September 26, 2001

A Ticket System Filled With Flaws

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It should arguably be one of the most exciting and highly anticipated days of the year for a Big Red sports enthusiast.

Indeed, at a school like Cornell, where sports are so often relegated to the lowest levels of importance, a day like Friday should be an opportunity for fans to come together and celebrate their school spirit. Perhaps you’re a little confused right now. Most likely, you can’t think of this Friday as being significant for any reason other than it means the week is finally over.

So let me fill you in. Men’s hockey student season tickets go on sale on Friday at 5:30 p.m., in the Ramin Room at Bartels Hall.

Bluntly put, hockey might be the only Cornell sport students care about.

Nonetheless, thanks to the athletic ticket office, even the most devout of the Lynah Faithful were left in the dark about when they could finally get their hands on the most coveted prize for a Cornell fan.

The problem with the manner in which the athletic department handled the ticket sales procedure is essentially three-fold. First and foremost was the utter inability of the athletic department to promote this news to the student body. Equally flawed was the fact that even for those who managed to learn of the sales date, the press release described a system that seems riddled with the potential for anarchy and confusion.

Finally, the athletic department failed to solicit the opinion of students on how to improve the ticket system. Over the last three years we’ve tried a mail-in lottery system, a three-day line/slumber-party and now we attempt a seemingly amorphous system. Didn’t anybody at Teagle Hall have the foresight to think about maybe asking for some student input?

There were clearly a number of better alternatives for the department to announce the sale of hockey tickets. The course of action chosen was to simply post a press release on the athletic department website. The problem here is that most Cornell students do not consult that source and those who do are already loyal fans. The university should do everything in its power to promote pride in its athletic teams. It is a cost effective way to foster passion for the alma mater and to develop unity among Cornellians.

Why did the athletic department abandon the idea of sending out a press release with the bursar’s bill? The most ardent fans logically assumed that the August bursar bill would be accompanied by season ticket information. Last year’s mailing encouraged students to support campus athletics — this year there was no comparable effort. Even ignoring the mailing, any other number of additional channels of communication could have been utilized — buying advertising in local papers, promoting the date on Ithaca radio stations, posting flyers around campus or sending a mass e-mail.

Newsflash to the athletic department: Hockey is popular on campus. Indeed, it is the only one that can claim to bring in significant box office revenue. Is it really asking too much to inform fans who are ready and willing to add to the university’s coffers how and when to buy tickets in a timely manner?

One would think the decision on how tickets should have been distributed should have been made months ago as opposed to four days ago. A press release more than a week in advance is not too tall an order.

Next, the department has offered no guidelines on how the ticket system will work. All that is said in the press release is that tickets will go on sale at 5:30 p.m. in the Ramin Room. It’s comforting to know that a school that prides itself on preparing students with grounded communications skills can have an athletic administration that is unable to provide a clear description of the way a ticket distribution system will work. For a school always entangled in red tape, it’s interesting to see that when bureaucracy and order are most needed (to implement a coherent system), it is most lacking.

What’s more perturbing is that given the demand for tickets, students will not be allowed to engage in the traditional ‘camp-out’ for hockey tickets. The only substantive part of the athletic department’s press notice besides the announcement of a date, place and time was the stern warning that the Cornell Police will enforce a ban on tents or other “temporary shelters.” Given the lack of structure to the current system it should be expected that students may elect to form a line (perhaps with tents) well in advance of 5 p.m. Friday. Then again, last year, the Cornell Police were supposed to disperse any line that formed before 2 p.m. on Saturday and for anyone who experienced last year’s debacle, it’s clear that the men in blue had about as easy a time with that task as Harvard does when Cornell visits Cambridge.

Finally, as with most policy decisions at Cornell, the athletic department did not actively seek broad student involvement. While athletic officials claim that they listened to the complaints of students who were disenchanted with last year’s arduous two and a half day ordeal, a truly concerned group of administrators would have been thoughtful enough to solicit student opinion. A survey could have been distributed at last year’s ticket line (after all, students were confined to Bartels Hall for over 50 hours), via e-mail or perhaps at a hockey game.

The surveys could have suggested countless possibilities. Perhaps students should be given the opportunity to renew their season subscriptions just the like alumni and local residents. Why should students have to profess a cult-like devotion to a sports team to be worthy of a season ticket pass? The hockey team does not belong to the students — it certainly is a university institution for both alumni and local residents to enjoy, but clearly as students we should be held to no different a standard than any other fan group.

I’m tired of the passive acceptance of university policy by our students. It’s time we begin to question the way decisions are made and demand a voice in the policy concerns that most directly affect us. Similarly, Cornell has a responsibility to be proactive in seeking student input. This instance offers us a chance to voice our disappointment with the system and for the university to have a chance to actively ask for student input. It appears that Cornell has failed. The question now is will students rise to the occasion by making their dismay heard.

Archived article by Gary Schueller