Controversial start to RAG week

YUSU’s annual RAG week had a controversial start on Sunday night, after it was revealed that their event was poorly attended and organised under “false pretences”

YUSU’s annual RAG week had a controversial start on Sunday night, after committee members approaching Nouse revealed that their ‘Toga Party’ event had been poorly attended, and that students had also complained that it was “misleading” in its nature.

The RAG committee had planned to start their annual charity fundraising week by hosting the ‘World’s Largest Toga Party’ in Tru Nightclub. However, Nouse understands that when the event began, only five people had turned up.

Of these five, only two were members of the RAG committee, neither of which were organisers of the event. Joanne Clark, a member of the RAG week committee, said that she thought that eventually a “few hundred” were at the Toga Party, but she wasn’t sure. A second-year party goer, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that in fact there were no more than a maximum of a hundred in the venue.

Students have also complained that the event was created under “false pretences”, which has lead to further controversy.

The current record for the World’s Largest Toga Party stands at 2,166. However, the venue Tru has a capacity of 800. As a result, the World Record could never be broken by RAG. It has been revealed that the committee also knew that the record couldn’t be broken a month ago when they were told that their original venue, 22 acres, was unsuitable.

Helen Fry, YUSU RAG officer, explained that with regards to the original venue “the University facilities management were strict with us, saying that the ground couldn’t hold that many people”. She continued to state that she “couldn’t remember” when exactly that they had been forced to change the venue, though it might have been “a month ago”.

After the seemingly futile change of location, the RAG committee continued to wrongly advertise the event as the ‘World’s Largest Toga Party’, leading to claims that party goers had been misled.

When told that the world record couldn’t be beaten, Jody Martin, a Halifax first-year who attended the Toga Party, commented that she felt “cheated”. She continued to say that it was “really quiet at the beginning” and that “no one was there.”

Martin continued: “More people came later – enough to justify not going to Sunday Night Gallery. But it wasn’t rammed. I feel a little bit cheated because it wasn’t ever possible to beat the record.”

In response, Clarke apologised to anyone who felt that they had been misled: “I’m sorry if people feel that they have been cheated. The intention was to have a good night. We could have cancelled the event at the last minute but had to think about the greater cause of charities.”

Rag Officer Helen Fry also issued the following statement: “We got the permission to do the world record attempt from Guinness World Records months ago. Simply getting permission to do that takes 4 months for them to process. We had to move off-campus because of the weather conditions this winter and the damage it would cause to the grounds on 22 acres. Probably fair enough really!

“We then figured it would be best to move off campus to avoid the difficulties and restrictions of planning events on campus. Tru kindly allowed us to work with them. Moving to an indoor venue needed approval from GWR. I’m sure you can imagine how long it takes for them to reply. Once we found we could not hold the capacity, we looked into using a number of venues at once. We then needed GWR to get back to us on that. It was not until all publicity had gone out and right before the event itself (not about a month ago) that we had to accept there were no feasible options. What a waste of charity money to take all the publicity back in and print more simply to rebrand it.

“We were also setting the groundwork for future, in the hope we can achieve a world record attempt another time.

“We hope that people had a good time, we are truly sorry if anyone feels ‘cheated’ and hope that people enjoyed the night. The RAG week girls Jo and Imogen have worked extremely hard, and this article is pretty deflating for them, as they really have put their heart and soul into putting on some great events in RAG week. Again, there were never any intentions to mislead anyone, the only intentions we have ever had are to put on some fun events, have a great week, as well as raise as much money as we can for our core charities.”

31 comments

  1. 9 Feb ’10 at 8:33 pm

    Beth Yarwood Smith

    I’d just like to say that I second Joanne Clarke’s very true comment about ‘the greater cause of charities’. Articles like this may be journalism, but anybody writing or reading them should consider that RAG work incredibly hard to raise money for several very worthy causes. Negative press about RAG is essentially counter-productive to the larger aim of helping out those less fortunate than ourselves – I by no means speak against freedom of the press, but would urge anyone reading this article to realise how successful RAG are, and instead of grumbling about any flaws in their publicity, actually go and support them.

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  2. 9 Feb ’10 at 9:12 pm

    A stronger cynical view

    Tory boy for Student Activities, he’ll square this away!

