Money Lost as Students R.S.V.P. but Don’t Show
Issue   |   Wed, 02/08/2012 - 01:52

Imagine you were at a Career Center event, eager to start a conversation with the speaker sitting with you and suddenly find you are one of only two students at the table. It is past time for the event to start and the last stragglers have trickled in, yet the seats beside you are still glaringly empty. You remember how it was necessary to R.S.V.P. for the event and wonder why people would register but not show.
Cases like these have been recurring at the College, and the ramifications are greater than just a few missing seats. Although it may seem minor to individual students, R.S.V.P.-ing and not showing up creates several issues of waste, from the catering at the event to the publicity before it. The fact that there is a continuous pattern of students not showing up, without any prior notice, has become a source of frustration for those running the events.
Whenever an event is held, whether by the Career Center or the Office of Public Affairs, the coordinators are required to give the caterers a guaranteed guest count several days before the meals. Everything, from the food to the table decorations to the set-up staff, is ordered based on this number. For the more formal dinners that often take place at conferences, a trained waitstaff is required, and the number hired is also based on how many people are expected to attend. When students do not show up, the academic and administrative departments still face the costs charged by the Dining Services and Facilities, but no one receives the benefits.
“Part of the problem is that an individual student simply may not understand the ramifications of registering for and then not attending an event, but when 25 students from a conference of 75 decide last minute not to attend you can imagine the frustration and disappointment of all those involved,” said Gregory Wardlaw, the catering manager.
Called upon for the event, the servers, bartenders and dishwashers are often part-time employees for the College or student workers, who are paid to work that day and have organized their schedules accordingly. A lot of their hard work goes into the set tables and carefully-prepared foods, which all go untouched. This time wasted is their time that could have been used towards something else.
A significant amount of food is wasted because it cannot be re-served anywhere else. When set on a buffet table or cooked for a plated meal, the meal cannot be reused in Valentine for food safety or policy reasons. In the recent interterm series “Career Choices,” an event filled with alumni panels, only 25 of 50 students registered showed up for a catered buffet dinner, but the Career Center wasted hundreds of dollars in more than just food.
The lack of participation reflects poorly on the College, as well.
“When we have so many empty seats and wasted food, the alumni may think twice next time about the value of their visit,” said Carol Sharick, Office Manager of the Career Center.
If a room is half-filled, it neither looks, nor feels right, and people often feel embarrassed. When there are too many people, some end up standing and it becomes a safety issue. The programs, pamphlets and posters often used for an event amount to nothing but shredded paper when no one is there to take them. Even if a student calls or emails just 24 hours ahead to cancel, the organizers can make the adjustments necessary for catering and seating. However, students today tend to forget what an R.S.V.P. means.
“Facebook has made saying you’ll attend an event little more than a thoughtless click, but in real life, an R.S.V.P. is a commitment to attend. If you say you’ll attend and don’t, you risk not only not being invited next time, but damaging your relationships,” said Dean Olender, Director of the Career Center.
The concerns of these departments are not focused around the costs but the students. Each event is held to benefit the students of the College, but with each event showing the possibility of wasting hundreds of dollars because students forget or merely decide not to go, these events are in jeopardy. Although students often comment on the large budget of the College, individual departments like the Career Center do not share this same fortune and programming is put at risk due to the needless waste.
Students usually take for granted the multitude of events, not always realizing the hard work put into them and the potential connections and valuable experiences available. Students also can forget how much would be lost if these events stopped happening. With this very real issue of students constantly R.S.V.P.-ing and never showing up, students run the risk of seeing events that are so useful slowly being withdrawn due to costs.
“We’d urge you to make a more thoughtful decision about your attendance before signing up,” Sharick said. “It’s all about respecting the time and money people spend to offer you a valuable and worthwhile experience.”