Cornell Republicans are worried that students may have collected as many as 88 tickets to lower turnout for Tuesday’s Dick Cheney lecture in a move taken without seeking approval from the student organizations leading the protest against the former U.S. vice president.
Marco Antonio Peralta-Ochoa ’21, freshmen representative-at-large for the Student Assembly, approached members of the Cornell Republicans and admitted to collecting dozens of tickets “countless times” in a 45 minutes to 1 hour-long conversation in Amit Bhatia Libe Cafe last Wednesday, according to Weston Barker ’21, current C.R. freshmen representative and incoming treasurer.
Peralta-Ochoa declined to comment to The Sun and did not confirm nor deny Barker’s allegation.
“After I handed him a ticket for the event, he told me that he was hoarding tickets,” Barker said. “Throughout the conversation, he admitted to hoarding 88 tickets proudly and profusely. It was not a one-off thing. It was not a joke.”
Gabe Kaufman ’18, S.A. vice president of finance, confirmed Barker’s account as an eye witness currently unaffiliated with Cornell Republicans, but disagreed with Barker on the sincerity of Peralta-Ochoa’s comments.
“I heard Marco say something like he was hoarding around a hundred or so tickets, but in my view, it was likely a tongue in cheek joke. I suppose we will find out tomorrow if one hundred seats are empty,” Kaufman wrote to The Sun.
Call Auditorium has a capacity of 600 people, so roughly one-sixth of seats will be empty if Barker’s allegations are true.
Omar Din ’19, secretary for Islamic Alliance for Justice, a student organization leading the planned protest on Tuesday, denied that any other student organizations participating in the protest endorsed or are aware of the ticket swiping, to his knowledge.
However, Din did acknowledge that there were “rumors” that individual students may be operating without organizational approval to collect tickets out of their own initiative.
“Maybe individuals on their own have been doing it, and I’m not sure they are or aren’t part of the protest,” Din said. “At least off the top of my head, I’m not aware of any of that, but I can say that that’s definitely not part of the protest itself.”
While Din said he would have preferred to not have a “morally indefensible” vice president lecture at Cornell, he added that the protest organizers plan on demonstrating outside of the lecture and have “no intention” of entering Call auditorium, where the lecture will be held.
“We are mainly going to have speeches, maybe arts and banners,” Din said. “Our protest is mainly focused on the message and making sure that we have a big turnout to the protest, and not really to try and invade their event.”
Students were required to swipe their student ID at Willard Straight Hall to obtain tickets for the event. Nevertheless, Isaac Schorr ’20, current Cornell Republicans philanthropy chair and incoming executive vice-president, speculated that it wouldn’t be difficult to remove tickets from circulation if “someone asked all of their friends to get two tickets each.”
Tickets issued for the previously canceled March lecture are invalid for Tuesday’s event. Those without a ticket should sign up on online waitlist, which is first come first serve. If ticket holders won’t show up, waitlisted attendants will be allowed to enter, according to Austin McLaughlin ’18, outgoing Cornell Republicans president. People not on the waitlist or without identification will not be let in.
McLaughlin added that tickets are the event organizers’ “barometer of counting seats” in order to prevent potential fire hazards in which too many people come in and block side staircases.
“One of the most frustrating thing about people taking tickets is that, not only are people depriving other people of seeing the event, they are also creating a situation where you know, hurts us as we try to count up the number of people that attend the event,” he said. “It’s kind of really pernicious.”
Michael Johns ’20, current Cornell Republicans treasurer and incoming president, lamented that there is little “enforceable security or screening” for ticket distribution and that individuals have “abused the availability of our tickets in the past” for tickets for the canceled March event as well.
“We’re becoming aware that people could have picked up tickets multiple times or by misrepresenting themselves as members of our organization, which if true is completely against the spirit of the event and our efforts to host an accessible, public event,” Johns said.