Take away a day of drunkenness and debauchery from students, and you’re all but guaranteed a reaction of critical mass.
That reaction came on Friday, when Syracuse University Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina e-mailed the student body announcing the university’s plans to schedule classes on the day of this year’s SU Showcase. In the past, SU Showcase meant a day off of school for academic presentations and, more notably, a popular block party all along Euclid Avenue more commonly known as “Mayfest.”
Cue the proverbial shockwave. Within hours, a student protest group emerged on Facebook called “Operation Rescue MAYFEST.” It has since accumulated more than 4,000 members. Additionally, the Daily Orange reported that the Student Association was planning to petition Thomas Wolfe, vice president and dean of Student Affairs, for an additional day off classes. And tonight at 7:30 p.m., SA will hold an open meeting in Maxwell Auditorium where students will be encouraged to voice their opinions on the university’s decision.
While the fate of SU’s beloved Mayfest is sure to remain a hot item for discussion in the coming weeks, it’s hard to ignore its implications for the upcoming SA elections, set to take place on MySlice from November 9-12. Spina’s e-mail came less than a week and a half after juniors Hari Iyer and Jonathan Barnhart announced their candidacy for president. Both are scheduled to speak at the SA meeting, but the two preceded their common reaction with radically different approaches to SU Showcase before the decision.
From the start, SU Showcase had been a key component of Barnhart’s “Own Your University” campaign platform. Barnhart even outlined a specific plan for the festivities in his candidacy announcement on October 13. In contrast, Iyer opted to focus his platform on issues like university spending and establishing better connections between SA, the student body, the university and its alumni. Iyer made almost no mention of the Mayfest festivities in outlining his plan.
Regardless of their initial differences in opinion, the decisions of both candidates to speak out against SU’s decision was an absolute necessity. For Barnhart and Iyer, the stakes couldn’t really get much higher. The 2009 SA election will be the first to feature two registered candidates since 2006, when Ryan Kelly defeated Matt Correia by a 14-point margin. Former President Marlene Goldenberg and current President Larry Seivert were both elected over write-in candidates in 2007 and 2008, respectively. 2009 was already shaping up to be a highly contested matchup; last year’s election saw more than 3,300 students cast votes – nearly 23 percent of the combined undergraduate student body of SU and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. And that was with just ONE registered candidate – Seivert. Factor multiple candidates and the SU Showcase development into this year’s equation, and you’ve got what could be one of the more exciting battles in SA history.
So we’ve seen both candidates take their first steps on this matter – fine. It’s good to see them both take a stand. But it doesn’t stop here. While Barnhart and Iyer will continue to fight this decision as long as possible, they both must do so in ways that establish their differences if either is to gain any significant advantage over the other. With more buzz surrounding this election than any in some time, the SU Showcase development is simply too important to both candidates for either to allow it to turn into a stalemate. It would seem both need clear-cut plans for how they hope to address this issue, otherwise it will just make an already tight race even tighter.
Will tonight’s meeting take a step toward separating the two candidates? We’ll just have to see…
What: Student Association open meeting
When: Monday, October 26, 2009 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: Maxwell Auditorium