Fate of FEST uncertain

Representatives from the Marshall University Office of Student Activities said they are unsure if there will be a third FEST in the fall.

Coordinator of Student Activities Lee Tabor said due to possible campus wide budget cuts, plans for another FEST are at a halt.   

“Right now we’re kind of up in the air as to how much money the office of student activities is losing this year because of budget cuts,” Tabor said. “With what I would be left with after cuts, I would have very little money to do programming for the rest of the year if I wanted to do an event comparable to the last FEST.”

FEST:2 was a $125,000 event last September that brought five nationally-known artists to Huntington for students and community members.

“FEST is a great event and we grew exponentially within the six months between the first FEST to the second one,” Tabor said. “We went from having 250 attendees to almost 1,800 at the last FEST and only being able to bring one nationally-known act to the first FEST to having five nationally-known acts at FEST:2.”

Interim Dean of Student Affairs Carla Lapelle said Marshall is planning budget cuts, although nothing has been finalized just yet.

“We’re planning on getting a cut and it’ll just be fantastic if we don’t,” Lapelle said. “Once the state of West Virginia knows what their budget looks like for the year, they will know what they’re giving us.”

Lapelle said in the event Marshall does receive a budget cut from the state, it will then be the university’s job to prioritize what offices and organizations get that money.

“No office will be left unscathed,” Lapelle said. “As far as university wide, I can’t say it will all be equal, my guess would be they would put academics before student activities.”

“In the event there are large cuts in my budget, we’re trying to come up with other ideas for funding,” Tabor said. “One option we’re exploring is a proposed extra $20 on student tuition and all students would get to attend FEST for free. So, it’s almost like they’re just paying ahead of time.”

“We would have students vote on the idea, similar to students voting for SGA’s bus,” Tabor said.  “I don’t think we have the potential to make FEST happen unless students are interested in having the festival continue. If students are interested in paying a little bit more on tuition, we will be able to have this larger event.”

Tabor said it would even be possible to improve what the office can provide for students.

“If students vote yes to saving FEST and paying the extra $20 in their tuition, that’ll actually give us the money necessary to make FEST even bigger than the last one,” Tabor said.  “Students just have to start voicing their concerns because their student activities fees should be for them and what events they want.”

Lapelle said FEST isn’t an event she would necessarily be interested in and believes students won’t miss it too much.

“You can probably tell by looking at me that FEST wouldn’t be an event I’d be drawn to,” Lapelle said. “If FEST doesn’t occur I don’t know if students will really miss it. I bet you students would prefer to have different activities throughout the year over one large event.”

Lapelle said Tabor is skilled and could work his way around budget cuts.

“Lee’s really good, he can come up with other activities,” Lapelle said. “He is very good at creating events and having his thumb on what students like and what events they like. I would trust that students in general would not miss FEST much.”

Baily Turner can be contacted at [email protected].