Commercial Services and college Chairs conflict over freshers’ week event clashes

University of York

University of York

A number of college Chairs have voiced their frustration over Commercial Services’ new bid to hold their own line of free on campus events.

Commercial Services have faced resistance after it was revealed that some of their planned events in the newly refurbished Roger Kirk Centre clash with events already organised by college JCRCs during the second week of term.

To help in raising the profile of their Roger Kirk events and encourage crowds attendance, Commercial Services have asked colleges for their support. However, college committees have refused, saying they will prioritise their original plans before making any commitments to the University.

Jon Greenwood, Director of Commercial Services, believes “pretty much every Chair” will be supportive of the plans. However, this comment was undermined by a statement from Langwith College Chair, Conor Wilcock: “We all know the money from Commercial Services will partly go to funding conferences. I’d rather see it supporting students.”

He continued to say he “would rather use the Student Union” to organise co-hosted events, as he feels that the money would be better spent in students’ interests by the Union.

As entry to the Commercial Services’ events will be free of charge, some Chairs believe that the University will be “running a massive risk” at each event, in terms of financial gain and attendance. Each College was asked to support a different event throughout the week, including an event on the same day as YUSU’s popular annual Viking Raid.

However, Lydia Blundell, Halifax College Chair, and Tahir Shetty, Vanbrugh College Chair, have expressed concerns over timetabling clashes at the expense of their own College events.

Wilcock continued: “We need to make sure these events don’t clash with college events – that’s not something in principle that I’d support.”

The Commercial Services events will be typically running from around 8pm until 11pm. Shetty commented that “it will be an interesting learning experience for Commercial Services, as they don’t fully understand the efforts that go into organising and promoting each college event”.

A Vanbrugh student, who asked to remain anonymous, stated: “I would much rather attend a college event than a University event which sounds quite badly organised.”

Greenwood, of Commercial Services, has revealed that a quarter of a million pounds has been spent on the refurbishment of the Roger Kirk Centre because their previous events didn’t attract “enough people there to give it atmosphere”. He admitted that the forthcoming Commercial Services’ events “will lose money”, admitting: “But we expect that.”

Although the events held in Week Two will be free, the University intends to charge for such events in the long-term.

“We’re trying to get colleges with no bar to identify with the space”, explained Greenwood.

YUSU Democracy and Services Officer, Dan Walker, does not feel that Commercial Services’ plans will pose any threat to YUSU events. He stated: “The Roger Kirk Centre is a venue with fantastic potential, however [it] also has several limitations in terms of events.” He continued: “I’m looking forward to see how the newest layout of the Roger Kirk Centre will work”, but made it clear that he was unable to respond to speculation about the building’s future.

Concerns have also been raised over whether events held in the Roger Kirk building will be successful. The space has never been used for ‘gigs’; its prime function thus far has been college balls or award ceremonies. With such a large investment put into the refurbishment, questions over how to fully utilise and make profit from the space still remain.

“Colleges have pull, as does YUSU,” continued Shetty, “but it’s too big a space and both sets would struggle with it.” Goodricke College Chair, Tim Ellis, stated: “I don’t think colleges will support Commercial Services’ events. I doubt it’ll go very well for them in the end, to be honest.”

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