In an unusual move, the Office of Student Activities and Leadership (SAL), which oversees Stanford’s student groups, elected not to use Event and Labor Services (ELS) to set up a recent campus activities fair. Stanford typically contracts with ELS to set up tables, tents, electricity, microphones, and other necessary equipment for university events. Though student groups have been encouraged to use ELS for their events, off-campus alternatives have the potential to save money for student groups at a time when many groups are facing large funding cuts.
According to SAL, the decision not to use ELS was reached “far in advance,” because an off-campus competitor undercut ELS’s bid. SAL would not specify the amount of money saved.
SAL explained that student groups are not always required to use ELS. Events that require less technical setup can usually rely on cheaper and less sophisticated service alternatives. The use of specific computer systems in Hewlett and Dinkelspiel Auditoriums, however, requires the use of ELS according to SAL.
“Student Groups are directed to use ELS when it is a requirement (some academic spaces for example). In general, student groups are not told to always use ELS; instead, student groups are advised to begin event planning early and examine the costs and benefits of using Event and Labor Services,” said Thom Scher ’11, one of SAL’s peer advisors, in an email to the Review.
“ELS is far from mandated as the equipment supplier for all student groups and student events, but rather the required vendor for only certain spaces–spaces such as Hewlett [Auditorium] and Dink [Dinkelspiel Auditorium] because of their technical equipment and required knowledge of Stanford Systems. Many groups have used off-campus vendors in the past, including primarily large outdoor events,” continued Scher.
Undergraduate Senator Adam Creasman seemed unaware of event management alternatives, stating, “It is my understanding that Voluntary Student Organizations are required to use ELS so that Stanford can rest assured that its facilities will be cleaned properly during/after events. The ASSU provides funding to Voluntary Student Organizations, and some of that money is spent by VSOs on ELS.”
According to ELS’s website, hourly costs for Event Crew – designated as setting up tables, tarps and other items – starts at $45 per person per hour. The cost of services after hours or on university sanctioned holidays increases to $60 per hour, and anything done overnight is $75 per person per hour.
For technical setup, meaning audio/video or other multimedia set up, the base cost is $65 per person per hour, after hours is $79 per hour, and the overnight hourly cost is $94 per person per hour. The website notes that billing is conducted by the quarter-hour.
Scher went on to praise ELS for the distinct capabilities that they provide: “Event Services has a strong working knowledge of the university, is able to provide fast quote turnaround and is trained to specifically handle Stanford Spaces,” he said.
Finally, SAL recommended that student groups plan their evens further in advance so as to have more time to weigh options and save money.
In the future, student groups may follow SAL’s precedent by going to outside janitorial and event management services. Recent funding cuts mean that every dollar student groups receive for planning events must be spent wisely.