Students pay for Grand Ballroom

Florida A&M University’s new fee to rent the Grand Ballroom has students wondering, “Is the Grand Ballroom really that grand?” 

The rate that students and on-campus organizations are being charged to use the space is now $150 including set up according to the 2009-2010 Office of Student Union and Activities Venue and Vendor Fee List. Until last week, each student group had the privilege of using the Grand Ballroom once a year at no cost.  

Set up includes tables, chairs and audio equipment for shows and performances that the Grand Ballroom does not have on hand.

The fee list additionally shows that FAMU colleges, schools and departments must pay $300 to rent the ballroom and outside visitors and functions are charged $600.

Consequently, this new policy has not gone over well with some campus organizations. 

Sierra Morgan, 20, a third-year MBA student from Chicago and a current member of FACES modeling troupe said, “I understand that during this time in the economy people must cut costs and attempt to maintain revenue but I feel that the student organizations shouldn’t have to pay.”  

“Money for facility usage is coming out of our own tuition and we [should be] able to use it,” Morgan added. ” And I’m really unsure as to where we’re going to host our events.”

Everything from fashion shows, freshman orientation, parties, coronation banquets, award ceremonies, organization rehearsals and interest meetings have taken place in the Grand Ballroom in the past. 

 Now, some of these functions may have to occur elsewhere if organizations are not willing or are unable to pay the price to enjoy the Grand Ballroom.

Zakiya Hardemon, 22, a senior business administration student from Hollywood, Fla., and a member of Mahogany Dance Theatre said, “I think that if it is necessary for the rates to increase, then we’ll have to cooperate and somehow function under these new conditions although we may have to find an off-campus venue to hold our practices.”

The athletic department recently informed Hardemon that student organizations must now pay $350 to use Gaither Gymnasium for functions and events.  

“We never did have to pay to use Gaither,” Hardemon said.  “Since the new teaching gymnasium is open, I wouldn’t think that the prices for Gaither gym would increase.”

Lindsay Tatum, 21, a dual MBA and Spanish language student and a participant in Epicurean! Fashion Experience said, “We definitely don’t think it’s fair to have to pay for school facilities, especially with the tuition increase and the fact that we’ve already paid Activity and Service fees.”

Tatum acknowledges recent major university budget cuts have decreased funds, however, she said students and campus organizations have had to make cuts as well.

“There certainly has to be another answer than charging the students more money,” Tatum, a Stone Mountain, Ga., native, said.  “After all, everyone has to tighten their financial belts, so we’re obviously going to have to find other means to hold and host our organization’s events.”

When FAMU’s Grand Ballroom policy was made there were fewer student groups on campus. Over time the number of active organizations has risen and so has the use of the Grand Ballroom and other venues around FAMU.  

SGA Senate President, Asia McFarland, 21, a fourth-year MBA student from Raleigh, N.C. said: “I am very surprised that the student clubs and organizations would have to pay in order to utilize the grand ballroom.  I don’t think it’s right for the student body to be forced to pay for use of the facility when A&S fees pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the building.  Without these fees from the students, the grand ballroom would be inoperable.”

Director of the Office of Student Activities, Saundra Inge, said the utility bill for the Student Union in May 2009 was $13,389.13.

“Estimated cleaning costs for the union are $87,000 a year,” said Inge.

The Student Union includes the Grand Ballroom, the Office of Student Activities, the Career Center, SGA, the T.V. Room and the Post Office, however A&S fees are not used to pay post office utilities. 

“Other factors that add to these standard costs occur when students host events and do not clean up after themselves, which compiles more unnecessary money to the cleaning bill,” Inge said.
“Additionally, the misuse of equipment has forced set up fees to play a part in renting venues.”

Inge also said the OSA has had issues with audio equipment including microphones, speakers and stereos being abused, stolen, or returned without all of the original pieces.

The change is permanent and has been officially updated on the OSUA Venue and Vendor Fee List.

Inge assures that organizations with a good track record and service points, which can be earned by volunteering around campus, can be waived of the extra fees and costs.