Monday, August 14, the College of William and Mary Student Assembly Senate approved The Joining Oswalt: Keynote Encore (JOKE) Act, funding two new student-focused comedy shows by Comedian Patton Oswalt ’91 HON ’23 scheduled for Monday, October 23, in the newly renovated Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall.
SA President Sydney Thayer ’24 announced the meeting on Monday, August 8, in an email that was sent out to all senators.
Oswalt visited his alma mater in May to serve as the Class of 2023 commencement speaker. He was also awarded an honorary degree at the event.
According to Thayer, Oswalt has accepted the invitation and the College has initiated the contracting process.
“The timing of the contracting process in order to finalize this event is not conducive to waiting until September and regular Senate business in order to vote on a bill for financial support,” Thayer wrote in an email to the SA Senate. “As such, in accordance with the Constitution of Student Assembly; Section III; Powers of the President; X. To call the Senate into special session for the consideration of important matters.”
The meeting was scheduled based on the results of the availability poll that she sent out to all senators.
“The draft of the bill will accompany the official notice of the Special Session – but for now the gist of the bill will be to propose the approval of $30,000 from Student Assembly Reserves to support the two shows being scheduled for October 23rd,” Thayer wrote in the email. “SA’s contribution through this bill would be 50% of the total anticipated costs for the contract.”
Thayer said this event will be held in conjunction with the College’s Year of the Arts celebration.
The JOKE Act was introduced by Sen. Matt Swenson ’26 and Sen. Sean Nguyen ’25.
“Oswalt has agreed to do two shows on October 23rd, each for 500 people, mainly students,” the bill reads. “Tickets will be given out through a fair lottery system for the 1,000 available seats.”
According to the bill, Alma Mater Productions will contribute $10,000 from their Homecoming Comedian Budget. While the President’s Office and University Advancement’s contributions will total $20,000. Thus, SA is covering half of the total cost for two shows, which is $60,000.
“This is an exciting opportunity for students to celebrate William & Mary’s Year of the Arts with one of our most accomplished alumni in the performing arts,” Swenson wrote to The Flat Hat.
Sen. Ashlynn Parker ’26 said she planned to support the bill, though she expressed concerns why SA is funding half of the cost.
“I believe that this is a great opportunity to boost campus morale, welcome students back to campus, and celebrate different art styles,” Parker wrote to The Flat Hat. “Although I am curious why Student Assembly is covering fifty percent of the total cost when organizations like the President’s Office and University Advancement are also involved and in better position to contribute more funds, I approve of this usage of Student Assembly reserve funds.”
The bill passed unanimously after having been moved straight into Old Business, allowing it to be passed on the same day. Chair of the Senate Sen. Justin Bailey ’24, Nguyen, Class President Zoe Wang ’26 and Sen. Jiexi Lin ’26 did not attend the meeting.
Answering a question from Sen. Spencer Krivo ’26, Director of Student Leadership Development Anne Arseneau ’89 MA.Ed ’92 detailed the cost for the two events. $56,000 for the contract price, $3,500 for travel and lodging costs, while the rest would be spent on production costs.
After Parker raised the question of SA covering half of the costs, Arseneau responded that SA is doing so because these shows are student-focused and that they are large scale campus-wide events.
Arseneau also spoke on the ticket lottery system. She said around 400-425 tickets will be distributed per show through a fair lottery system, while some would be held back by University Advancement. Who will manage this is still being decided, whether it would be AMP, SLD, Student Unions and Engagement or a coordinated effort.
CORRECTION (09/05/23): The article was updated by Sarah Devendorf, the Standards and Practices Editor, to change “Monday, August 15” to “Monday, August 14” in the article’s first sentence as that was the day when the College of William and Mary Student Assembly Senate approved the JOKE Act.