The Oxford Union has implemented a new queuing system for its events. The organization, which has a reputation for bringing popular international guests and speakers to Oxford, put the new policy into effect after the EU Debate during Michaelmas term. The queue for this event began several hours before, with some people holding spots in line for others. Many members-who pay over £200 in membership fees-have often been unable to attend such events because of the long queues. Complaints about the long waits in cold weather and lack of communication over seating prompted the union to reevaluate the system in place.
As the Union president Stuart Webber stated, “Although many believe that a first-come-first-served queue on the night is the fairest system, as it enables members to express how strong their preferences are for attending a certain event, the feedback made it clear that our members wished to trial something different.”
In response to this feedback, Union members considered various solutions, including a random ballot system. They decided on a system that allows up to 200 tickets to be collected by members before the event, while still keeping 250 spaces open for individuals who wish to line up for the event on the day of the event itself. Those with tickets must be seated by a certain time, after which time those at the front of the queue will have the opportunity to get seats.
During the “Must Rhodes Fall?” panel, an event that garnered much attention through social media and among Oxford students, the union did a trial of this new system. The queue began only 90 minutes before the highly-publicized function. Everyone in the queue was able to attend the event, and the Union plans to use this system again in the future.
This new system was chosen as a compromise out of many options. “We hope that the new system finds the right balance between the conflicting requests of our members: for those who are unable to queue up on the day of the event itself, there is an opportunity to collect tickets at a different time; whilst the majority of spaces will always be available on the day for those who have the strongest preferences to attend,” said Webber.
While the trial of the event was successful, some students are still skeptical about the system. Third year Oxford student and member of the Union, Emma Buchy-Dury, said “I feel like people will queue for the tickets, so it’s just the same problem. That didn’t happen [for the “Must Rhodes Fall” panel], but it might for, like, an A-list celebrity.”
The Union has hosted big names like Elton John, Hozier and Piers Morgan for speaking events in the past. In the future, such popular events will test the new system.
Concerning the system and members overall satisfaction, Webber said, “We [the Union] are committed to listening to the concerns of our members and working hard to improve their experience of the Oxford Union.”