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  3. You’re right, Beth, but unfortunately the purpose of the student media is to report events that happen on campus which may be of interest or of an advantage to students; this is one of them.

    Let’s be honest: charities have an overriding purpose, no matter how successful they are in the long-run, and clearly no-one is trying to degrade this. An article such as this is an essentially political argument which has nothing to do with the genuine success of RAG.

    Everyone on campus should support any charitable organisation, but that doesn’t eliminate any dubious legality involved here. Also, it is questionable how far RAG should be wholly supported and not questioned – let’s thinks about the wider picture here. What about all those charities that are undermined due to the UV laws? How do charities that don’t manage to pass an annual student vote ever have the chance of success and mass student support? The answer is: they never do. It’s all popularity and politics, just like the YUSU elections. No substance, all rhetoric.

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  4. 10 Feb ’10 at 1:39 am

    A. Politician

    I think they’d be lucky to get more than 5 people spending the night on 22 acres wearing nothing but a bedsheet when it’s been below zero most nights recently!
    Good idea though, could raise loads of money if it was done in slightly warmer weather!

    I wouldn’t get hung up about the ‘legalities’ of the record attempt. Its not against the law to attempt a record knowing you’re not going to be good enough! As long as the event made some money the advertising really isn’t that important.

    Shame to see the flagship event poorly supported, RAG week should be huge, I just wonder if it’d make more money either right at the beginning of term 1 or right at the end of term 3. Musicians on campus collecting for RAG was a nice touch though, should have buskers outside central hall more often!

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  5. You got it right the first time… it’s Joanne Clark, not Clarke.

    If you’re going to criticise the people that put so much work into organising RAG week, at least give them the courtesy of spelling their name right.

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  6. Oh no, learning that they weren’t going to break the world record attempt has shattered my dreams. Alas.

    In more important news, RAG is raising money for charity throughout the rest of the week. Give to the worthy cause at http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/yusurag

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  7. I’m all for journalists holding people to account – it’s part of the job description – but this article disappoints me because the agenda of the author seems to be to criticise RAG, regardless of whether or not the criticism is justified.

    I believe Chris was one of the many people to attend the Viking Raid last night, an event that was certainly more successful than the Toga Party. I’m sure other events that will take place over the course of this week, such as the final of Mr. and Mrs. York tomorrow night. The Toga Party didn’t make a loss, and RAG week as a whole certainly won’t, so in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter that the week’s curtain raiser wasn’t as well attended as had been hoped?

    On the subject that attendance, I don’t know the actual figure, but I do know that Joanne’s guess of “a few hundred” people is a lot closer to the truth than the anonymous second year’s claim of “less than a hundred”. If Chris wanted an accurate number, why didn’t he try calling Tru and seeing what they had to say? Surely Tru, and Joanne for that matter, are more reputable sources than one random student who happened to attend the event?

    I don’t think you can knock Joanne and Imogen for being “misleading”, as I highly doubt that was ever their intention. Maybe you can criticise them for being over-ambitious, but I would argue that aiming high is a positive trait, especially when they’ve organised something which is for the sake of charity rather than personal gain.

    I for one echo Helen Fry’s sentiments: Joanne and Imogen have put their heart and soul into RAG Week, devoting many hours to ensuring another successful year. For them to have to deal with this negative press, especially with so much of RAG Week left, is a real slap in the face for them after everything they’ve done.

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  8. I really don’t see what the big deal is here. RAG organised a world record attempt knowing that they could never break the current world record, and Nouse have written an article on that fact. Nowhere in the article does it state that RAG are bad people for trying to raise money for good causes. It just states the facts. Surely any press coverage is good press coverage for RAG right now?

    I, as a third year living off campus, knew that RAG week was some time in the middle of this term, but didn’t know it had actually started until I read this article, maybe this is why RAG had a poor turn out. Maybe next time they’ll advertise their big week better and they’ll get more people at their ‘world record attempts’. Maybe next time they’ll also decide to break a world record that they have a chance of breaking.

    At the end of the day though, this is all irrelevant to the fact that RAG are raising money for good causes. It’s relevant to the article, yes, but not to what some of you lot are squabbling over.

