After two website crashes, a random lottery drawing and a first come, first serve sale, Esperanza tickets are currently completely sold out. This year, the homecoming formal held by Rice Program Council is being hosted off campus for the first time in three years at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences. RPC is currently looking into booking the second floor of HMNS to allow more students to attend, according to RPC President Aisha Jeeva.
Esperanza tickets first went on sale through the Rice IT signup.rice.edu site at lunchtime on Oct. 15; the website crashed in ten minutes because of high traffic. According to Jeeva, RPC sold 300 tickets during this period. RPC has used this site for the past three formals without any issues.
RPC contacted students whose purchases were successfully processed and released the link for purchasing tickets again on Oct. 20. Jeeva said the site crashed again after 128 more tickets were sold.
“After the first crash, Rice IT said there were issues with their coding and the traffic, that they should have fixed them all, and they didn’t anticipate another crash,” Jeeva said. “Clearly, that was not the case. We will most likely not use signup.rice.edu again. The crash has caused significant stress and trouble for us, and this has been compounded by the fact that it was completely out of our control — we are not Rice IT and cannot maintain control over the website as it is hosted and maintained by Rice.”
In light of the difficulties with the website, RPC decided to sell the remaining 772 tickets through a random lottery drawing.
“We were not willing to risk a third crash of Rice IT’s website, and IT was unable to guarantee us that their website would not crash again,” Jeeva said. “[Additionally,] we received a lot of feedback about students who have … time commitments that would prevent them from being able to log on and purchase tickets at an assigned time.”
Students were notified if they were selected to purchase tickets on Oct. 24, after which they had the opportunity to claim their ticket on Oct. 27 and 28. If a student did not pick up their ticket, it was given to the next person on the waitlist. Approximately 950 students remain on the waitlist.
Will Rice College freshman Anecia Gentles said she requested two tickets through the drawing, but was not sure if she had been chosen in the lottery or not due to an email mix-up.
“I got an email saying that I got [tickets] in the drawing, and then 20 minutes later I got an email saying that unfortunately I had not [won tickets] in the drawing,” Gentles said. “I ended up getting the tickets and RPC said someone just copied and pasted my name into the wrong email.”
According to Jeeva, RPC negotiated with HMNS and the Houston Fire Department to increase the venue capacity from 1,200 to 1,375. Jeeva said these additional 175 tickets were sold on a first come, first serve basis as students requested.
Martel College freshman Marisa Hudson waited in line for two hours for tickets but was too far back to receive any.
“[My] only objection to the lottery system is that people cannot give/sell tickets to their friends who desperately want tickets but were not selected in the lottery drawings,” Hudson said. “Several of my friends have offered to give me tickets, and I have to keep reminding them that they have to do it through the RPC, and that it goes to the next person on the waitlist.”
Jeeva said that since Esperanza was not being held at an accessible, on-campus location, demand was difficult to predict. She said the novelty of this year’s venue may have contributed to the high demand.
“While we definitely expected to sell out, we did not expect this degree of popularity,” Jeeva said. “It took 16 days to sell out the 2013 Esperanza, and 20 days for the 2012 Centennial Esperanza.”
In total, about 36 percent of Rice’s 3,800 undergraduate students have the opportunity to attend. According to Jeeva, the current size of 1,375 is more than twice that of Rondelet in spring 2014, and increasing the size of the venue would result in increased costs not only from renting the space but also from hiring EMS staff and police officers, reserving ambulances, and providing amenities and transportation.
Jeeva said RPC is looking into booking the second floor of the museum and is currently getting quotes from caterers, the museum and police. Booking the additional floor would allow for 500 to 600 more attendees. According to Jeeva, RPC’s current blanket tax allocation places a restraint on the organization’s events.
“If it is fiscally sustainable, we will book it,” Jeeva said. “If the increased prices cannot be sustained by our current budget, we won’t. We could absolutely seek larger venues with additional blanket tax going towards the event, in which [case] more students would get to go. RPC frequently puts out surveys asking for feedback, and we will be sure to include questions regarding this before making a decision.”
Jeeva said RPC is currently evaluating possible changes to the ticket selling method for Rondelet in the spring.
“Will we use a random drawing system again?” Jeeva said. “Probably not. Did we think it was the best decision at the time, a way to provide a fair shot for everyone to get tickets and a quick response to people’s frustration without having to risk a potential third crash? Absolutely. [For Rondelet], we will do our best to find an online first come, first serve way to distribute tickets.”
Emily Rao and News Editor Andrew Ta contributed to this article.