Novak event good under the circumstances

The student body got a nice end of the year surprise last week courtesy of the Illini Union Board. Unfortunately, due to Mother Nature, the event didn’t go quite as planned. But that it happened at all is cause to praise the organization.

B.J. Novak, a writer and actor for NBC’s “The Office,” has been touring college campuses across the country with his stand-up comedy act. According to Illini Media Company employee and Union Board President Leslie Cornell, the organization has been working for a long time to put on a large, free event on the Quad. However, there was a catch.

Cornell said Novak confirmed only a week before his scheduled appearance, precluding much of the traditional publicity that has been done for events such as lectures from Ben Stein and Stephen Levitt, author of “Freakonomics.”

The main tool the Union Board used to inform the campus was a Facebook event, which immediately caught fire after it was created at the beginning of the week. From the beginning, information about what was going to happen in the case of inclement weather was posted for all potential attendees to see.

A rain location had to be in the Union because Foellinger Auditorium, a traditional venue for Board-sponsored events, was already booked for an a cappella performance. In addition, Assembly Hall would have not only been prohibitively expensive to book on short notice (especially on top of Novak’s fee) but also would’ve defeated the goal of keeping the event free.

Anyone paying attention to Facebook should have noticed that more than 1,200 people had RSVPed the show as of Friday afternoon. Anyone paying attention to local TV, Weather.com or the closest window would have known that the event was likely to be moved inside. The Facebook event was even updated several hours before the event announcing the move.

The result was hundreds of people who couldn’t get in and a tough situation for those that did. The weather also delayed Novak’s arrival and forced the organizers to placate the crowd while it also worked to make sure as many people as possible could see the show. Under any scenario, such a task would be difficult.

But considering the circumstances, we think the Union Board did a good overall job with the event.

While it certainly would have been better if the weather cooperated, our fellow students can’t be blamed for that or for the many people who underestimated the event’s popularity and didn’t get there early enough when it was moved inside. We hope to see more great events put on in the future.