    I wish RAG the best of luck in their fundraising for the rest of the week.

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  9. 10 Feb ’10 at 12:55 pm

    Just noticed...

    Did a bit of Facebook stalking and I have two friends in common with Jody Martin: one of them being Chris Young, writer of this article. Hmm…

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  10. I’ve just been told that the writer of this article was aggressive when trying to get these quotes from Jody Martin. She never said she was cheated and although it was quiet she said she had a great night.

    I feel this article totally misses the point of RAG week events, that they are about raising for charity. Writing negative articles about an event that was despite not being packed, fun for all that attended, just discourages people from coming to future RAG events that will be great and most importantly will raise a lot of money for charity!

    So everyone should ignore this misleading article and attend the RAG week events, because the bottom line is this week raises huge totals for charity, and is great fun!

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  11. What about all the people that had an awesome time and enjoyed? The article doesn’t mention them. The RAG committe have had a difficult time with this event but they did a brilliant job!

    Publicity is good, but couldn’t Nouse do more to promote exposure for RAG, and perhaps without an underlying agenda to stir things up?

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  12. 10 Feb ’10 at 2:30 pm

    OFFICIAL STEVE MILLER CAMPAIGN TEAM

    STEVE MILLER FOR D&S!!!!

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  13. When running any event, there is a risk that it will be unsuccessful. But RAG has an even harder time. If they fund an event and it’s not a success, they lose charity money. Thankfully, with the toga attempt, this isn’t the case – as I doubt they would have paid that much (if anything) for TRU.

    We as a student committee need to be less critical of RAGs shortcomings and celebrate its achievements. Year on year, it raises money for extremely worthwhile causes – ones which we, as a student body, have proposed and voted on.

    While the world record attempt may have been slightly misleading and ultimately impossible (giving the capacity of TRU), let’s not dwell on it. Instead we should look forward to the other events that are happening this week and do the best we can to support several good causes.

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  14. I don’t think there’s any problem with this article. It is just and fair reporting and, if you don’t like the substance of the piece, maybe you should stop attacking the author and go out and make something of the last few days of RAG week.

    Furthermore, I think the article addresses a very serious issue. I have been very disappointing by this years RAG week. It seems to me that leading members of the RAG Committee have failed to put in the time and attention that it required, and I know of a lot of member of the RAG Committee that are disappointed with the poor amount of effort put in by those elected to do so.

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  15. Paul, this article doesn’t just stat the facts, at least not neutrally. Note my above comments regarding the attendance figures, and as other people have pointed out there’s no mention of people having a good time. Several hundred people attended the event; could Chris not have found one student who was willing to go on record with a more
    positive comment? Had he done so, this story might have been more balanced.

    It’s interesting to hear someone suggest that Jody Martin was bullied for her comment, because it’s my understanding that Chris was quite tough on Joanne and Imogen as well. I was told he literally cornered Joanne to get a comment out of her. If this stories only about reporting facts, surely Chris could have been less fierce in chasing people up.

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  16. “It’s interesting to hear someone suggest that Jody Martin was bullied for her comment, because it’s my understanding that Chris was quite tough on Joanne and Imogen as well”

    I’m sorry, but it is completely unacceptable to attack the author in this manner. It is incredibly irresponsible to start such defamatory rumours without any solid backing. If those interviewed felt ‘bullied’ for their comment then they can take it up with YUSU themselves, but it is not something that should be disgusted in public at all.

    Whether you agree with the article or not, it is a news story, not the opinion of the author. Not to mention that if there is a real issue here, which I strongly doubt considering my own experiences of the author, then surely it is a legal one and your bringing it into public debate can only be damaging to everybody involved.

    I really do not understand how you can justify such an unfounded attack on the character of the author.

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  17. I honestly don’t think Chris Young could be fierce or aggressive to anyone!!

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  18. Maybe aggressive was the wrong word. I just meant he had been a little bit forceful in getting the words he wanted to hear

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  19. I apologise

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  20. Just because RAG is a charity doesn’t mean that they should be immune from criticism, and all this personal crap is just sad.

