Process in place for vendors on campus

Student groups at Northern Kentucky University must plan ahead to get space on the Student Union Plaza and in the University Center.

Tables lined with jewelry, food, T-shirts and posters seem to pop-up overnight on Northern Kentucky University’s Student Union Plaza. One day there is little-to-no activity on the plaza and then the next day there is food or merchandise for sale, event tables inside and out and vendors vying for customer dollars.

None of this happens overnight though. There is a considerable amount of planning, schedule management and coordinating that goes into any activity, large or small, in and around the Student Union building and the University Center.

To reserve space on the plaza, student groups have to fill out a registration form and must have their advisor submit it to the appropriate department. The submission must specify what the group is selling, how the proceeds from the sale will be used and the name of registered students or university staff involved in the event.

According to Leah Kelly, reservation coordinator for the University Center, outside vendors must register with her office to set up a table or booth on campus. Student organizations who plan to sell items like baked goods or merchandise, or who plan to sponsor an outside vendor, must apply to the Student Life Department.

“Organizations need to work far in advance for an event,” Kelly said. “The University Center and Student Union facility reservations will start as early as the first week of February 2013 for the next school year.”

Kelly said that making sure that tables are available, that space is available, if any technical equipment is needed and that outside vendors are not competing with university vendors are the main considerations for her department. When all the criteria is met, space is distributed to the group or vendor on a first-come, first-served basis.

Kim Vance, assistant director for fraternity and sorority life in the Student Life Department, agrees that planning and attention to detail are important for a successful event whether it is sponsoring a vendor or having a bake sale.

“New student groups or organizations don’t realize how the process works,” Vance said. “But, some groups have institutional knowledge about how things work.”
Vance said that institutional knowledge comes from having a group adviser who remains constant even though group membership may change. According to Vance, student group advisers are usually staff or faculty members.

Vance said student groups have to plan to have a group member at the site at all times during the event, understand that they cannot disrupt the flow of traffic on the plaza or inside the Student Union Building and they also have to outline financial agreements they make with outside vendors.
According to Vance, student groups can raise money by sponsoring outside vendors.

“Sponsorship usually means that there is an agreement between the student group and the vendor,” Vance said. “Groups can have agreements where they receive a flat daily fee for sponsoring a vendor or a percentage of the vendor’s overall sales.”

Candice Crenshaw, a junior psychology major who is a member of the Norse Leadership Society, the Activities Programming Board and a student adviser to the Black United Students group, said that she thinks it is beneficial for groups to sponsor a vendor.

“I like the ability to raise funds because everybody wins, the student organization and the vendor,” Crenshaw said.

Vance said student organizations go through an orientation at the beginning of the school year where they learn the process and learn what they need to do to have an event, but it is still hectic in the beginning of the school year because many groups don’t start planning until they return to campus in the fall.

Kelly said that student organizations get first option on space and then her department considers any outside vendor that may contact the university to sell their merchandise on campus.
Vance said that student groups also reserve rooms for a variety of purposes like organization meetings, religious observation and guest speakers. Vance said that the new organizations are not as formalized as the groups that have been around awhile, like the Greek organizations, and do not always understand what they have to do.

“The university is transitioning because of the diversity on campus,” Vance said. “Events like religious traditions are just not things we had to deal with before.”

“Our job in Student Life is to make people feel like it’s their home,” Vance said. “Student needs are changing and we may need to reallocate resources and what people can do in the spaces.”