Over-programming harms student-centered performances
WUSauce’s annual Dance-Off offered students free entertainment in Edison Theater on Saturday, but managed to fill only 190 of the theater’s 656 available seats. Many students were not even aware that the event was happening—which may not be surprising since it was only one of half a dozen large-scale events to grace campus over the course of less than a week.
Aside from the Dance-Off, Garry Kasparov, John Legend and Gym Class Heroes visited campus in the span of six days while Campus Y held its annual Field Day and Mr. Wash. U. hosted its namesake performance.
Over-programming has long been a major concern of Student Union members in deciding how to allocate their money. If nothing else, this week proved that major speakers have no trouble pulling in crowds—Kasparov and Legend both filled Graham Chapel, despite the short notice of Kasparov’s visit and the overlap of Legend’s visit with two major holidays. On this same holiday weekend, Gym Class Heroes flooded the South 40 Swamp for a short but lively set.
What suffered, though, was student-centered programming. WUSauce’s Dance-Off filled less than a third of its venue. Mr. Wash. U. was this year’s only major student show, in the tradition of Carnaval, Diwali and Lunar New Year Festival, not to sell out before the day of its production. Numerous students had not even heard that the Campus Y Field Day was going on. While student groups may only have so much leeway in choosing when speakers and performers come to campus, this is not a valid excuse for student performances—especially ones that happen every year and are planned out months in advance.
Over-programming such as the campus saw this past week isn’t just a concern for students whose events are not well attended; the student body as a whole suffers from having too many things happening at the same time. People want to attend their friends’ events to show support, but forced to choose between a nationally renowned musician or an annual dance performance, many students won’t bat an eyelash. Few students have sufficient time or energy to attend six different major events in one week, and considering how many weeks there are no major campus events, they should not have to try.
Student Union should work with student groups to make sure that their events are not all happening at the same time. While over-programming is often a concern for speakers, student groups are generally free to schedule their programming like performances, forums and service events whenever they choose. This week showed that adding speakers to the equation is potentially problematic.
Student groups should not be expected to select and appeal for all of their major speakers and performers at the beginning of the year. With this precedent, most big speakers are slated to arrive on campus in the spring, with the months between appeal and appearance spent on planning, coordination and contractual discussions with agents. The result is a relative dearth of programming in the fall semester and a profusion of events in the spring. If students were also given the option to begin planning and appealing in the spring, they might have to put in some work over the summer, but the result would be a more event-filled fall and a higher attendance rate for student events that suffer when they compete against the likes of Kasparov and Legend. As an added bonus, outgoing seniors could help the new leadership of student organizations where they may confront difficulties.
The past week has made it clear that there is a problem with how events are coordinated on campus. For the benefit of the students planning the events—and the students attending them—we hope that the coming year sees events spaced at more regular intervals.