New event planning policies unveiled following student input

After receiving input from a range of student groups during the fall semester, Cornell’s Event Management Planning Team (EMPT) has introduced changes to the event management planning process.

Effective immediately, the time frame for filing an Event Registration Form (ERF) has been modified. For the vast majority of events, the deadline is now two weeks instead of four weeks. Additionally, many events require no ERF.

These changes come nearly a year after the EMPT announced planning requirements that prompted negative reactions from students. In particular, students were concerned about a four-week deadline required for registering events they hoped to sponsor and stricter enforcement of existing rules, including having to pay for Cornell Police security.

“Students expressed deep concerns that the four-week deadline limited their flexibility in planning and holding events,” said Vijay Pendakur, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students. “A vibrant campus climate is an essential part of the university experience. I’m grateful to all the students and the EMPT for working to improve our event management process by tailoring the deadlines to specific needs.”

The following types of situations do not require an ERF, unless they also fit in a category listed below:

  • meetings, since they are closed sessions limited to a department or select group (e.g., a student organization or Greek organization);
  • closed events that are by invitation only; 
  • events where the only food is pre-prepared by a commercial entity (e.g., pizza, snacks, subs, dessert);
  • tabling used to promote an event or organization (no exchange of money and only pre-prepared food at table);
  • outside rallies, demonstrations or protests that don’t have sound amplification, or that are amplified only between noon and 1 p.m. outside the Straight or Day Hall;
  • events in venues that have an occupancy of fewer than 50 people.

The two-week deadline applies to events that are often more spontaneous, require less advance planning and do not pose any safety concerns. These routine events, which reflect a large percentage of events on campus, include these elements:

  • food from an approved caterer;
  • tabling when the group is collecting money (e.g., Krispy Kreme fundraisers); 
  • venues that have an occupancy between 50 and 150 people; 
  • held outdoors and have amplified sound (other than at the noon hour outside the Straight or Day Hall);
  • money is collected or tickets are being sold;
  • small events (occupancy between 50-150) that end before 11 p.m.;
  • students who use drones for recreational purposes; 
  • student performers (musical acts, comedians, actors) in small venues (less than 150 capacity). 

However, the registration deadline remains at four weeks if an event has these more complex elements:

  • includes a dignitary or a performing artist from outside the Cornell community (e.g., musical acts, comedians, actors);
  • includes alcohol;
  • includes cooking or serving home-cooked food (rather than having the event catered or serving pre-prepared food);
  • has the potential to go past 11 p.m.;
  • allows non-Cornell community members to attend;
  • will be held in a venue or space with capacity of 150 people or more;
  • uses a drone for commercial purposes;
  • will use tents, stages or other temporary structures;
  • requires a permit from a governmental agency; or
  • includes high-risk physical activities (e.g., road races, dunk tanks, see-saws, inflatables or organized competitive sporting events sponsored by Greek or other student organizations).

In addition, changes have been put in place to provide more support for student organizers.

The EMPT will now include a student representative chosen by the leadership of the Student Assembly, and the Campus Activities office has hired student interns who will be available to meet with student organizers prior to their ERF’s review by the EMPT. This additional support is intended to help student organizers prepare for, and maximize the benefits of, meeting with the EMPT.

Campus Activities interns will develop a training plan for students who have never planned an event. They will be reviewing the Campus Activities website to ensure that necessary information is easily accessible and understood by students.

The university also is working on improving the current technology for reserving rooms throughout campus. A new room-scheduling tool for both academic gatherings and other events, 25Live, is scheduled to launch this summer. The 25Live planning team said the tool will allow event planners to access more detail about potential venues, and the team is working to streamline the registration process by embedding the current ERF into the scheduling tool. This way, when a student reserves a room, the questions required for an ERF are included.

During the fall semester, security costs for smaller events were suspended to give administrators the opportunity to address student concerns. The EMPT is still working on new policies regarding event security and hopes to have a new system in place later this year. These costs will continue to be suspended until a new system is implemented.

Gary E. Frank is a staff writer in Strategic Communications.

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