In the University’s latest football ticketing policy change, students at the University’s Flint and Dearborn campuses will now have the lowest seating priority in the Big House and won’t be able to join seating groups created by students at the Ann Arbor campus.

In the past, football tickets have gone on sale to students from all three campuses at the same time, but tickets for students at the Flint and Dearborn campuses went on sale yesterday. Tickets were made available to the Ann Arbor campus on March 17.

A similar policy giving some graduate students from the Ann Arbor campus the lowest seating priority was proposed about three weeks ago, but was reversed after the Athletic Department was flooded with complaints.

Wade Merrill, president of the UM Flint Student Athletic Association, said most students on the Flint campus didn’t learn about the revised policies until they tried to buy tickets along with Ann Arbor students on March 17. When he and other Flint and Dearborn students tried to buy their tickets, the online ticketing program reported an error and refused to let them log in, Merrill said.

Merrill said he called the Athletic Ticket Office in Ann Arbor to ask about the problem and was told that Flint and Dearborn students would be told when they could buy tickets in “a few weeks.”

Michael El-Zein, a first-year student at the University’s Dearborn campus, said he was angry about the new policy. El-Zein said he thought was surprised by the policy and thinks it perpetuates the view that the Flint and Dearborn campuses are less important than the flagship campus in Ann Arbor.

“For the administration to officially say that you do matter less than our freshmen in Ann Arbor was the final straw,” El-Zein said. “For the administration to take the side of the unspoken majority is really insulting.”

Marty Bodnar, the University’s Athletic Ticketing Director, cited a number of reasons for the new policy, including a 43-percent increase in student demand over the past six seasons. He said that during the 2007 season, roughly 3,000 students – many of them freshmen – were placed outside the student section, which was “not a positive way to welcome them to campus.”

On April 1, three days after the new policy was officially announced, Merrill started a Facebook group in response to the changes. The group, called “Restore Football Seating Priorities for ALL Michigan Students,” encourages members to send a form e-mail that addresses the new policy to Bodnar and Athletic Director Bill Martin.

The group has 441 members to date. Merrill said each student who sent the form e-mail received a response from Bodnar within three days of the group’s creation.

In his e-mail responses to the students, Bodnar has said that he understands students’ disappointment and promises to create a student advisory committee to discuss football ticketing in the future, but that the policy won’t be rescinded for the 2008 season.

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