On October 15, Taylor Swift will be performing a free concert at Pomona’s Bridges Auditorium, thanks to Harvey Mudd’s success in an online voting competition to bring her to the 5Cs. When the competition began over the summer, Harvey Mudd students campaigned on Facebook to get 5C students to vote for Mudd to win a performance from Swift. Mudd students argued that the consortium should pool its students’ votes to get Taylor Swift to Claremont via Harvey Mudd, since students from all schools would be able to attend if Mudd won.
The idea was pretty successful; Mudd did win, after all. However, many of the voting students from the other 4Cs now find themselves without tickets, while every Harvey Mudd student automatically received one.
The four other colleges were allotted a number of tickets to distribute to their students. At CMC, 224 students received tickets through a lottery. As an intended courtesy to the students who helped Mudd win, two Harvey Mudd students—the creators of an invite-only Facebook event to organize 5C students to vote for Mudd—successfully lobbied to acquire tickets (a total of 204) for everyone who was a member of the Facebook event prior to the public announcement that Mudd had won.
What a well-intentioned and completely inequitable gesture. Unfortunately, many voting CMC students are still staying in Monday night.
Travis Beckman HMC ’15, one of the Mudd students in charge of the page, qualified the decision to haphazardly allot these tickets by claiming that it was a fair, if imperfect, act of appreciation. In a comment on the event page, Beckman stated, “There was no exact way to get everyone who voted, I just asked the school to consider taking the FB event into account.”
While giving tickets to the Facebook event’s participants is one way to approximate the subset of non-HMC students who voted on Mudd’s behalf, calling it a fair one disguises the sloppy handling of the giveaway as a whole. Beckman’s point correctly addresses one of the challenges to fairly distributing the tickets across the 5Cs: It is impossible to discern who “deserves” a ticket and who does not.
There’s an ignored implication in Beckman’s excuse. It’s just as easy to join a Facebook event and ignore its instructions as it is to pretend you voted and claim a ticket via the comments section; neither serves as sufficient evidence of voting, and neither should. It’s far from fair to throw tickets at people for trusting that they voted after acknowledging that there’s no way to tell if they actually did.
Beyond the questionable scientific method employed by Mudd’s students, the rewarding of an invite-only Facebook event was an illogical choice. With this methodology employed, it seems that one crafty group of well-connected friends swindled a sizable bounty from their administration and from other now miserable students.
On CMC’s side of ticket distribution, the lottery system also fell short. The CMC Programming Board sent out an email early last week explaining entry into the lottery. You had to reply to the email with the word “YES” before Tuesday night, October 9. The ease with which one could enter the lottery—a ten-second task with a smartphone—diluted its efficiency by including filler students who cared very little about seeing Taylor Swift or even acquiring a ticket.
If entrance into the lottery had required more thought, those students who valued the tickets the least would have been weeded out. To sit at a head table with a speaker at the Athenaeum, for example, students have to go in person to the Ath and sign their name on a list; it’s a simple process, but it requires you to take perhaps five extra minutes out of your day. If we had made the process of entering the lottery more time-consuming, the opportunity cost of entering the lottery would have been higher. The pool of students eligible for the lottery would be more invested in getting a ticket—regardless of whether that investment was in a magical experience with Taylor Swift or a business opportunity for resale of the ticket.
We can generally assume that when the tickets are distributed, the people who value them the most, for any reason, will get them. Because of this, CMC could streamline the process of getting the limited supply of tickets into those caring hands if they didn’t give them away to people who would only expend ten seconds of their time to get one.
I am happy to say that I will be spending the evening of October 15 shamelessly reveling in Taylor Swift’s glory. However, I and my fellow TayTay fans could have gotten there in a much less roundabout way if the tickets had been allotted with greater forethought. Seriously, Claremont. Taylor deserves better.