Allow students to elect SPB Exec, create accountability

With yet another white male brought to campus as part of Social Programming Board’s comedy series, it is now abundantly apparent that SPB’s survey system does not favor diverse acts. To counter this trend our editorial board recommends that positions on Social Programming Board become an elected instead of appointed.

Our editorial board recognizes that the problem isn’t that SPB is misrepresenting student interests; but rather that the predominant student interests are problematic. We believe that to combat this cycle of exclusion of minorities, the impetus falls on people in positions of power to affect change.

In the current system, the concert director and comedy director have the final say on artists, but each year SPB tells us that they bring the highest voted entertainer that’s available and in budget. Somewhere along the line of this democratic process, the system tosses out minorities.

We believe that the way to break that cycle is to assign more agency to SPB by having the group’s executive positions elected by the general student body, as SU positions are. Currently, the SPB election system is internal, which prevents open accountability for mistakes or lack of adherence to a more progressive entertainment slate. Right now, if some students don’t like who SPB brings, all they can do is complain. Under an elected system, those complaints could potentially be used to galvanize support for a different candidate whose interests better reflect those of the wider student body.

Diverse speaking picks bring dialogue and awareness to campus, including RJ Mitte, brought by the Congress of the South 40 and living with cerebral palsy; Hasan Minhaj, a political correspondent on the Daily Show speaking in a week sponsored by three different groups; and a panel of three black trans people brought by People Like US.

One of the only large groups on campus not following this spirit of diversity and inclusion in talent is SPB. Comedy and music are one of the best ways to familiarize audience members with these entertainers’ personal experiences. Entertainment also has the benefit of reaching larger audiences at Washington University whereas some speakers and performances only reach a small set of students.

In an elected position system, students would have the same access to share opinions with SPB officers as they do with a representative SU officer.
Instead of relying solely on the survey, comedy and concert directors could use personal discretion, given to them by the student body, to make the best decisions for these events. Candidates could run on platforms of bringing diverse talent to Wash. U. or of creating genre surveys rather than name-specific surveys.

The flexibility and trust that comes with an elected board would also leave SPB officers with the discretion to make quick choices if barriers, like scheduling conflicts, financial barriers or campus climate changes, come up, as they did this year. Originally, the SPB comedy survey included H. Jon Benjamin and Dan Mintz as a combination choice for the event, since they work together as the voices of Bob and Tina on “Bob’s Burgers.” When Mintz could not come because of a scheduling issue, SPB stayed committed to H. Jon Benjamin to honor the survey results.

The editorial board strongly supports bringing diverse talent to Wash. U., and we believe that introducing an election process to SPB would bring more accountability to the organization and be the driving force in improving the board’s ability to attracts diverse entertainers to campus.