There is something almost schizophrenic about the upcoming second tercentennial weekend, a three-day meeting of illustrious minds that includes more than 52 panels, speakers and exhibits. While the Office of the Tercentennial staff claim the weekend, originally planned to honor and entertain the University’s most active alumni, will accommodate students with a smattering of tickets to selected venues, it has done remarkably little to publicize the opportunity and to make tickets accessible.
Indeed, the only way to obtain tickets to the April 19-22 weekend’s “Alumni Leadership Convocation” is to locate, buried deep in one’s e-mail inboxes, a note from an unfamiliar sender about a process, open a PDF file, print it out, fill out circles using a legend from yet another PDF file and then walk the form over to 232 York Street to secure a moderate chance to be chosen for a venue.
Lost? It makes sense, given how difficult the University has made it for students to attend these alumni sessions. Hundreds of seats for George H.W. Bush’s “Yale and Public Service” forum? There are thousands who would like to hear him. As for the dozens of other activities, chances for admittance are even slimmer.
The logistical problem of merely accessing tickets is matched by a lackluster publicity campaign that has, to date, included a single e-mail with directions for how to download event information and the ticket registration cards due tomorrow. It remains unclear why the tercentennial staff did not mail applications directly to students’ post office or residential college mailboxes or arrange for applications to be distributed in dining halls. It became perfectly clear this semester that officers did wish to include students in a weekend designed for alumni. But there was little enthusiasm for executing a practical publicity plan attuned to student needs and habits.
Although student seating for former President Bush’s forum will number in the hundreds, most of the events will be shut off to droves of students who aren’t tuned in enough to apply with the electronic forms or, worse yet, do not win tickets in a lottery.
One school of thought is that this somewhat harrowing application process will assure that only the most interested students will hand in their applications and attend events for which they have signed on. That may be true, but it would seem to rest on the odd assumption that the majority of undergraduates are not interested in hearing from a pantheon of pre-eminent American politicians, authors, actors, artists and academics.
To be sure, the second tercentennial weekend was not designed for students, as its title suggests. But the underwhelming attention paid to them so far, combined with the decidedly disappointing musical selection for Spring Fling, will put even more pressure on administrators to make the third and final tercentennial weekend a student extravaganza. So far, little information about that event has emerged, and college council presidents, who are preparing a letter to President Richard Levin, have expressed concern about the lack of student-oriented planning. It is time for the tercentennial staff to put their ears to the ground and ask students how they want to celebrate Yale’s 300th birthday.