Students called in from Recess

Picture yourself on the last day of classes. You’re stressed out over the upcoming exams and you’re looking to find somewhere to relax on Saturday night. Wouldn’t it be nice to dance the night away in the familiar environment of your very own MacEwan Student Centre? This is probably what the Students’ Union was thinking when they came up with Recess, an extended-hours dance party (i.e., a rave) they planned to hold on Dec. 9. The SU had already begun to book acts and advertise the event in mid-November, which is why a large financial setback was experienced when University of Calgary Administration informed them the event would not be allowed to take place.

"[The SU is] not permitted to hold the extended dance that [it] proposed on Dec. 9, 2000. You may also not hold any other such events on the University of Calgary campus or lands," reads a letter to the SU from Associate Vice-president Student Affairs Peggy Patterson.

Since raves emerged into popular culture, the SU has co-promoted two raves on campus. Although the first of these parties went smoothly, the second was marred by a number of security issues, including weapon seizures and drug trafficking offences. Despite these issues, the SU managed to put on two raves without sparking a campus-wide ordeal. So the SU was left questioning why the university pulled the plug on Recess.

"We looked at what are the risk issues–the liability issues–and when you’re dealing with extended-hours dance events, essentially there are two," explained Patterson. "There’s the liability issue, which includes the risks posed to the people going to the event itself [and the risk posed to] others who live on campus who might be affected by the activity. What happens if, for example, people who’ve been at the event end up wandering over to residence and the residence students are studying for exams? The other liability is that we’ve got a construction site right beside the proposed venue for the event, the [Mac Hall] Ballroom."

According to Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz the illegal events that occurred at the second rave were also taken into account.

"We’ve had similar kinds of concerns [at rock concerts and other events] but not near the frequency and intensity of what we had for one rave party," said Fritz.

Another question asked by students was why the university has any say in the issue at all. The proposed venue for the event is the MacEwan Student Centre, which is operated by the SU. The answer lies in a bylaw recently passed by the City of Calgary, according to which the licence to hold an extended-hours dance event can only be accorded with the consent of the owner of the property upon which the venue is situated.

Looking back on the history of the event, things started to go downhill at the original meeting of representatives of all groups involved: the SU, the university and Campus Security. The role of this committee was to discuss issues surrounding the production of raves on campus. At their first meeting, which took place in mid-August, Patterson says she requested the SU present a proposal to examine how raves could be developed and managed. The next thing heard by administration about the issue was a phone call from Calgary Bylaw Enforcement to let them know the SU had applied for a licence and that the university needed to give its approval for the event.

"The misunderstanding that ensued could probably be summed up by saying that the SU delegates understood that we were in a position to make arrangements for booking artists to perform on Dec. 9 and also that we were in a position to advertise," said SU VP Events Alix d’Archangelo. "Other members on the Committee had a different impression of what the status of raves on campus was."

No minutes were taken at the summer meeting, and that miscommunication means a financial loss for the SU.

D’Archangelo wonders whether the idea of a rave was doomed from inception because of stereotypes, misconceptions and a lack of familiarity.

"I think that there are people on this campus who were committed to quashing raves from the start. It makes me wonder why there was ever any pretence at all of exploring it as a possibility."

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