Relay for Life barely relayed its policies (and how I practiced investigative journalism along the way)

Jordan A. Sprogis
Publicly held events are expected to provide basic information to the general public. This basic information includes:
  • who can attend the event
  • what the event is
  • when it is
  • where it is
  • why it is being held
  • how they can attend, such as any costs or cut-off times
Unfortunately, a very popular annual event at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) failed to include most of this information on their most common form of advertising.


On the Relay for Life at WCSU Facebook page, there is one recent post that says the registration fee is $10. An article on was the only other online source I could find verifying that there is a registration fee. The Relay for Life official website does not give specific information about this.
On Saturday night, I arrived to Relay for Life and the doors were locked. The event was still going on for another three hours, so I assumed that there was another entrance. Somebody was nice enough to let me inside but immediately upon entering, a member of the Student Government Association (SGA) stopped and asked me if I had registered.
“We didn’t register. We just got here,” Dakota Sarantos, the editor-in-chief of The Echo, told her.
“You have to register,” she said.
“Okay, so register us. We’ll have two wristbands.”
“You can’t register. It’s after 11 p.m.”
She went on to briefly explain that even though the event went on until 3 a.m., the cut-off time was 11 p.m. and the registration cost was $10 per person. I had no idea about this information and I wondered how many other people didn’t, either.
“If a store says they’re open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., they’re not going to stop letting people in at 5,” Dakota said to me about the issue. 
It was then that I decided to write an opinion editorial piece about the lack of information for the event.

A couple of days later, I asked a team leader at Relay, Kim Lockwood, for specifics about the registration fee and cut-off time (via online). She was very well-informed about the event and was more than happy to explain it to me. I really appreciate her response, which was done in an informative and timely manner. 
“People are required to pay the registration fee if they plan to stay (or arrive) later than 11 p.m. because of the complimentary midnight breakfast. In a lot of cases, many people who do not register either have other obligations or feel that they have spent enough time at Relay in the seven hours before that. People may also decide to register so that they can stay late enough for prize drawings,” Kim explained. 
While I better understood Relay’s policies, I still had to go out of my way and ask for specifics.
People who plan on attending should not have to seek out information like I did to attend a free event that is open to the public.
“I would go out of my way to look for more information if I was going to the dentist, not a school event,” said Tara Kijek, a junior and Studio Art major. “I would hope that all of the advertisements and information would be consistent. I shouldn’t have to go online because they didn’t put it on the poster. Not everybody has internet access like that, either.” 
Upon hearing about my writing this article, I was told by a few different people via online that it wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t understand why – and I still don’t. To make it clear if I haven’t already, all that I’m doing here is talking about a flaw in an event on campus that is relevant to students and faculty in the school newspaper.
I was told by one of the people who contacted me that the $10 registration fee and the cut-off time was “widely known” information, and implied that is why it wasn’t mentioned on any basic signs about the event.
It is not professional to assume that information is just known by people. More importantly, by definition, it’s a form of exclusion. Intentional or not, it is an oversight.
This is unfair to freshmen, transfers, and students like me who have not memorized the event’s policies.
It’s like saying, “Well, you didn’t know about the details because you should have known. How? Magically, I guess.”
When a few other students involved with the event spoke to me, I got cold responses for wondering why basic information was not included in signs around campus or online.

After that, another student messaged me about my concerns for Relay, and said to “come find me, before I find you”, which, even in the context, I tried to justify as a friendly introduction, but there’s just no way to say that out loud without it sounding extremely…unfriendly.
The bottom of the line is this: I do not have an issue with the policies or the event itself. Relay for Life is a fun event that people can enjoy with friends and family while raising money for cancer research. It is completely understandable that there is a donation fee and a specific cut-off time. I would not expect otherwise. But when this information isn’t included with the event’s advertising, it is implied that these policies don’t exist.
It failed to properly inform the public about its details and policies. I hope that in the future, the planners of this event will take this issue into consideration and explain its expectations better to the public.   
If you decide to participate in next year’s Relay for Life, make sure to register in fall, especially if you plan to stay late. If you do not plan on staying the entire event, you do not have to pay the registration fee. Registration will always be $10 and you cannot be let in after 11 p.m.

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