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Unity Fair – a waste of school funds?

On May 23rd, Seattle Central College hosted Unity Fair, a celebration of diversity featuring many of the student clubs and organizations on campus. The event featured musical performers, a rock climbing wall, and food served by several different clubs on campus. The school fully funded the event, and it was apparent that it was quite costly. Each club was required to submit requests for funding several weeks in advance of the fair, and the clubs were not expected to have to fundraise to cover costs for their supplies or planned activities that day. Although some may have had a great time at Unity Fair, as a participant and observer, I noticed several issues.

The first problem with the event is that it was not adequately promoted. Several people walking by and stopping in at various booths had no idea it was going on. I don’t recall seeing any emails about the event nor did several of my classmates that I spoke with that day. If the school is planning on fully funding an event that costly, it should take the time to ensure that the student body knows it was going on. Another issue was that most of the students didn’t seem to understand the purpose of the fair. Calling something a “Unity Fair” doesn’t necessarily imply a clear goal or purpose for the event. Several people were walking around confused, one student asking, “What’s the point? So, is it just for fun?” While a day of fun on campus may sound great to some, it does not seem to be very unifying if the majority of the people at SCC don’t even know what’s happening and why. That appears to be a big gap.

Most booths were selling something, whether that was food or crafts or buttons. There was no clear communication from leadership that only tickets could be used to make purchases. And these tickets could only be paid for in cash. Most students I know, are on a pretty tight budget. Properly promoting the event would allow for many more students to budget for the expense should they want to participate. I spoke to many people that said they would have loved to buy something, but they couldn’t afford to pay ATM fees to take out money, and they would have planned if they would have known that an event was going on. The booth I was in was requesting suggested donations for a few items. Suddenly, we were told we were not allowed to accept cash donations, but only ticket donations. Just another bit of confusion that was not correctly communicated to the participants that day. Nor were there any clear instructions on setup, clear down, staging, or any other critical logistics.

Not only are there several students out of the loop, but many instructors on campus were not aware of the event. One faculty member said they would have tried to give their students the chance to sell their artwork at Unity Fair if they were ever made aware that it was going on. This faculty member has been working at the school for well over a decade but said they always seemed to be out of the loop on these types of activities on campus. If the event is genuinely about unity, why isn’t everyone made aware of the day’s purpose and what it takes to participate?

Last year, I was one of those students that had no clue about what was going on that day. I walked outside and saw booths selling food and was asking around about everything. The students in the clubs were all well informed as they had been involved in the planning for several weeks ahead of the event. I was told that some instructors were allowing people to miss class to attend the event. I couldn’t help but wonder why. Why would this particular event, that not enough people knew about, benefit me in any way that would justify missing class? This year, my participation through one of the clubs on campus just furthered my assertion that there is no significant gain from attending Unity Fair. It took time and attention away from my coursework, and I wasn’t even that heavily involved. All I could think of when I looked around at all of the money and the waste generated by this poorly promoted event was that maybe one less class would have been canceled spring quarter, one fewer adjunct professor sent away, one more job that could have been saved.

I believe that there must be a balance between student life and academics. This college is primarily a commuter campus – most of us here already live in Seattle and commute to school. I, for one, am here for education and not to further my social life. Yes, there may be students on campus here who need that sense of community, but if it is going to be provided on the school’s dime paid for with our tuition dollars, the administration better make sure they are correctly managing and promoting the event so everyone can participate. Otherwise, this is just a bunch of money poured down the drain.


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