Is it still Set Friday if it’s not at the set?

Students turned out en masse for a recent “Set Friday” at the amphiitheater. Photo courtesy: Instagram @thekparchives

Florida A&M University has continued to have “an epic return” since COVID-19 upended campus life beginning in March 2020.

In October, the Will Packer Performing Arts Amphitheater was revealed as the newest addition to the university. Will Packer graduated in 1996 and the award-winning producer and director said the university made him what he is today. Packer donated $500,000 to the school and the amphitheater has now become the designated location for many events — including recent Set Fridays.

Set Friday has been a tradition on FAMU’s campus for decades. It began as a marketplace for student entrepreneurs and through the years gained national attention.

Not only do students come to enjoy the atmosphere, but local alumni and vendors fill the street as well. Many on-campus organizations gather on the set and enjoy the entertainment.

Recently, with Set Friday returning at the amphitheater, students have been vocal in expressing their distaste for the location change.

Upperclassmen specifically have had the hardest time accepting the change because they know firsthand what it was like before.

Jaylyn Scott, an allied health graduate student, said Fridays are not the same anymore after a long week because the tradition is lost.

“I remember watching the entire street fill and seeing all the interactions after my classes,” Scott said. “Traditionally the set has been there for as long as I can remember and now it feels so forced at the amphitheater.”

Ilyria Johns, a senior health science student, said by moving the set you are robbing people of the FAMU they expect.

“People come to FAMU after hearing great stories from the past and then don’t even get to experience it,” Johns said. “The old Set Friday was much more intimate and it’s not just about having fun, this is a loss of culture.”

Students who were unable to experience Set Fridays prior to COVID-19 are struggling to understand the new dynamic as well.

Nya Brigham, a first-year nursing student, said she likes the amphitheater but was confused when she realized it was being used to host Set Friday.

“The amphitheater in theory is a really good idea for step shows and other performances,” Brigham said. “The practicality of the amphitheater for set just doesn’t work though. I heard people used to skip class just to go and now it’s not that big a deal anymore.”

The final Set Friday will take place on April 22 at the amphitheater. The theme is represent your organization and students are encouraged to wear chapter or organization attire.