Members of SCC executive board discuss Carnival logistics

This is the first year many student organizations have returned to in-person events. Consequently, many organizations at Carnegie Mellon are facing the challenge of transitioning their leadership and knowledge to new members. The Spring Carnival Committee (SCC) is no exception — the team is tasked with reviving a vaunted and well-loved Carnegie Mellon tradition. SCC is responsible for most aspects of Carnival, ranging from Booth to the vendors and activities that line Midway and the Cut. Whether a loss of two years' worth of experience would hinder the event's rebirth remained an open question.

The first step for the SCC to plan Carnival was deciding the theme. The selection process began May 2021, where the SCC courted theme submissions from the Carnegie Mellon community. These suggestions were accepted until the start of the Fall 2021 semester. In August, the executive board of SCC listed their top 10 submissions. From there, Booth chairs voted to narrow down the finalists. It is then up to the SCC advisor and chair to select the final theme.

“I think for a long time we had wanted to see a space- and celestial-themed Carnival and that was probably the most common theme suggested across all of the submissions from that giant form that we had open,” SCC chair Asad Sheikh recounted in an interview with The Tartan. “We also really liked how it ties into a lot of the previous themes. Past themes have been Myths and Legends and Planet Earth, and Ad Astra ties into all those themes — in a literal and metaphorical sense.”

With theme selection completed and Carnival fast approaching, the physical work was about to begin. But many SCC members, like Head of Operations Tianxin Xu, had no previous Carnival preparation experience to draw upon. “A lot of the plans I got for operations were very high level items like 'Call and make contracts' and I was like ‘What does that entail?’” Xu said. “It involves a lot of little things like getting quotes and submitting stuff to SLICE finance, and organizing when things are going to be due. But our advisor, Andrew, has been around for many years, so he was helpful in filling in a lot of the gaps.” Xu was not on SCC the last time Carnival was held, so she has had to rely on the experience of others in the organization and on documents that had been passed down to her.

Coordinator of SLICE Andrew Greenwald currently serves as advisor to the SCC and has helped to fill in the knowledge gaps that were left by the pandemic. Both Xu and Sheikh noted their appreciation for Greenwald and how much help he had been in putting Carnival together this year.

Sheikh also stated that a difference from this year compared to previous years is the number of members on the executive board of SCC that simply haven’t experienced Carnival before. “We had to spend more time talking about what Carnival is, which isn’t necessarily done on the executive board,” he said.

As this is Xu's first time as a member of SCC when an in-person Carnival was occurring, she notes some difficulties she'd encountered leading up to Carnival: “I had to sort out the deliveries of things like the fences [around Midway], shipping containers — and I didn’t have much experience — and I was like ‘I don’t know what any of this is,’” Xu said. “The most fun part, though, has been being [part of move-on] this week. It’s been really fun to just be around committee and [executive board] and get to spend more time with them.”

When asked what the biggest misconception about Carnival is, Sheikh said that many students don’t realize just how much of Carnival is student-run. Contrary to the belief of some students that the administration has a heavy hand in Carnival, most aspects of Carnival are controlled and managed entirely by SCC.

With the hotly-anticipated, historic revival of Carnival this year, it was essential for SCC to make sure they were able to effectively execute their job as overseers of Carnival to ensure a positive experience for students and the broader community. “Though Carnival is never really formally introduced to people, we want people to experience all the great things that Carnival has to offer,” Shiekh said. "It’s great to have an event for the whole campus and it’s a time for all the students to have a sense of community.”