currently trying to find a solution to the drunken street revelry.
BSD has changed for the worse. It’s no longer the free-for-all year-end bash that it was in its prime and it’s beginning to show. Attendance rates have dropped, along with drink sales. BSD is slowly withering away and we need to act now to save it.
That’s why BSD needs to be a major policy issue in SU elections. We need elected officials who are willing to make changes to keep one of our few school traditions alive. There must be a way to reinvent the event to make it more successful. We need leaders who are willing and able to work to find those solutions.
Kayle Van’t Klooster is a fourth-year International Relations Major at the University of Calgary. He writes a column for the Gauntlet about Canadian national and international affairs called “For Your Consideration.”