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SU defends decision to move BSD indoors after backlash

By Ashar Memon, March 18 2019 —

The University of Calgary Students’ Union is defending its decision to move the annual Bermuda Shorts Day celebration indoors into MacHall after receiving several complaints about the issue.

The SU announced on March 14 that BSD this year will be held in MacHall AB and The Den. The event was previously held on Lot 32 behind Scurfield Hall. It was also announced that there will be no ticket cost to enter, after a $5–10 cost was implemented last year.

SU vice-president student life Nabila Farid said moving the event indoors would rein in part of the deficit it incurs. The event had a $98,000-plus deficit in 2018.

“We made the decision that we would like to be a little bit more fiscally responsible with the way that the event is going,” Farid said. “Obviously, students pay into Students’ Union fees, so we’re just looking at switching things up.”

BSD was last held indoors in 2008, when poor weather forecasts forced the SU to move it to MacHall.

Commenting on criticism levied to the SU about the new location, Farid said that she felt students had overlooked other changes to the event.

“I think a lot of the responses are reflective of the location change specifically, but I think that students hopefully will become increasingly more informed about the actual changes — not just to the location, but to the event itself — and hopefully that’ll be a draw to them,” Farid said.

The event this year will feature karaoke and a photo booth, along with more food and drink options. This year also marks the first year since 2009 that The Den will be open on BSD.

Farid said that the SU expects the event to hit capacity. She said MacHall AB will hold about 1,800 people, above the 1,000-person capacity listed by the MacEwan Conference and Event Centre, while The Den will hold about 800 — bringing the total capacity up to 2,600 people. The SU will hand out 5,000 wristbands, down from the 10,000 it handed out when the event was outdoors.

The event’s overhaul presents significant savings for the SU. The cost of the venue, 11 per cent of last year’s expenses, are no longer a factor. Additionally, the SU will only pay security for the MacEwan Student Centre during the event. Last year, they paid for security across campus, which contributed to security costing the SU a total of 34 per cent of their expenses. According to Farid, the SU projects a $50,000 loss from this year’s event.

After releasing details about the event, the SU faced criticism on social media and, according to Farid, over email. A petition was also launched on Thursday urging the SU to reconsider the change.

“This terrible decision represents the destruction of U of C’s culture and heritage,” the petition’s description reads. “Let’s bring it back to the great outdoors!”

Farid said that she had been monitoring feedback about the BSD on social media.

“I mean, students are obviously entitled to their own opinions,” Farid said when asked for comment on the petition.

BSD traces its roots back to 1961, when a campus freshman bought his first pair of Bermuda shorts and wrote “Everyone wear Bermuda Shorts” on a campus blackboard. In 1989, the U of C asked the SU to host a single event to contain the day’s chaos.

In recent years, BSD has faced many upheavals. In 2009, BSD was displaced to Lot 32 from its location in the green space south of MacHall due to the construction of the Taylor Family Digital Library.

Since 2009, the SU has rented Lot 32 from the U of C, which had been charging the SU the value of a day’s parking for every stall in the lot on the day of the event, in addition to other services associated with the parking lot. The SU had also been paying for security at the beer gardens, as well as for Campus Security and Calgary Police Service officers to patrol the rest of the campus during the day.

This year, Farid said the SU will only pay for security inside MacHall, while the U of C will pay for security outside the building. She said the SU approached the U of C several months ago and the two parties had been negotiating the event’s details for months.

Among the most significant changes is the opening of The Den — the SU’s bar — which had closed for the day on BSD since 2009. The SU has said in the past that the U of C would require additional security changes for the area around The Den if they serve alcohol. In 2016, former SU president Levi Nilson tried to open The Den on BSD but was denied by the U of C, which threatened to revoke the SU’s liquor license.

Last year, when the SU charged admission for BSD, they blamed a lack of co-operation from the U of C as one of the factors in making that decision.

“We have brought some proposals forward to the university on ways to work together to decrease the financial burden on the SU and those have always been turned down,” former vice-president Hilary Jahelka told the Gauntlet in an interview last year.

BSD isn’t the only on-campus celebration on the last day of classes. In 2015, a year after the murders of five U of C students, the university began hosting the UCalgaryStrong festival, its own annual end-of-year celebration, at the same time as BSD in the Jack Simpson gym.

Aside from celebrations on campus, many students instead opt to celebrate at street parties in D-Block, which is a stretch of student-rented housing in the community of University Heights.

When asked if she expects the changes to BSD to bolster parties at D-Block, Farid said that BSD and D-Block were separate events.

“I’m not quite sure why [D-Block] was so popular last year,” she said. “We hope that with our new format — obviously, some students are unhappy with it — but we hope that other students are interested in this new program. If it rains and snows in April, which I’m not sure it will, but lots of students are probably going to want to be indoors rather than outdoors.”

The U of C created a task force last year to address concerns from the community about parties at D-Block. The task force includes members of the U of C administration, Calgary Police Service, City of Calgary, University Heights Community Association, Campus Security, the SU and the GSA.

UPDATE: This story was updated at 4:45 p.m. on March 18 to include details about savings for the SU in this year’s event as well as the SU’s projected loss from the event.

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