A&O: "We were pretty close" to confirming a speaker

    A&O Productions was “pretty close” to confirming a speaker for a $100,000 mid-winter event — for which the university pulled funding this week — and had made significant logistical plans for it, A&O officials said Thursday.

    “Everyone worked really hard to get it done,” A&O Director of Speakers and Special Events Adam Pumm said.

    The university backed out earlier this week when the administration-mandated deadline to book the speaker passed, according to A&O Chair Syd Cohen. The administration had approved $100,000 in funding last Spring Quarter, said Barry McCardel, Communication sophomore and director of promotions and public relations for A&O.

    The event was meant to be a collaboration between various student organizations, including A&O and ASG, but it was unclear at the time who would be taking charge of the event or what it would consist of, McCardel said.

    Vice President of Student Affairs William Banis appointed a selection committee comprised of ASG President Neal Sales-Griffin, Residential College Board President Erick Bennett, Residential Hall Association President William Johnson, as well as representatives from A&O, Mayfest and the Undergraduate Budget Priorities committee. Banis declined North by Northwestern’s requests for comment on this story.

    By the time funding was pulled, all the plans made for the sounds, lighting and stage set-up were ready to go, and meetings with representatives from the venue were planned, said Bryan Cowan, director of productions for the event. The only thing still left unclear was who would be performing.

    A&O Director of Concerts Forrest Wickman, along with Pumm, began sending out offers as soon as the administration authorized them to do so. They “lost a lot of time to the holidays, since the entertainment industry usually takes off a week and a half for the holidays” but had been prepared for that, Wickman said.

    “Mayfest typically begins sending out offers several months ahead of time” in order to go through contract negotiations and and plan production logistics, Wickman said.

    Both Wickman and Pumm said that the failure was not due to a lack of effort. The planning going into this event “was some of the finest work in event planning I’ve seen,” Wickman said.

    The committee chose Wickman as chair of the event halfway through Fall Quarter. Wickman began by searching for student groups with experience in planning large-scale events and with access to funds, including A&O, Hillel and the College Democrats, before finally solidifying a co-sponsorship with A&O.

    A&O contributed $70,705 of its own funding to the budget of the event, according to Cohen.

    “A&O joined the endeavor pretty late in the game, in early December,” she said. “We got involved at the request of people working on the winter event to increase the caliber of the event, as well as increase the quality of the production.”

    Cohen said that Banis told her that the “university can use the money elsewhere.” The board intends to meet with Banis in the upcoming days to discuss what occurred.


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