Services Officer, Chris Osborne’s plans for GradBall 2004 are already in turmoil, just weeks after being unveiled in nouse. In a frank admission Osborne conceded that his previous plans, revealed in December’s issue, were based on a fundamentally “flawed business model.” Even more embarrassing, his promise to spend, “£55,000 and not a penny more,” which formed the centrepiece of his plan to achieve an elaborate VAT tax break for the Union has had to be scrapped. Consequently, Osborne has been forced to renegade on his pledge that GradBall tickets would cost significantly less than £60.
A combination of GradBall 2004’s predicted ticket sales and the complexity of the VAT regulations, meant that Osborne faced the danger that if he sold more than 1100 tickets he’d perversely have less money to spend on acts. In recent years the event has attracted more than 1400 revellers. Despite the ticket-price-hike Osborne conceded that students will see little benefit on the night due to the “17.5% increase being swallowed up the tax man.”
Notwithstanding these embarrassing revelations, Osborne was already under fire from disgruntled students after breaking with tradition and controversially opting to hold GradBall almost two weeks before the Graduation Ceremonies. Furthermore, students face the prospect of their prestige event being all over by 2am, a fact acknowledged by the SU Services Officer in a confidential email obtained by nouse.
In the email, in which Osborne confides: “I would appreciate it if you kept some of the more … sensitive issues from the public domain,” he concedes that the “latest [license] the racecourse has ever seen is 2am.” However, in a subsequent interview Osborne sought to play down fears, remaining confident that an application for a 4am finish would be successful. Unfortunately, Osborne’s fate lies in the hands of the local council. Either way students have expressed concern that they face being short-changed. Elisabeth Lowe, a third year Biochemist, complained “I feel like I’m being ripped off … I’m being asked to pay as much as last year’s finalists for an event that could be four hours shorter. Its not even on the right night.”
Other proposals outlined in the email may further alarm students, as Osborne floats plans for Standard, Gold and Platinum ticket packages set at different prices. Benefits might include free bottles of wine, limousine rides or even VIP bars for those prepared to pay out more. For a Union which was once constitutionally opposed to any differential room rents on campus, differential ticket prices, based on the ability to pay, may prove a bitter pill to swallow.
But it remains to be seen whether Osborne can sell to sceptical Finalists an untried formula.