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Event planning at USF is in need of reform

Confusion over a display commemorating 9/11 outside the Marshall Student Center (MSC) has again brought attention to problems with USF Event and Meeting Services (EMS).

The USF College Republicans planted nearly 3,000 miniature American flags near MSC and the Martin Luther King Plaza Friday, the eighth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Though seemingly harmless, the event raised concerns among USF officials.

“The issue is that we weren’t aware that they were going to do that,” said Greg Jackson, associate director of MSC.

Jackson said the College Republicans got permission from Allied-Barton, which provides campus security, but not from EMS, which handles events for the MSC. Despite the mishap, the display was left intact.

“We’re doing them a favor,” Jackson said. “We could have asked them to take it down.”

EMS was not doing the College Republicans a favor. It was only doing the right thing in the situation. Taking down such a patriotic display would have been wrong, and EMS should shoulder some responsibility for the mishap.

While the College Republicans may be partly to blame for going through the wrong channels, the fact that they were unable to figure out the correct procedure indicates a greater communication problem at EMS.

This was not the first time attention was called to problems with event planning at USF. In March, a gun scare at a fraternity talent show prompted an in-house inspection of EMS to see if it followed the proper protocol when planning the event.

The talent show was held in Cooper Hall Auditorium despite a rule that said nonacademic events of that size could not be held there. During the event, David Joseph Thornton, who is not affiliated with USF, brandished a gun at a crowd outside the hall.

EMS knew little about the event beforehand and failed to notify University Police, which meant no officers were present at the time. Thankfully, Thornton did not fire, but the incident was a clear sign that event planning needed to be refined.

Student organizations should do their best to ensure events are planned correctly, but it should be the job of EMS to facilitate the process and make it as easy as possible to understand.

While Friday’s controversy does not compare in severity to the gun scare, it does show that previous concerns have not been resolved. EMS needs to figure out the best way to plan events to avoid confusion and keep student organizations informed.