This Spring marks the second consecutive year that the Husky Snowboard Team president (me this year, Barry last year) has failed in getting the University of Washington to approve of an on-campus rail jam. For those of you unfamiliar with rail jams, a rail jam is a type of snowboarding event where professional snowboarders and skiers slide down boxes and rails while spinning and pressing. Here’s a photo from one of the other campus rail jams:
Last year Barry worked with the Student Activities Office (SAO) to try and get this event approved. The event management company, Galvanic Designs, was low on funding at that time, so they weren’t able to provide financial support. The SAO decided that there was not enough incentive for the club to throw this event, so they wouldn’t let us do it. Fair enough. “We’ll do it next year!” said Barry and I. Yeah right …
My portion of this saga started earlier this fall on the second or third week of school. I went into the SAO office with another officer; we were hoping to throw a jam in the fall. Our SAO advisor told us to fill out a certain form and to wait for Risk Management to get back to us. I filled out the form immediately and waited. I was told that Risk Management usually took three weeks to respond, so I set the event date for a month after I submitted the form. Three weeks later I get a response from the HUB saying that I filled out the wrong form. Great. I filled out the form I was told to fill out, and now it’s too late because Risk Management won’t have enough time to approve the event. I submitted the right form and pushed the date back.
A few weeks pass, and I get a response saying that they need a contract outlining the responsibilities of the HST and Stevens Pass, the mountain that was planning to throw this event with us. I draft a contract as best I can and send it off the next day. I don’t hear anything back, so a week prior to the event date I ping the SAO advisors to see what’s going on. I basically get a response along the lines of, “Sorry, nothing.”
I’m kinda frustrated at this point, because it’s now December. I give up on throwing an event in the near future and start working with Galvanic Designs to get an event thrown May 1st. Galvanic Designs has a great track record – they do campus rail jam tours at tons of other schools including University of Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Gonzaga, Colorado University, Denver University, etc. The have a huge insurance plan, lots of contracts that have already been used by other schools, and in general good experience throwing events like this. Immediately after requesting May 1st as our date, I send paperwork to the SAO that Galvanic gave me – the same paperwork that got the event passed at all the other schools. I then take a few months off to let them look through the papers.
I head into the HUB at the start of April to see how things are going. “Oh, we didn’t receive any documents from you.” Duuuuude. I give them another copy right away and give them a few days to look at it. I ping them a few days later. “Oh sorry, we haven’t looked at them yet.” Alright, it’s time to go into overdrive. Dan, the cofounder of Galvanic Designs, drives up from Oregon to meet me at the HUB. The two of us drop off a printed and signed copy of the documents at the SAO and at the Risk Management office. Oh by the way, up until this point, I had never heard from, seen, or knew anything at all about Risk Management. I envisioned some group of lawyers piled into small cubicles, locked away at some strange corner of the university. The SAO never let me speak directly to Risk Management, and Risk Management would never respond to me. Read on …
From here on out, the story stays pretty consistent: I visit the SAO three times a week, ask them how things are going, and once I hear “Oh we haven’t read the documents yet,” I head to the Risk Management office. Once I get to the Risk Management office, I pick up the phone in front of their locked door and try to speak to one of the officers. I either get a voicemail and leave a message or I get a, “Sorry, she’s not in right now” response. A few weeks pass, and the SAO gives us a date when they’ll have a response for us. The date comes, and I don’t get a response. I call them at 4:00pm to see what’s up, and they quickly reply with a flat out “no.”
Now I don’t want to pass judgement on the SAO and the Risk Management office, but it seems to me that they didn’t put an ounce of work into this. It seems to me that they didn’t want this event to happen, yet they let Dan and I continue to call and stop by, which now I realize was an utter waste of time. I don’t know. This frustrates me, but I suppose it’s just how it’s gotta be. To give the SAO and Risk Management credit, this would have been a HUGE event with lots of responsibilities and lots of mayhem, so I somewhat understand where they’re coming from. I would also like to point out that I’m not putting blame on any one individual at the SAO or Risk Management office. I’m instead putting blame on the officers themselves and the processes that they choose to follow.
I tend to try my best to learn from my failures, but I don’t think there is much to learn here. If anything I’ve learned that it’s important to look for bad signs and quit early, but I don’t like to quit. Hopefully the president next year will get approval and throw this sucker; I just worry that he or she will waste as much time as I have and as Barry did before me. Good luck, Husky Snowboard Team president ’09. Hopefully the University of Washington will loosen up a little and let the kids jam.
Photo credit: here.