Editor’s Note: This op-ed was written by a student unaffiliated with The Herring, and edited by staff. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect The Herring’s. The piece was written partially before the Lustrum budget revisions: for more information on the budget and revisions, see previous articles here and here.
By Bram Jaarsma —
“What do YOU think of the Lustrum?’’ I can imagine many have been asked this question in the past few weeks. As someone who is generally rather opinionated, I was often met with surprise after replying, “nothing.” Truth is, I actually do have an opinion on the Lustrum, but I simply didn’t, and still don’t, feel comfortable identifying with either ‘’for’’ or ‘’against’’ in the antagonistic discussion that is taking place. I feel like the picture is more complex, and the outrage over the Lustrum is a symptom of problems in the AUCSA community, rather than a culprit. However, a five-year anniversary does seem like an appropriate time for some reflection, so I’ll try to have a go at that.
The €9,000 loss originally budgeted is a ridiculous amount of money for a birthday party. On its own, this might seem like an objective fact, but I feel like some things are getting lost in translation. Lustra are a big deal in the Netherlands. Depending on the size of the student association, budgets can reach north of a million euros. Now, that’s a stupid amount of money for a birthday party, but I think it helps to put things in perspective. In my honest and humble opinion, I think €9,000 is a completely acceptable amount to spend on this particular birthday party. We have more than 800 members, and a Lustrum only happens once every five years. A financially healthy student association will save up for a Lustrum over an extended period of time. That’s roughly €2 per member if you save up over five years. A good party costs money and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if we only do it once every five years.
That said, the proposed Lustrum budget was a stupid way to end up losing €9,000: €5,500 for a location that requires us to spend another €1,200 on buses, €1,100 euros for decorations and 900 for promotion as the cherry on top, not to mention the fact that the €9,000 pretty much directly correspond to the €10 increase in membership fees. When did we decide this was acceptable? Well, we did last October, when a GA almost unanimously approved the allocation of €9,000 euros to the Lustrum without any concrete plans. The Lustrum team was left free to develop a vision, and so they did. Part of me truly feels for the Lustrum team, who put considerable time and effort into planning what they thought would be an awesome party, and pretty much had people throwing shit at them from the moment they revealed their plans. Could they have seen it coming? Probably.
The Lustrum is supposed to be a celebration for all the members of the association. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that an expensive formal is probably the worst way to celebrate the members of the AUCSA. €9,000 becomes a completely different issue if you think it is a dumb event. Underneath the thick layers of pretension that mark our presentation to the outside world, lies an (excuse my language) incredibly diverse community. Many AUCSA members either don’t like formals, or think one a year is plenty. Then the fact that it is a formal opens all kind of doorways for it to be called elitist by anyone who isn’t feeling it: rightly so, as some have to work their asses off, juggling multiple jobs, in order to afford AUC in the first place. However, most notably, the event fails in celebrating the (excuse my language) diversity of the amazing things that happen in our community.
Nevertheless, this is something that might not have too much to do with the Lustrum. For a long time I’ve felt that we collectively fail in celebrating the amazing things that happen at AUC. There is a nasty, almost high-school-like vibe in the way committees and events represent themselves and are perceived. One only needs to look at committee Facebook pictures to see that Solace and the Lustrum team are a lot more similar to the AUCSA Board than the Art Board or PlayUC, for example. There’d be nothing wrong with this if all these groups would be adequately and equally represented, and maybe the AUCSA could even be that (excuse my language) excellent and diverse melting pot our promotion makes it out to be. However, I’ve never seen an AUCSA board member at Scopophilia, despite it being one of the coolest AUCSA events, and when we see that one of the most exciting initiatives I have witnessed come up during my time at AUC, Penny Dreadful, chooses not to affiliate with the AUCSA, we can say that something is seriously wrong with inclusivity. The Lustrum is a symptom of this problem.
Now imagine if, instead of a formal, the Lustrum team had announced that the Dormfest budget would be doubled in order to turn it into a two-day Lustrum festival. Then we’d be spending ~€12,000 on one party, yet I feel confident saying that most would be excited, rather than angry. A known formula everyone loves, Dormfest is so popular because it actually succeeds in celebrating the diversity of life in the bubble. Precisely for that reason, it is an event everyone looks forward to and feels invested in.
The outrage over the Lustrum budget is not just about money. It is an outrage partly motivated by the overt elitism the event represents, but it’s coming from a different place. It comes from the fact that some of the most amazing aspects of our community have slowly been pushed to the fringes to make place for aforementioned overt elitism. I am in favour of having an amazing Lustrum, and I think it’s completely legitimate that a good party costs some money. However, it should be a celebration all members of the AUCSA look forward to, feel involved in, and can afford to attend.