UBCon XXXI creates community and controversy
Editor’s Note: The Spectrum has spoken publicly to a number of students who later requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the sexual assault allegations it contained. The Spectrum generally does not grant anonymity to sources unless they “face danger, retaliation, or other harm,” as stated in the SPJ’s code of ethics, but took the decision to do so here in order to protect the identity of these individuals.
The Academic Spine came alive with color and costume over the weekend as the UB community came together for UBCon XXXI – the first in-person fandom convention on campus since the COVID pandemic began. -19.
From Jack Sparrow to steampunk shields, anime overtures to hard rock, event attendees flooded the Student Union as UBMusicians took the stage after two months of practice, setting the tone for the events that followed.
Vendors, maid cafes, and Nerf wars were all on the agenda at the popular convention.
A scandal showing hentai was not.
UBCon XXXI began its three-day run on Friday, April 8, the product of months of planning by UB SARPA, supporting volunteers and organizations. The convention, which spanned from Clemens to Baldy Hall, included a myriad of creative panels and interactive discussions.
Organizing this multi-day extravaganza was no easy task, especially with e-boards crammed with officers who had never attended the convention before the pandemic or had never hosted a pre-pandemic event. such a scale.
“We didn’t have the same type of experience or training that previous e-boards would get just because of, you know, being able to do the normal events,” said a UB alumnus. Spectrum. “So I stayed because the role is usually at least a year.”
This student wasn’t the only UB grad lending a helping hand to less experienced members. The president of another organization said that many former UB SARPA, Cosplay, and Anime board members have returned to ensure the smooth running of the in-person convention.
Returning to campus for fandom-based clubs has been a rewarding experience for recent graduates who saw their final years at UB devoid of in-person events.
“It was funny, a few minutes ago I came out and looked at the crowd that had gathered,” another UB alum and former club vice-president said. “I just had a smile because I’m glad the jerks are back and it’s one of the things I love to do.”
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The alum, who graduated in 2020, was unable to organize the con he had to lead in the wake of COVID-19.
Yet despite the joy alumni found in revisiting UBCon and the relief it brought to still-learning club leaders, those involved in the convention planning process reported that not everyone was disagree with the enlistment of non-UB students for volunteer work.
“Some things with SA [the Student Association] and UB staff [is that they] I wanted the scam to be UB-centric and UB-centric only,” the first alumnus said.
Faced with pressure to limit UBCon to the UB community, the alum praised SARPA for ensuring the event continues to be a welcoming venue even for non-UB students.
Despite the difficulties encountered in organizing the event, attendees said SARPA organized a weekend of fandom fun that created a safe space for its engagers.
QuintonReviews, a content creator who talked about Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” for 13 straight hours on YouTube, hosted a gripping comedy panel for the community. Down the hall, attendees competed for anime-themed stickers in an intense take on the marble match from Netflix’s “Squid Game.” As the event progressed, one constant was the bustling vendor market.
Student Union 145 has become a colorful marketplace, jam-packed with stuffed animals, fandom-related merchandise, board game accessories and more. Upstairs in the Landmark room, about 10 vendors showcased handmade goods ranging from homemade squishmallows to pins and keychains.
Tamela Faulkner, a vendor in the western New York area, sold modified steampunk-themed nerf guns. Faulkner says selling to UBCon helped keep their passion alive.
“It’s the only scam I do because it takes me a while to do these [modded Nerf guns],” they said. “Living in Buffalo, you only get five to three months of summer, so I spray paint on the weekends… That’s my homeland. So I always come to UBCon.
Patricia Johnson* says UBCon offered an acceptance day for her cosplay costume as she moved from class to convention.
“It was definitely weird doing it. [cosplay] for UB because I had classes before and I was half cosplaying,” Johnson said. “People were looking at me really weird with the contacts, but I think my favorite thing is just going here and knowing that people are going to interact with you and be so positive.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one reveling in the accepting convention atmosphere. Junior chemistry major Brynn Nelson encouraged people to come to UBCon for the camaraderie.
“There’s going to be someone who will recognize you. There will be someone who will be ready to take a picture, who will wave at you,” they said. “It’s super exciting. I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
The weekend festivities may have been positively received, but UBCon XXXI nonetheless found itself embroiled in controversy.
Tuesday, a Reddit post by user u/Comfortable-Dog9390 went viral on UBReddit. The post, which has been upvoted more than 425 times and commented on 180 times, details allegations of misconduct in one of 18+ panels presented at UBCon.
UBCon organizers held three over-18 panels, two of which escaped without scandal. But “Mystery Theater 3000” came under fire after organizers allegedly failed to check people’s IDs and posted hentai — anime-related porn content — on the smart board.
Event attendee Jordan Greene* said: ‘It was an hour straight of screen porn at Knox [Hall].”
Greene says the smart board displayed “dubious explicit and consensual acts” with no content warning, and everyone in the room was in for the “joke,” as conventions often feature hentai for “commentary” or “ comedy” – due to its poor animation and voice acting.
But Greene said attendees at the event were unaware it was going to be “doubtfully consensual.”
Greene also says the event manager “shut up” people during the “exhibition” scenes and “screamed” at people to stop recording during the screening. They say they couldn’t believe such an incident could happen at an event where consent was so strongly emphasized.
“There were signs everywhere saying ‘cosplay is not consent, don’t take pictures of people without asking first’ and it was really stressful,” Greene said. “This [the lack of content warning] was very out of place, that they wouldn’t do something similar for this event. I think it was partly due to poor planning and negligence.
In a statement, SARPA said it “treats all complaints we have received seriously,” but found no reason to believe illegal activity occurred.
“SARPA has had a positive impact on UB for many years; we have strived to create a supportive community where all UB students can make new friendships,” the statement read. “We treat all complaints received seriously. SARPA has no evidence that minors participated in the 18+ panel, we have no evidence that any illegal activity took place. This 18+ panel has been canceled for all future UBCons. We have reported all evidence to the student body and appropriate people at UB, and will continue to do so if new evidence is brought to our attention.
SARPA did not comment in time for publication confirming that sexually explicit content was shown at this panel.
The SA also declined to comment.
*These sources were granted anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Kara Anderson is the Arts Editor and can be reached at [email protected]
Jack Porcari is a news and features editor and can be contacted at [email protected]
Jack Porcari is News and Features Editor at Spectrum. He graduated in political science with a minor in journalism. In addition to writing and editing, he enjoys playing piano, fluid arts, reptiles, and activism.
Kara Anderson is Senior Art Editor at Spectrum. She holds a double major in English and Spanish and is pursuing a certificate in Creative Writing. She enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, procrastinating with solitaire, and watching reality TV on the weekends.
Photo: pocketwiley/Wiki Commons