Ticket sales shrouded in impropriety

One of today’s Letters to the Editor is from Frank Kearny, Student Government’s director of Student Life and Development. In it, Kearny asks when the “me first” attitude became so prevalent and why so many students were disappointed and outraged about the way discounted ticket sales were handled.

Well, it’s not a “me first” attitude that has so many students up in arms. It’s a “we first” attitude seemingly exhibited time and time again by certain sectors of SG.

SG has a significant Greek contingent. This, coupled with the fact that Greek organizations benefited from the ticket-selling arrangement at the cost of non-Greeks, raises a perception of impropriety that struck a chord with many students who wrote in to the Oracle to voice their displeasure with the program’s handling.

SG Director of Government Relations Billy Schmidt posted comments on Bulls fan site thebullspen.com stating the ticket prices were subsidized to “create a want … and need” for the tickets. Well, congratulations. SG got the demand right; the supply is where it screwed up.

The arrangement benefited those who bought in bulk; for every 10 or 11 tickets purchased, the purchaser received one free. This means that from the outset, large organizations such as fraternities already stood to benefit more than the average student despite the fact that the money used to subsidize the cost came from Activity & Service Fee funds – a pool to which every student contributes. Furthermore, numerous people have gone on record saying the matter was discussed in senate prior to the beginning of the school year. Long before any money was approved to subsidize the tickets, people were already planning to buy out the supply en masse.

The arrangement also foolishly benefited those willing to give out their University identification numbers. Do not give out your University identification number. It is tied to your Social Security number and is intended to be secure. The organizers of the event – or at the very least, the individuals distributing tickets – should have emphasized this. Yes, anybody could have done what some did and amass a phonebook full of UID numbers, but nobody should be encouraging that. If Charlie Aguirre or anyone else had walked up with a spreadsheet full of credit card numbers or SSNs, would they have walked away with tickets?

It’s been said that anyone could have done what the Greeks did, but that’s not necessarily so. Yes, anyone could have gathered UID numbers, but uniformly discounted prices should not unjustly benefit those with better organizational structures when the stated intent is to provide a service to each and every University student. What’s more, even if other student groups had organized themselves and attempted to do what many Greek organizations did, they would have had nothing to show for their work because the tickets had already sold out.

The arrangement was supposed to be first come, first served. Instead, it more closely resembled first come, last served.

To play devil’s advocate, ostensibly the system seemed somewhat fair. After all, where’s the harm in using A&S funds to subsidize the cost of tickets? More students would likely attend away games if tickets were cheaper, and any student interested in going to an away game might consider the A&S fees money already paid and well spent.

However, the system was not fair because, as stated, the A&S funds used to subsidize the cost of the tickets came from fees paid by each and every student, and in this case an inordinately large proportion of Greeks – a small percentage of the total student body – benefited while students who are not part of an organization (but pay the same University fees) suffered for the benefit of Greeks.

The system was especially bad because of that. It’s not as though this offer applied solely to members of Greek organization. If a fraternity or sorority – or the Interfraternity or Pan-Hellenic councils – decided to spend its own money to buy tickets and subsidize the cost for members, great. That would be a perk of paying dues. But that’s not what happened.

It’s very easy for a cynic or a pessimist to look at what SG did and conclude that a tightly knit group of people used money paid by all students to get cheap tickets for them and their friends.

Too easy, in fact.

The worst thing about the whole affair is that it’s shrouded in plausible deniability. Damning though the circumstances seem, it’s easy to mention the reduced ticket prices and say, “It was done for the entire student body,” regardless of the fact that any number of preventative measures – such as simply capping the number of tickets that could be sold to any given person – would have resulted in a much more even – and arguably fairer – distribution.