Quest’s longest-running annual arts event, Cabaret, encountered a significant roadblock this semester when the SRC rejected its funding proposal. The SRC was unable to fully fund the proposal as, at the time, it had overdrawn from its events budget. Now, after receiving partial funding from both the Council and the Admissions team—enough to run the event on April 1st, as planned, but with a restricted budget—Cabaret is turning to crowdfunding in an attempt to make up the remaining budget deficit. The funding debate has raised questions about the relative importance of Cabaret for Quest’s arts community, its current and incoming student body, and the Admissions team—all of which potentially signals a renegotiation of responsibility for the event in the future.
At the end of December, the SRC had already overdrawn from its events budget by $3000. However, it was not until January 18th, 2017, that the SRC became aware of this deficit. Minister of Finance Daan de Kruijf suggested that the council meet to discuss their options at that evening’s funding meeting. Coincidentally, Cabaret organizers Marissa Kingzett and Morgan Baskin approached the SRC that evening, requesting $7800 in funding. The SRC, which was still attempting to reorganize its events budget, rejected the proposal and invited Kingzett and Baskin to their policy meeting the following week. In that meeting, the organizers approached the SRC with a revised budget proposal, which the SRC partially funded for up to $5000, equivalent to the cost of last year’s Cabaret.
The SRC acknowledged that their inability to fully fund Cabaret came as a result of an unexpectedly large number of event proposals over the course of this year. With so many big-ticket events occurring at the end of the school year, funding them all “just wasn’t a possibility,” explained de Kruijf. Since then, the SRC has reorganized its budget to create additional events funding for the rest of the semester.
SRC President Marcela Villaça said at the policy meeting, everyone “agreed to have a broader conversation about whose responsibility it was to fund the event.” In other words, the Cabaret organizers and the SRC acknowledged that Cabaret is not just an event for students—it’s a key component of Admit Weekend, and thus important for both the Admissions department and the university in general.
When the Cabaret organizers approached Admissions later that week to ask whether they might cover some of the budget shortfall, they initially met resistance. “They were pretty freaked out,” Kingzett said. After discussing the matter further, however, Admissions relented, agreeing to contribute $800 to the event. Normally, admissions contributes around $13 per admit student; this year they gave an extra $200.
The debate around non-student bodies funding student events is intensifying this year. While the SRC has discussed plans to involve Quest’s Executive team in conversations around funding student infrastructure, other funding bodies have expressed concern about setting such a precedent. “I’m wary of the idea that Admissions funds events,” said Vice President of Admissions Kristin Greene, implying that Admissions is reluctant to fund events it regularly contributes to.
The Cabaret organizers also approached Quest’s Executive team, but they refused. The Exec offered, however, that Cabaret use their fundraising platform to overcome the shortfall. Kingzett and Baskin stated that crowdfunding is “their final option, and not one they use lightly”; students have technically already paid for this event by funding the SRC through their Student Association fees.
Though none of the funding bodies want to take the sole responsibility for funding Cabaret, the event is important to the entire school. This will be Cabaret’s 7th year running, making it the longest-running annual event in Quest history.
Solidifying Cabaret’s legacy was an important part of the organizers’ pitch to the SRC in January. For Villaça, this was an important factor in her decision to fund the event, at least partially. “It’s essential to the establishment of Quest’s institutional memory,” she said in an interview. The SRC is accountable to the student body, and seeing that Cabaret is the only large scale arts event on campus, it is especially important to the arts community here.
Simultaneously, Admissions depends on Cabaret to promote Quest’s arts culture to prospective students. Cabaret “was a really great display of the ‘arts culture’ at Quest,” said first-year student Nate McCarthy. “From an admissions standpoint,” he added, “it made me really excited to come.”
However, Cabaret has been criticized in the past for presenting incoming students with the false impression that events the size and calibre of Cabaret happen regularly throughout the year. After arriving at Quest this year, McCarthy felt he was somewhat duped by the performance he witnessed at Cabaret. Now, he says, he “see[s] Cabaret as more of a political tool [for admissions] than an honest representation of the arts at Quest.”
The current Cabaret budget stands at $5950 (not accounting for potential revenue from outside ticket sales—estimated at $100), but they require at least $6200 to run the event, according to Baskin and Kingzett. Though the event’s organizers feel confident that they can crowdfund the minimum required to meet their budget, they have set a goal of $1500 in donations. They are running Cabaret on a sliding scale, hopeful that they can raise enough to have a contingency fund to fall back on and, after contingency needs are met, improve the quality of their planned equipment rentals. According to Kingzett, rental deposits were submitted on the week of March 12, and many other aspects of Cabaret have been locked into place; security is booked, drinks are booked and the artists are hard at work on their pieces. “It’s our responsibility to make sure Cabaret happens at this point,” said Kingzett. “So we just have to go full steam ahead and hope for the best. We don’t really have time to be hesitant.”