Students, parents and alumni were surprised this Meliora Weekend when they picked up their registration packets only to find that they did not have tickets to events they had registered to attend. Tickets to highly anticipated speakers such as New York Senator Hillary Clinton and writer Salman Rushdie were distributed to early registrants, leaving many standing in long lines hoping to get a seat in the Palestra.
Dean for College Advancement Robert Bartlett stressed that ticketing was handled the same this year as it has been for the past two years. “The ticketing policy has been the same for every event,” he said. “There were just more people this year.”
Bartlett estimates that attendance over the entire weekend was somewhere between 9,000 and 9,500.
Most attendees said that the problem was not the limited number of tickets, but the fact that they were not notified ahead of time that they would not receive tickets. Jonathan Trost, Class of 1982, flew in for Meliora Weekend from Huntington Beach, California. “Like everyone else, I found out today when I stood in line [for registration],” he said.
Though the standby lines stretched from the west Palestra doors, past Hoeing and Gilbert dorms, to Wilson Blvd. for Clinton and Rushdie, everyone who wanted to attend events at the Palestra was able to do so and tents were available near Wilson Commons where speeches could be viewed live.
Bartlett said that there was a misunderstanding in the way tickets worked. “The problem that we had was the perception that only ticket holders would get in,” he said.
Bartlett said that issuing tickets helps provide incentive for people to register early which helps in planning for the number of people who will attend an event. “Ticketing is a way for us to plan an event, not to monitor attendance,” he said.
Alumna Andrea Scott, Class of 1985, also flew in from California and said she would have changed her plans if she had known she didn’t have tickets. “We would have come tomorrow if we had known,” she said. “We had to take an extra day.”
Scott said that she received a letter saying that some of the things were sold out, but thought she was confirmed for Clinton and Rushdie. When she received her registration packet however, there were no tickets for either of these events.
Bartlet said that the capacity of the Palestra is close to 1800, according to the fire code. He said that about 1500 tickets were given out to each of the large events held there. “Based on when registrations came in, we issued 1500 tickets,” he said.
Bartlett also said that the confirmation letters that were sent out were only meant to confirm that the registrant had expressed interest in attending the events listed on the letter. The letter included a notice saying that seating to each event was limited and that every effort would be made to accommodate anyone who wanted to attend free events.
Next year, Bartlett said, individual events will not be listed on the confirmation letter. “By listing the events, people get confused,” he said.
Senior Victoria Saah stood in the standby line to see Rushdie’s talk. She felt that the cut off date for getting tickets left students out because many were just getting back to campus and had not registered as of early September. “Registration that cut off ticket distribution in early September was unfair to students,” she said.
Though Saah was glad to get into the talk, she did say that she felt those without tickets were at a disadvantage. “In order to get a decent seat, you would have to get there an hour early and stand in line,” she said.
Junior Scott Solomon agreed. “If I would have had tickets, I would have had good seats,” he said. “I got into the talk 10 minutes late because it took so long to usher people in.”
Junior Nithin Raiker was also among those standing in line for Clinton. Though he was frustrated at first by his lack of tickets, he felt that everything worked out in the end. “I thought the weekend was good,” he said. “I was glad I got into the talk.”
Bartlett also pointed out that there is a problem with overbooking for free events. On the registration forms, he said, many people go through and check all the events with no charge attached.
Bartlett said that all events outside the Palestra were booked to three times their capacity, but that everyone who showed up was easily accommodated with no waiting and no lines. For example, 800 people signed up for the Young Leaders Career Workshop held Friday afternoon in Hubbell, but only 170 attended.
Though Bartlett does not foresee doing away with tickets in the future, he hopes there will be less confusion in the future. Bartlett said he hopes people will realize they can attend events even if they don’t have tickets. “It’s a matter of perception that we’ve got to fix,” he said.
Additional reporting by Kelly Smith.
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