Rethinking the status quo: the unfairness of the Springfest shirts

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By Samantha Tyler

Every year, there’s a single Saturday that is so overwhelmingly wonderful, it’s hard to put into words. We all look forward to Springfest. For weeks, the entire campus buzzes with rumors about what bands will be playing. Then, come the Thursday before, the information spreads like a wildfire. The excitement is as contagious as the common cold during winter term. In our world at Union, where national holidays do not exist, we have a holiday all our own. “Happy Springfest!” is shouted all over campus, starting Friday as soon as classes finish. Our own concert, on our own “beach,” on our own holiday. It is marvelous.

Tens of thousands of tuition dollars are spent to entertain almost all 2,200 students that attend Union (I say “almost” in respect for those that are unable to attend due to sports commitments). The free outdoor concert fosters a sense of community amongst us students—a very loud, rambunctious community.

For about a 12-hour period, no matter what class year you are or what your major is, we simply have fun. Springfest is one of the extremely few days of the entire year that every student—scholarship or full-tuition, first-year or senior, humanities or engineering major, Greek or non-Greek—can enjoy the day in the same basic way as everyone else on campus.

On a campus that is so heavily Greek, the equality during the biggest party of the year is most certainly welcomed.

A stranger would look around and most definitely notice that not only is the majority of the student body on a single stretch of grass, a large percentage are even wearing the same shirts. This outsider (or even an unknowing first-year, like I once was) may see these shirts as a symbol of all students’ congruency on this magnificent day, but he or she would be wrong.

I admit, I think the idea of the shirts is a great one and I even purchased a tank top my freshman year. Why wouldn’t I want to have a physical representation of such a great day that I can wear even when it has ended?

However, it is not Student Activities or some other unbiased organization that sells these shirts. Instead, it is two Greek organizations that design and sell them, and they have for as long as anyone currently at Union can remember. The shirts are sold in Reamer to anyone who wants to buy one only after the Greek pre-sale. As a freshman, and even as a sophomore, I had no idea that even if I rushed to buy a shirt on the first day they appeared in Reamer, I still may not get my preferred size because every single member of the Greek community was given the opportunity to buy that same size before I even laid eyes on the year’s design. Actually, not every single member of the greek community: only the Panhellenic sororities and the Interfraternal Counsel fraternities get this opportunity. Such exclusivity is unnecessary and there is not a single reason for it besides an unwillingness to stray from the status quo.

At many other schools that host a similar event, there are a variety of shirts designed and sold by the many organizations that wish to do so. At our school it is one group, made up of two organizations, that have monopolized the Springfest shirts, their design and who they are sold to first.

I understand that this group spends thousands of dollars buying these shirts every year. But I also understand that Student Forum has quite a large budget that could easily accommodate such a purchase, as can other student organizations, especially if split amongst multiple groups.

If the current group makes a profit from selling these shirts, where exactly does the money go?

Other Springfest-themed goods were sold this year, by several other greek organizations. Water bottles and sunglasses were sold to raise donations for those that suffered in the Boston Marathon bombing. The philanthropic aspect of their fundraising was made very clear, while it remained uncertain where the possible profit from selling the Springfest tank tops would end up. It may be argued that there is usually no profit made and my question is therefore moot. However, if it were advertised that the money raised by selling the shirts was going to be donated to a good cause, perhaps more students would be willing to buy them. I know I would be.

On one of the few days designated for the entire campus to join together as a community and have fun, I am disappointed and infuriated that this day too has been tainted by the divide between greeks and independents.

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