Budget constraints from WCSA have resulted in a break from tradition for two major OWU student organizations. The Student Union on Black Awareness (SUBA) and the Campus Programming Board (CPB) are working to combine Step Show and SpringFest, their respective traditional campus events this spring.
Over the years, Step Show has included a stepping competition by members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) followed by a musical performance by a special guest artist. All proceeds raised from Step Show benefit the Black Student Retention Fund. SUBA’s executive board started the Black Student Retention Fund in 1993 following the departure of a female student who was unable to pay for her spring semester. As a result, the purpose of the fund is to help retain minority students on campus.
Junior Gene Sludge, co-president of SUBA, said Step Show has been a success in bringing Black traditions to campus. However, revenue from the event has not been up to the standards of the university.
“Step Show hasn’t been that successful on the financial side,” he said. “But we look at it as more than just a fundraising event. It’s about bringing culture to OWU and the entire Delaware community.”
Members of WCSA’s fall executive board reviewed a budget proposal from SUBA in September and suggested that they combine Step Show with CPB’s Spring Fest for a better chance of funding. Spring Fest, much like Step Show, has not generated a lot of revenue in previous years.
Senior Samantha DeJarnett, vice-president of SUBA, said members of SUBA understood this suggestion to mean that if they did not combine with CPB, neither Step Show nor Spring Fest would be funded.
As a result, the two organizations joined forces and created an entirely new name for their co-hosted event, Step Fest.
Following the receipt of an e-mail from WCSA on Monday, Jan. 23, the SUBA executive board called an emergency meeting on Wednesday. Jan 27 at the House of Black Culture to discuss the terms of this new proposal. The meeting was intended for members of SUBA, CPB and the umbrella organizations of SUBA. Some of those organizations include VIVA, Sisters United, Black Men of the Future, Rafiki wa Afika, Gospel Lyres and Horizons. Additionally, members of PRIDE attended as well. In a packed living room, Sludge led the emotional discussion.
“I called the meeting so that people would be aware of what was going on regarding the allocation of funds,” he said. “But also to raise any questions or concerns in the minority community.”
Junior Kelsey Brewer, president of CPB, explained the technicalities behind the combination of events.
“We never thought to collaborate,” she said. “It was (suggested) by WCSA because we were more likely to get funding. We had the option to stay separate and walk away but both events are too important and we wanted to keep them around.”
Brewer added that due to SUBA’s deeply rooted investment in the Black Student Retention Fund, the best option for CPB was to let SUBA take the lead on the Step Fest project.
“CPB is taking a backseat and will be in charge of advertising and publicizing the event,” she said. “We will be getting people psyched and contributing student performers.”
Unbeknownst to members of SUBA, members of the current WCSA executive board were also in attendance. Junior Carly Hallal, vice-president of WCSA, attended the emergency meeting and elaborated on WCSA’s suggestions claiming the ideas had nothing to do with erasing tradition but were simply about logistics and funding.
“As a committee, we respect the culture and tradition,” she said. “The logic behind changing the name of the event was so that it would be a more united effort on behalf of both groups.”
Many distraught and offended students in attendance voiced their concerns about the new event. DeJarnett said she felt that WCSA was not appreciating the history of both events.
“This would be the 14th year of Step Show and 30th of Spring Fest,” she said. “There is historical value in each of these events, and now they are making us change them for the sake of money.”
Junior Artiase Brown, former president of SUBA, said this is not the first time WCSA put stipulations on SUBA’s events.
“It’s not just about being funded for Step Show,” she said. “When we try to bring other programs to campus, it’s so hard to get funding. It’s a struggle and very frustrating. We have to fight just bring our culture to OWU. It’s like, ‘Do you believe in us, and what we’re trying to do? Do we even have a voice?’”
Senior Alexis Williams said WCSA is missing the purpose behind the event. She said she believes too much emphasis is put on bringing an artist when it should be about helping peers stay at OWU.
“WCSA is skeptical about the artists that we choose because of lyrical content and character,” she said. “They want us to find an artist that appeals to all of campus. That is never going to happen. It’s supposed to be about sharing culture and helping our classmates. We are tired of seeing friends leave every year.”
Tim O’Keeffe, sophomore class representative of WCSA, said he understood the crowd’s concerns and, as a cabinet, WCSA was doing its best to ensure that SUBA still had an event this year.
He said, WCSA was told by the Dean of Students Kimberlie Goldsberry that if SUBA and CPB were to bring their proposals in front of the executive board separately they would not receive funding. According to WCSA bylaws, organizations are only allowed to bring a proposal to the executive board once and if denied there will be no event.
“By telling you to combine both events it wasn’t to change tradition,” O’Keeffe said. “We were trying to help. We want you to be able to have your event and for it to be as successful as possible.”
Junior Anthony McGuire, president of WCSA, said the lack of allocation for Step Show predicament was an issue passed on from the previous executive board of WCSA to the present board. McGuire said he wanted feedback from the concerned members of SUBA and CPB in order to make communication better in the future.
“I’m not trying to place the blame but the decision was made last semester,” McGuire said. “We came into the new year unaware of what was happening.
“At this point, there is not much we can change for this year. But what can we do things differently in the future. We all just want what is best for OWU.”
Sludge said the cabinet seemed very reasonable and by attending the meeting showed that they were trying to be supportive and understanding.
Sludge said despite these setbacks he is more determined than ever to make this year’s Step Show the best one yet.
“The goal is to make this year as big and successful as possible,” he said, “to show the school and WCSA it can be successful and that we (SUBA and CPB) can go our separate ways for next year. We don’t want to build barriers with WCSA. We all want to be united and build a strong relationship and communication.”
Step Show in the past has been SUBA’s most successful event in raising money for the Black Student Retention Fund.
This year, Sludge said he is willing to combine with CPB to create a combination of Step Show and Spring Fest because he wants the traditions to continue.
The yet untitled event will be held March 31 in Gray Chapel of University Hall at 7 p.m. The special guest performer has yet to be announced.