Students flock to Party on the Plaza

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Juniors Juliette Seive and Larisa Manescu learn about Planet Longhorn from organization members at Party on the Plaza Wednesday morning. Party on the Plaza, hosted by RecSports, is the largest student organization fair and also functions as one of the main fundraisers for the Student Emergency Fund.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Thousands of UT students crowded outside Gregory Gym Wednesday for Party on the Plaza, UT’s largest student organization fair of the year.

RecSports hosted what has grown to become UT’s largest organization fair since it started 20 years ago, with more than 200 organizations and 20,000 students attending, according to the Party on the Plaza Student Committee.

Jose Nino, president of Libertarian Longhorns, said Party on the Plaza gives lesser-known organizations an opportunity to expose their causes and recruit new members.

“It gives all sorts of groups that may not be well represented on the UT campus an opportunity to table and reach out to other members that didn’t realize they existed,” Nino said. “It gives each group equal representation and equal ability to be seen.”

Randall Ford, associate director of the Division of Recreational Sports, said the Student Emergency Fund receives the majority of its funding from Party on the Plaza. The Office of the Dean of Students uses the fund to assist UT students involved in extreme financial distress or other emergencies, such as an apartment fire.

“Party on the Plaza is one of the main fundraisers for that fund,” Ford said. “That fund is very important to students who are in need, whether it be for a trip home if they have had a family illness or something like a fire in West Campus where students need assistance with their apartment, or even if they have run into hard times and they just need help with an electricity bill or rent.”

According to the Student Emergency Fund web site, enrolled students may apply for a financial award of up to $250.

Party on the Plaza raises money through donations from participating student organizations and proceeds from a mechanical bull ride and a basketball shot tournament. Each year, the event collects between $4,000 and $5,000 and has raised more than $51,000 since 1999, Ford said.

Jesse Hernandez, chair of the Party on the Plaza Student Committee, said the event helps foster altruism among students.

“I think at every level, it is about students helping students,” Hernandez said. “Student organizations pledge a certain amount to be a part of the fair — it’s a donation-based pledge — and that money goes to the Student Emergency Fund. Also, the people involved are students. This year we had a 12-member student committee with the help of RecSports, but all of this happened because of students.”

Nino said it is important for students to be informed of Party on the Plaza’s donations to the Student Emergency Fund.

“I think it is important that people know about this so that people know where their money is going, and so that they feel like they have a genuine interest in the well-being of the student body.”

Printed on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 as: High turnout for fair