This column is part of the Friday Forum on athletics. Read the next column here.
Our campus is threatened by a dangerous practice that has been developing over the past few years. It is a practice that is as unsavory as it is predatory, as pernicious as it is absurd. Yet, most students who engage in this practice do not know the extent to which their behavior poisons our campus. Yale students must stop scalping tickets to events for quick profits.
Scalping is a practice where people sign up for student events that are in high demand only to sell those tickets to other students for a profit. The success of this practice stems from the fact that Yale students often view these high-demand events as opportunities to participate in Yale traditions with the rest of campus. In the name of accessibility, because these events are often historical in nature, students are initially offered tickets to attend these events at cheap prices.
The high demand for these events, however, means that tickets often run out quickly. Few can forget how the seats to this year’s Halloween show were sold outin less than two minutes, or the long line that stretched past the doors of Payne Whitney for tickets to the Harvard-Yale game.
Once the tickets to these events are sold out, scalpers begin to make offers to various groups on Facebook. Tickets that cost $15 when bought from Yale organizations skyrocket to prices of over $80 through scalpers. Facebook quickly turns into an auction house as bidders make offers and counter-offers to these events. At one point, two tickets to the Harvard-Yale game could be sold for $200.
Scalping contradicts the general spirit of openness and creativity that exists amongst the student body. Here at Yale, there is a spirit of joint discovery that looks to improve the lives of students. Yale Bluebook and Coursetable were the products of efforts their respective cofounders took to make shopping period less stressful. The very newspaper you are reading costs nothing. Improv groups like Just Add Water and the Viola Question perform shows for free while tickets to a capella group performances and theater productions are available for $5. The principle of “free and open to the public” is not an empty truism; it is a statement of the Yale community’s commitment to ensure that the cost of an event is not a barrier to one’s participation. Scalping, however, takes this principle and turns it on its head. Rather than view these events as important communal experiences, scalpers view them as opportunities to make a quick buck. These unique undergraduate experiences, which will stick with us for the rest of our lives, become divorced from the traditions that made them special and instead become products to be consumed.
It is also difficult to defend scalping from a free-market perspective. Scalping does not produce anything of value. Instead, it exploits the desire of students to engage in the communal nature of these events for monetary gain. That some scalpers have taken to tying the sale of tickets to charitable causes (while pocketing some remainder) is only further evidence of the contradictions inherent in this practice.
There are two ways to manage the problem of scalping. The first way is to expand the number of seats available for traditional events. This method is particularly weak, as it does little to address the practice and will only be effective in the short-term. In addition, there is also a problem of facilities. There are only so many seats in Woolsey Hall or at the Harvard Stadium for visiting fans. With the addition of two new residential colleges, I can only see the situation further deteriorating. The better solution, then, is for students to refuse to buy tickets from scalpers. Only in making scalping shameful will students begin to see the practice for what it is: extortion.
Scalping contradicts the inclusive spirit of this campus. While scalpers themselves are not bad people, the practice takes advantage of students’ desire to engage in campus traditions. The best way to combat scalping is to condemn it openly in our conversations and to refuse to buy tickets from scalpers after the original supply has run out. After all, these events are only important insofar as they promote community.
Ugonna Eze is a junior in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.