First Dobby, now this

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A rogue Facebook event promoting a Graduate College Extrav created excitement which quickly led to annoyance when it was revealed that the Harry Potter themed event was a fake.

Set up by the alias Thomas Rollins, the group, Graduate College Extrav 2011 – Graduate School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was due to take place on Thursday June 30; the same night as both County and Cartmel Extravs. The event announced on Monday May 16 immediately received interest from students with over 400 students, mostly undergraduates, confirming their attendance on the Facebook page. Drinks offers included Butterbeer, Firewhisky and Polyjuice Potion and comments such as, “best extrav ever” and “great debut theme” were posted on the Facebook wall.

Despite comments from Rollins that this, “is a real, people […] other colleges on campus simply weren’t informed, leading some of them claiming our Extrav to be a fake”, Sarah Taylor, Post Graduate Students Association (PGSA) President, was quick to post that Graduate College has its own extrav, Gradstock, alluding to the false nature of the event.

LUSU officers realised that the event was a fake as soon as it was set up as it had not been authoirsed. Others began to catch on after looking through comments on the site, including one from the misspelled Emma Wattson<sic> which said: “Hello Lancaster, I’m up in the Lakes for a photo shoot that weekend. Graduate JCR has asked me to make an appearance so I’ll hopefully see you all there.”

A statement issued by LUSU on the wall of the event said: “Despite the organiser’s claims to the contrary, the Graduate College Extrav is not an official LUSU event and therefore not an official Extrav. Extravs are organised by the JCRs and PGSA with funding and support from LUSU […] The matter is currently being dealt with but we advise students not to buy tickets for this event as it has not be cleared through the Union, College, or University.”

By midday of the following Tuesday the students of County, Cartmel, Grizedale and Furness colleges were sent emails telling them that the event was a fake.

Asked about his initial reaction to the event Matt Windsor, LUSU VP (Finance Events Democracy Societies) thought it might have been a real event organised by the PGSA taking a new direction with Gradstock. Once he realised the event was a fake he voiced his concerns saying: “I was worried that students might be able to buy tickets and whoever was running it might be able to run off with the money.”

He added: “The licensing people from the council in town keep a strict eye on [extravs] and you are only allowed one night a year for a college extrav. So if you have a rival extrav set up you could possibly lose your license for the actual one.”

While this Facebook event can be seen as a bit of fun by a group of students who are clearly aware of who is actually behind the event, seen by comments posted on the event wall, there have been unforeseen consequences for the promotion of Gradstock, the official Graduate college extrav taking place on Saturday July 9.

“I was frustrated because whoever this person was had completely aimed the event and undergraduates and the whole point of Gradstock is that it is aimed at postgraduates and is organised in a way that they would enjoy. […] we have had to delay our publicising of Gradstock by a week because we didn’t want to look like we were completing with this fake extrav so to speak,” said Taylor.

Gradstock offers a less intense event than most undergraduate extravs, consisting of a day-long event that is aimed at families and mature students followed by a night event that runs similar to undergraduate extravs. A major difference with this event is that tickets are free which means that there it does not need security and fencing and there is no theme.
Harry Potter as a theme created a buzz from students, and despite the aggravation caused by the setting up of this event the theme has been commended; although it has been seen as more of an undergraduate event than a postgraduate event.

“I think it could work and be quite a good one [theme] actually […] The Harry Potter thing wouldn’t work in Grad but as an undergraduate event it probably would,” said Windsor.

When asked about the positive reaction the Harry Potter theme had created Olly Trumble, VP (Events and Democracy) elect said: “Themes are incredibly important to extravs as one of the most important college events of the year; they create an imaginative buzz around the event and make the evening memorable for everyone that attends.”

The event on Facebook has recently been changed to a Higher Tuition Fees Celebration as part of an elaborate reveal, sparking questions about the initial purpose of the event. It has been seen as an act of internet trolling – a troll being someone who posts provocative or off-topic messages in an online community, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response. Comments from individuals such as, “what a legendary Troll” and the name of the event organiser T. Rollins highlight this point.

“I think that whoever it is [behind the Facebook event], if they have got a problem should come to SCAN as the person and write an article about it. Don’t put up this fake person and have an issue without saying who you really are or why you have the issue,” said Taylor.

When asked to comment on the event as a whole the organisers failed to get in touch with SCAN.

Tickets for all undergraduate college extravs will go on sale on Saturday of week seven at 10am. The introduction of e-ticketing is being introduced to avoid the issue of students not being able buy tickets for their own extravs. However some tickets will still be available to purchase over the bar. Ticket prices have increase slightly this year to £6 over the counter or £7 online due to a credit card charge.

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