Mayfest might not be dead after all—in fact, Student Association officials are saying it might now be better than ever.
SA leadership is pushing university officials to cancel a different day of classes in late April after the university announced yesterday that classes will be held on the day of SU Showcase, said SA president Larry Seivert.
The move would mean that the Mayfest block party on Euclid Avenue is still a go—or at least that students would not have to skip classes to attend.
“My feeling is if the university doesn’t recognize and take ownership of a tradition students feel so strongly about, students are still going to take it upon themselves to have a day of celebration anyway,” Seivert said.
The decision to have classes on the day of SU Showcase—the day when the Mayfest block party is traditionally held and, for five years, classes have been cancelled—was met with equal parts anger and confusion. A Facebook group, called Operation Rescue MAYFEST, amassed more than 1,100 members in a few short hours. The group suggested that the university was cancelling Mayfest.
That is impossible. Because Mayfest is a non-university block party in the neighborhood surrounding campus, SU officials cannot cancel it, but they can do things to discourage it—like reinstating classes on the day off that it is typically held.
But having a new day off of classes on a different day would mean the block party would probably live to see another year. And, said Jonathan Barnhart, a high-ranking SA official who is running for president of the organization this year, it would still let the university focus on the academic side—and complete the separation of the academic event and the booze-fest on Euclid.
“What I want to do is, instead of taking over the day of SU Showcase, give us our own day,” Barnhart said. “[SU Showcase] is on a Monday? Give us Thursday off of classes. That way we don’t even need to focus on the presentations. No classes. No presentations. Just what students want to do.”
Mayfest and SU Showcase have in the past been conflated. To add to the confusion, SU Showcase used to be known as MayFest, until university officials renamed it SU Showcase last year to help distance the university from the non-affiliated block party that went by the same name and was extremely unpopular among those living in the university neighborhood. The block party is still known as Mayfest. Now, if SA’s plan goes through, the events would even be on different days.
Two events on separate days would be ideal for both the Mayfest block party event and the academic SU Showcase event, Seivert said. “You have two needs that are clashing,” Seivert said, “and thats academic goals and student goals.” Having the events on separate days would improve the academic goals, Seivert said. “I’m completely in favor of showcasing academics.”
On student goals, Seivert said that a university acknowledgement of a Mayfest-type party day would help ensure safety. “There is risk that comes with a lack of resources that would be available to students and proper preparation and planning for the day if the university does not recognize this event,” Seivert said.
“If you have them on separate days, they can both flourish. They’re two completely different goals. They’re in two universes outside of each other. It pulls students in different directions. If you separate them you can achieve both,” Seivert said.
SU Showcase will be Monday, April 19—the week of the 40-year anniversary of Earth Day, to match the environmental theme of the event, provost Eric Spina said in an e-mail. The university’s decision to hold classes on the day of SU Showcase was an effort to emphasize the academic purpose of the event, Spina said.
SA officials believe it takes one more step to emphasize that academic purpose: the creation of another day off.
“If you don’t tell students that they’re going to have their own day off that goes along with SU Showcase, they’re going to take that day of classes off anyway,” Barnhart said.
SA members will be handing out petitions to give to Tom Wolfe, dean of students, Barnhart said.
Members of SA, including Seivert, have met with Wolfe to discuss the issue and will meet again with him and other student leaders from around campus on Friday, Seivert said. The group will discuss how a day of class would be cancelled, what day it would be on, and what sorts of programs would be offered. Seivert hopes to have 4,000 petition signatures to Wolfe by Friday.
Wolfe said on Monday that he has not advocated any position for or against canceling a day of classes in late April. “I have said nothing about supporting a day off from classes,” Wolfe said. Wolfe would not comment on whether or not he supported the initiative.
“I understand the appeal of something like this,” Wolfe said.
As for what’s happening now in the push for the day off, Wolfe said that he will be in contact with students. “I would ask them to join me in a thoughtful process,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said he supported reinstating classes on SU Showcase. “I think SU Showcase needs to be SU Showcase, and not have distractions from it.” Having classes on SU Showcase will help direct the day toward academic events, Wolfe said. “We need to allow this day to flourish.”
As for the panic that ensued after the e-mail from Spina, SA officials tried to delay it until they had a plan in place for a day to replace it, but were unsuccessful at stopping it, Seivert said.
SA members are counting on the student body to help them push the academic schedule change through. SA members are encouraging students to come to the SA meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Maxwell Auditorium.
“If we could show the administration that that gallery is full on a Monday night, the first time it has happened since a budget hearing, it would be phenomenal,” Barnhart said.