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Union dropped balloons, $8,600 for a party

The Ohio Union’s birthday party last week attracted thousands of attendees, offered various desserts, featured a group hug of the building and cost $8,613.22, said David Wiseley, associate director of business services at the Ohio Union.

One of the main events for the day, a countdown to the official one-year anniversary, featured a replica cake of the Union and a balloon drop. The cake, purchased from a local baker, the Suisse Shop, cost $2,790, roughly one-third of the total budget. Cake was handed out to students throughout the day after it was cut for the countdown.

Tracy Stuck, director of the Ohio Union, said past anniversaries of the Union have been marked with a replica cake. She said they decided to continue the tradition.

“(The replica) cake was the most costly part of the event, and the student guests overwhelmingly appreciated the treat,” Stuck said in an email to The Lantern.

Emilie Duncan, an event planner in Worthington, said the price the Union staff paid for the cake is relatively normal.

“A custom sculpted cake, like the one they had, generally runs around that price,” Duncan said.

The Union staff also spent $625 on cupcakes for the event. Stuck said they made 1,500 cupcakes in the Ohio Catering Kitchen.

Duncan said cupcake vendors generally charge $2-$4 per cupcake. The fact that they were able to get 1,500 cupcakes for that price, she said, was an “unbelievable deal.”

Adding the cost of the cake, the cost of the cupcakes and a budget for catering the rock, paper, scissors tournament, the total food expense for the event was $4,221.38.

Rose Buoni, a second-year in English, said she thought the whole event was over the top.

“I found out about the party about a month beforehand, and I wasn’t interested from the start,” Buoni said. “I felt like it was only a big deal to the people who worked at the Union or had a hand in building it; $9,000 is too much for me.”

Stuck said Union operating funds – money which is earned from room rentals and other activities – covered costs for the event. She said the student fee did not go toward the cost of the party.

Tim Stakolich, a second-year in communication, said he thought the party was justified.

“I feel like it was a big deal and since it was the first birthday of such a big building, the party was appropriate,” Stakolich said.

Stuck said there was an estimated 14,000 people in and out of the Union throughout the day. The Lantern reported on March 30, 2011, that nearly 1,000 people gathered to hug the Union.

When dividing the number of people that hugged the Union by the budget for the event, it comes out to about $8.60 per person. At Sloopy’s Diner, located in the Union, $8 can buy a slice of chocolate cake and a cheeseburger.

One aspect of the day was geared toward promoting the Union through photos and videos. The Union staff hired two photographers from University Marketing Communications to cover the event for about seven hours; the budget for photographers was $1,570.

Duncan said for many of the events she plans, which include weddings, she generally hires two photographers. Duncan said hiring two photographers for that long can sometimes cost $4,000.

Allison Fetzer, a second-year in middle childhood education, was not aware of the event beforehand, and was not happy with how the money was spent.

“It was a waste of money,” Fetzer said. “It’s frustrating that money went into little things instead of cutting the cost of our education.”

Sam Osterling and Kristen Mitchell contributed to this story. 

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