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Sproncert Planning Moves Forward Despite Security Challenges


After a cold and arduous Minnesota winter, Carleton students are always excited to come back for Spring Term, celebrating with a number of events, most notably the Spring Concert or Sproncert. Canceled for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s certainly an event to look forward to this year.

While security personnel issues have caused a bit of concern among the Carleton Student Association (CSA), the Student Activities Office (SAO) and the Sproncert Committee, the groups remain committed to running Sproncert. The CSA has allocated $150,000 for the event and voted unanimously to continue planning for it rather than pulling funds early. 

According to CSA treasurer Quinn Buhman ’24, the CSA remains committed to funding the event, at least until all security options have been exhausted.

“The CSA is still committed to funding the event. We hosted a vote and the two options were ‘Do we pull the funding now and just assume it’s not going to happen?’ or ‘Do we wait just a little longer to see if we can find security?’,” Buhman said. “We all voted unanimously to continue to search for security services.”

From Buhman’s perspective, the concern is that, due to labor shortages created by the COVID-19 pandemic, larger contracting companies don’t have extra personnel for Carleton to hire. However, alternate solutions such as reaching out to neighboring states were floated to SAO.

“From my interpretation, I believe it’s been SAO and Security Services kind of in tandem looking for these companies,” Buhman said. “The way I interpreted it is there’s large contracting companies—if you go to events in the Twin Cities and such, most of the bouncers there aren’t necessarily employed by those venues but by larger contracting companies. So it seems that they basically don’t have any extra hands; there’re no extra people they can send. All of their contracted employees are roped up in their normal contracts.”

Head of Security Services John Bermel echoed this, saying that in the past Carleton has hired  roughly 40 contracted security workers for Sproncert. While they have reached out to a number of vendors, they have gotten little response.

“The college’s most recently contracted security vendor notified Carleton at the beginning of the Fall Term that because of staffing shortages, they won’t be able to fulfill our needs for events. We have reached out to a number of vendors who 

provide these services in the region and have not received any indication of interest in fulfilling our contracted security needs,” Bermel said. “We have enjoyed working with our most recent contractor because they understand our culture and meet our high community standards. They are interested in re-engaging if the status of their staffing changes. That has not been the case.”

Bermel added that regulations due to licensing and insurance considerations inhibit the school’s ability to hire out-of-state security personnel.

“An out-of-state company that is not experiencing the same labor shortage and could provide service would need to work to meet Minnesota requirements,” Bermel said. “Travel is also a consideration. Vendors charge for travel time and expenses. Bringing workers from out of state and housing them would likely be cost-prohibitive.”

While Bermel has been focused on procuring personnel for the event, SAO and the Sproncert Committee have been working to plan the event as a whole. Associate Director of SAO Miiko Taylor and Sproncert Committee member Grace Hague ’22 concurred that the focus is on Sproncert––alternate plans have not been greatly considered.

“No, there have not been alternate plans for something other than Sproncert. We feel good about the event happening,” Taylor said. “[Sproncert getting canceled is] highly unlikely. We feel confident that Sproncert will happen.”

Hague believes that SAO understands the importance of the event to students and that the office has been working with campus security to find a way to staff security for the event. According to her, there is a lot of variability in planning events due to changes resulting from the pandemic.

“It’s too early right now to know whether the security personnel shortage will continue to cause staffing problems or seriously warrant cancellation, so any conjecture at this point isn’t really productive,” Hague said. “I think this is just the reality of event planning these days; there’s a lot more things that could go wrong at any moment than in the before times. The committee isn’t directly handling security staffing, and since CSA has given us the green-light to continue planning with this risk in mind, we are continuing with event preparation and planning.”

Hague also assured community members that there have not been any cancellations made in terms of artist possibilities, and that while the committee may be slightly behind schedule, they are not very concerned about the timeline.

“SAO has mentioned that we’re a little behind schedule due to starting our planning late after the Omicron wave, but I’m not sure exactly what the ‘usual’ timeline is since this is my first time on the committee,” Hague said. “Either way, we’re not very concerned about the booking timeline at the moment. We haven’t talked about alternative ideas yet since the focus is still planning for Sproncert.”

In a similar spirit, Bermel shared that there is a great commitment to making Sproncert happen and that he hopes to clear this hurdle soon.

“This is a worker shortage problem that is common throughout the nation and is disheartening for us in security,” Bermel said. “This spring is an opportunity for the community to begin getting back to normal and have experiences we haven’t had for a couple of years. We are working hard to address this [aspect] of Spring Concert.”

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