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  21. In Soviet Russia, rag week attends YOU

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  22. that article is just funny! poor rag…haha

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  23. Evening all….
    Firstly i would like to state that Chris was not aggressive and he most certainly didnt ‘bully’ me into my answer. (Have you met him :P)
    With all these comments, they are mostly all negative, so im going to be honest, i got very bored of reading the same thing and didnt read them all.
    Its an article, i only answered the questions which i was ask.
    I do believe that the article was altered once Chris had written it by someone else, removing a very important fact that i had a good night. The wording of my answers where not exactly what i said. But at the end of the day, its just one article.
    Anyone who went to the Toga party will agree that it was quieter than expected, but it doesnt mean it wasnt fun.
    It was for charity! The money raised was going towards something good, the main reason people went to it.
    The people who went as far as im aware had a good night, and as far as im concerned thats all that matters.
    People should worry less about thing such as this, and concentrate there time on things which are more important… i.e, the rest of Rag week.
    Anyone could have wrote this article, which means it is clearly not right to write negative comments directly aimed at the author.
    People need to put all the negative energy they have and turn it into something more productive…

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  24. Chris is one of the nicest guys I’ve met at University, and personally, I really don’t think this article paints either RAG or the author in a bad light. It’s factual, and the organisers have been given ample time in the piece to explain things – giving very good reasons for their decisions.

    The event wasn’t the big “record breaking” party we hoped for – big deal. Lets move on and enjoy the rest of RAG week… After all, the whole point is to raise as much money as possible for the core charities, right?!

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  25. I retract my previous post and would like to apologise to Chris and Jody for the confusion. Lets all move on and have a great RAG week and raise some more money

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  26. Some people need to lighten up. I personally thought this article was a pretty good piece of journalism.

    And big love to Chris Young- the coolest guy i know :-)

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  27. 11 Feb ’10 at 2:43 pm

    Jacket Potato

    I like CY, he’s a good flad… :) One doesn’t believe he would be forceful with anyone when getting quotes!

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  28. 11 Feb ’10 at 8:41 pm

    With cheese and beans

    CY is lovely… unlike his housemate Jacket Potato.
    He’s racist and bullies fat people.

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  29. 11 Feb ’10 at 11:51 pm

    Melanie Stevenson

    I’m sorry I seem to have missed something, just to clarify – people felt ‘cheated’, as if they had been ‘misled’ and that the event had been created under ‘false pretences’ because an event that was hosted for the sole purpose of making money for charity was poorly attended?

    How terrible of the University of York RAG committee to have sacrificed weeks of their personal study and social time to have organised such an event! How shocking of Joanne Clark to have overestimated the number of attendees when the ‘second-year party-goer’, who would valiantly prefer to remain anonymous, obviously had the more accurate estimation! And let us not forget about poor Jody Martin of Halifax, who gave up her entire Sunday evening to a night of drinking only to feel ‘cheated’ due to the poor turn-out!

    Appalling. It’s almost as if the RAG committee had forgotten that RAG week is merely another excuse for students to go out and get as absolutely wasted as possible and instead were trying their hardest to combine raising as much money for charity as they could, with arranging an enjoyable week for the rest of the students who weren’t going to organise it for themselves. Shame on you committee, remember where your priorities lie in future.

    I’m sure that the committee weren’t themselves disappointed in the slightest that the turnout wasn’t quite what they had hoped for, particularly after weeks of preparation, advertising and let’s face it neglected study for the degrees they are paying for…

    I suggest that if this is the general feeling, a few more of the University of York students should volunteer themselves for RAG week next year so that the committee is not quite so overworked. Otherwise, maybe just appreciate the fact that it’s for a good cause guys and commend the people that contributed, if you’re not one of them, are you really entitled to criticise?

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  30. 8 Mar ’10 at 2:25 pm

    Once again..

    proves how crap York Uni’s organised social events are. I’ve visited several of my friends at universities around the UK and they all have something interesting going on aside from trumpet festivals. Take for example Viking raid that we have – you pay £8 for a t shirt and ‘free entry’ into Tru. Personally I gave up on this a long time ago when ‘drinks offers’ never materialised and I realised I could do exactly the same as this without paying £8 and ending up in a club that’s just a dressed up Willow.

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