May 25, 2012

Major RSO events face more scrutiny

About half a dozen RSOs planning to host major events this month had to undergo a review process officially implemented by the University this quarter in an effort to ease communication between administrators and student group leaders.

The review committee, which is composed of representatives from the Office of Campus and Student Life, University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), U of C Communications, Office of Event Services, and student leaders, targets events with prominent speakers that would draw a large crowd.

University spokesperson Steve Kloehn, who is a member of the review committee, said that the process has existed informally for several years but was formalized this quarter to include more student participation.

“The administration wants to support students groups so that they can carry out events more successfully. And this process is created out of that impulse,” he said.

In review meetings, RSOs present and discuss the security, content, logistics, and potential crowd management of their planned events. If security concerns are raised in the review, the University will provide additional police forces and a Dean-on-Call for the event.

Among the events that were subject to the review process over the last month were Scav, a joint-talk by Cornel West and Carl Dix on May 8, Relay for Life last week, and a panel next week on mental health of immigrants and refugees.

Social sciences graduate student Toussaint Losier, one of the organizers of the West-Dix talk, said that the event review committee served as a brainstorming session where they were asked to answer questions about issues related to carrying out the event effectively.

“The event review committee was particularly concerned about potential protests at the event and arranging a free speech zone for potential protests of West and Dix,” he said.

The event’s organization was originally postponed due to logistical complications, but the issues were resolved by April 30.

Other student leaders found the review meeting conducive to organizing their events.

“The process is not about approving the event but about avoiding unanticipated situations, especially [because] many protesters come to the city during NATO. They just wanted to make sure nothing goes wrong,” said fourth-year Libby Bova, who is president of Partnership for the Advancement of Refugee Rights (PARR), which will host the panel on refugee mental health next week.

Head Scav judge fourth-year Leah Rand described the process as “a beneficial and positive experience.”

“It gave me a chance to address the concerns [and] make sure that we were all on the same page,” she said.

Fourth-year Anasuya Kabad, chair of Relay for Life, appreciated the committee’s willingness to provide security and personnel.

“They did not change anything or make us sacrifice anything about the event. They were super helpful to ensuring that the event ran smoothly and that all of our participants were safe and secure,” Kabad said.

—Additional reporting by Anthony Gokianluy