The Edmonton Fringe was right to "exclude" Daniel Hughes

The Edmonton Fringe generated a bit of controversy earlier this year when it was revealed that they had rejected the application of one of their volunteers.

The post on Daniel Hughes’s Facebook page says he’s volunteered as a “FriendRaiser” several times but this year, the organization rejected his application.

In a letter sent to his primary support person, Fringe staff said their needs have changed and they now only engage “those volunteers whose skill sets match those of the job.”

“For instance, all volunteers on the FriendRaisers Team must now be able to actively communicate and engage with Festival Patrons, both asking for donations and explaining how the Festival benefits from this support,” a Fringe staff member wrote in the rejection letter posted to Facebook.

Hughes is non-verbal but was well known among volunteers for his smile.
Oh, well at least he could smile. That's all that communicating and engaging requires, right? Right?

Oh. Right.

It's almost hilarious that this case caused a "backlash". It's almost certainly the silliest of internet lynch mobs going after an illegitimate target since...well, since they went after me last year. Okay, that's silly: they've attacked endless silly targets in the meanwhile, from Joss Whedon to Texas University officials not enforcing a dress code to Etibicoke school officials enforcing a dress code to Daryush Valizadeh giving a speech.

While this backlash wasn't quite as ridiculous as what happened to Justine Sacco, it was still horribly dumb and misplaced.
The Journal was unable to reach Hughes or his family for comment. “I can’t believe they think they will make things better by inviting me to a special needs party,” said the post on Hughes’s Facebook page. “Why can I not be a citizen and participate like others?”

Marc Carnes, chair of the board for the Edmonton Fringe, initially stood by the decision not to let Hughes be a greeter because that position requires volunteers to answer many questions from festival goers. But Hughes should have been offered a different volunteer position, such as cleaning the grounds or taking tickets, he said.
No he shouldn't. Look, your opinion is of how special a flower Daniel Hughes may be (I don't buy it), he's completely unsuited to fulfill any meaningful volunteer role whatsoever.

Tellingly, even the retard's big online supporters keep going back to the silly canard that the Edmonton Fringe Festival could have him fulfill a vital role on the team by simply having another volunteer hang around and supply the needed service that Hughes is supposed to be providing. However, if that's the case, why have Hughes at all? (The Fringe answered the question, of course: don't have him there at all).

One of the reddit commenters notes that able-bodied young men can be turned away as Fringe volunteers simply because the festival gets more volunteers than applicants. Somebody is being turned away. After this issue came up, Martok and I were chatting about it at another festival's beer gardens, and the point he made is that if the demand is that Daniel Hughes is treated equally, then the Edmonton Fringe fulfilled this cause when they rejected him for not being able to do the job. Everything that the whining online mob wants is special treatment: extraordinary obligations to make Hughes "feel included" in the Fringe Festival. (Note: this is an obligation that they would never extend to Yours Truly).

There are x number of volunteer positions available at the Fringe Festival. There are y people applying, and for a very long time y has simply been larger than x (indeed, 600 people apply in a single month for 1200 positions in total). There's really nothing more basic than that sort of mathematics. The Fringe Festival is in a unique position of having more volunteers than it knows what to do with, which means that it has an opportunity to pick the best possible volunteers that they can. This means that the festivalgoer has a more enjoyable and rewarding experience, which means that they are more and more likely to continue to support the Fringe Festival and bring others in as well (again: just like Yours Truly, whom the cowards who run the Fringe Twitter account blocked without any media fuss whatsoever).

Apparently missed in all this backlash over not putting a completely ineffectual person into a role that is well above his head [ha! -ed] is that volunteers don't get paid, but that doesn't mean that they don't cost an organization money. In response to the 2002 George W. Bush (pbuh) State of the Union Address, the Grantmaker Forum on Community and National Service put out a document discussing the costs to organizations to support a volunteer.
Public/Private Ventures (PPV) has attempted to estimate volunteer infrastructure costs. In their July 2002 study, Making the Most of Volunteers, PPV concluded that the necessary infrastructure for a volunteer program costs approximately $300 per year per volunteer. This figure was calculated on the value of staff time, using the typical staff pay in the study’s sample, which was $23,000 a year plus benefits. Functions included in this infrastructure cost are screening, training and general management.
This figure, however, differs from one put forward in an earlier PPV study on mentoring programs, Making A Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters. This study assessed the cost of an effective mentoring match at $1,000.7 The higher costs in the mentoring study reflect additional volunteer program requirements. In addition to the basic volunteer infrastructure functions of screening, training and management, the costs in this study include training beyond the required minimum, additional attention to volunteer placement, and frequent communications with the volunteers and the youth participants.

In general, what the literature suggests supports the findings of our review. Volunteers are not free, and there are challenges to quantifying the costs of a volunteer.
Emphasis is mine in the passage above, but it's a point worth driving home. Volunteers aren't free. Asking Hughes to be an ineffectual volunteer, or having a real volunteer stand there and constantly supervise him, would cost the Fringe Festival money. That means some of the people throwing money into the donation box as Daniel Hughes stares smiles up at them with a complete look of mental retardation in his face and no meaningful ability to thank them are simply throwing it away. The Fringe will need to use that money to provide a portion of their "volunteer overhead" on Hughes: paying for supervisory or other training to an extra unnecessary volunteer, getting another security clearance through, giving out more t-shirts, program guides, and special event invites than they otherwise would need to, etc. That's money completely wasted that can't be used to put on a bigger and better Fringe experience year after year. Instead, it's being burned away.

The Fringe does offer elderly, disabled, and retarded people a chance to volunteer for the festival, but it's clear that the final arbiter of whether a person is capable of fulfilling a role with the festival would be the organization itself. Social-justice morons like Carrie Gosselin never fully understand that point, and they are instead living in a bizzaro-world where all the Daniel Hugheses of the world have a right to impose a cost on the Fringe Festival specifically because of the nature in which they are useless.

Daniel Hughes never did go back to the Fringe Festival. It's better for it. At least there is less risk of serious injury when a visitor accidentally slips on some drool.

(click here to return to the 2015 Edmonton Fringe portal page)