Hand Me Down Night cuts total costs in half

by Beacon Staff • March 18, 2009

Hand Me Down Night will be recession-chic this year, as the total budget has been slashed in half amid a recession and lingering memories of last year's budget brouhaha.

This year's ceremony celebrates the torch-passing of more than 100 organization leaders to their successors and will cost just less than $16, 983--less than half the $34,000 budget last year that sparked outrage among students and resulted in the resignation of two SGA members. Moreover, the event's organizers raised $4,000 independently, so the cost to the SGA-which is funded by a fee paid by all Emerson students-was less than $13,000.

Organizers saved more than $3,000 by renegotiating their contract with the Courtyard Marriott hotel, where the event will be held, and planned a more modest event. Gone is the expensive sit-down dinner, instead guests will be able to help themselves to finger food. Dessert and dancing will close the night.

"We're looking at re-branding the event, to clarify the purpose of the event," said committee chair Cassie Kling, a 2010 marketing communications major, during the group's presentation to the SGA on Tuesday. To that end, they renamed the event "Hand Me Down Night: Emerson Recognition and Achievement Awards."

The money allocated by the SGA for this year's ceremony, will be $12,983.07. This includes the $10,000 originally allotted by the Financial Advisory Board for the event, as well as a $2,983.07 appeal granted by the SGA on Tuesday. The appeal was passed with 14 members voting yes and one abstention. Abstaining from the vote was SGA member Timmy VanWart, also a member of the ERA Awards Committee. SGA President Scott Fisher, who had predicted in a iBeacon/i interview prior to Tuesday's meeting that the amount of the group's appeal might be as low as $5,000.

"Especially in these economic times, we need financial responsibility," Fisher said. "Especially right now, $40,000 would not be appropriate."

Last year's budget for Hand Me Down Night, was $33,690.75. According to a iBeacon/i article from February 2008, this number sparked a battle within the SGA resulting in two members' resignations.

Hand Me Down Night was separated from the FAB budget last year because of concern among members about the huge cost of the event, Fisher said. However, because of disagreement within SGA about what would be a more appropriate allocation, the appeal was ultimately passed as a separate item. Fisher said he had expected the separation to lead to a lower budget for the event.

"It didn't happen," he said. "And I was shocked."

The passing of the $33,000 appeal was hotly debated among SGA members. The two members who resigned felt the number was too large for an awards ceremony that only acknowledged a fraction of the Emerson student population. In his letter of resignation, former Visual and Media Arts senator John Tyson referred to SGA as a "glorified rubber stamp." Fisher said he regretted the way the issue turned out.

"I was disappointed when they resigned," he said. "I was disappointed they would lose their contribution to the group and to SGA."

The ceremony is an annual event celebrating and rewarding student leadership at Emerson. The name-change to the ERA Awards is, according to the event's Emerson web page, the result of "several transformations in recent years; the underlying theme, however, remains the same. The night aims to pass the reigns [sic] of leadership from one leader to the next." The night is planned for April 26 at the Courtyard Marriot Tremont Boston Hotel, according to the site.

The committee consists of seven members and a student advisor and is not a part of the SGA. Among these, three members-Timmy VanWart, Morgan St. John, and Jacob Barela, as well as the student advisor, Grace Konrad, are SGA members, according to Kling. Only VanWart and Konrad are voting members.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, Fisher had also discussed SGA's general move toward lower spending and greater responsibility.

"The [SGA] pool account's looking much better than we expected," said Fisher. He said this is mostly a result of rollback from student groups not spending the full amount of their SGA allocations.