Overloaded week raises student concern
One of the most extensively programmed weeks in Washington University history has raised some campus concern about Student Union dispensing huge amounts of money on overlapping events.
No fewer than five awareness and special event weeks were held last week, including Engineers’ Week, Pluralism Week, Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Africa Week and Mental Health Week.
EnWeek culminated on Saturday with two speakers from the popular show “MythBusters.” Also last Saturday, Sophomore Class Council and several residential colleges subsidized tickets for students to attend “The Book of Mormon” at The Fabulous Fox Theatre, and the inaugural TEDxWUSTL conference was held.
The overlap of events last week, particularly last Saturday, occurred due to a combination of speakers changing dates and student groups not being required to report dates of their events to Student Union.
Student Union President Julian Nicks acknowledged that over-programming on campus is problematic.
“We do need to have deep conversations about how we program and when we’re going to plan things, and we’re working together to prevent large programs from happening on the same day,” he said.
Nicks said that SU tries to provide unique and diverse opportunities for the many varying interests of students, which sometimes results in students with interest in multiple events not being able to attend them all.
Last week’s multitude of events is common for this time of year, sophomore Nick Palermo, Treasury Budget Committee chair and newly elected Vice President of Finance, said. When student groups come back to campus after winter break, many aim to host events before ThurtenE Carnival and the end of the semester, and dates in late February and early March give them enough time for planning.
“A certain level of inevitability [for conflicts] comes with over 300 student groups,” Palermo said.
Senior and Vice President of Finance Ammar Karimjee noted that while three major events were scheduled last Saturday, all three sold out or reached full capacity.
“It’s hard to say that’s over-programming [when] all three events clearly filled different niches and reached their full potential,” he said.
Karimjee defined over-programming as more than one group targeting a similar audience with events at the same time. He considers this less prevalent and problematic than concurrent unrelated events.
Michael Land, a Treasury representative and newly elected Vice President of Public Relations, also defended the overlap of events.
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing if everything is of a different nature and attracts different people,” he said.
SU has little control over when groups plan events if the groups don’t appeal for funding through Treasury, and many groups don’t put the dates of their events on the SU calendar.
The SU calendar implemented by senior Amanda Signorelli, last year’s Vice President of Public Relations, was originally tied to room reservations, but not all events on it were relevant to SU, Land said. Gradually the calendar shifted from including too much to not enough information as room reservations were omitted and SU was unable to mandate that student groups update the calendar.
“It’s a goal of mine to make all this information a little more efficiently available,” Land said.
A calendar of many University events exists already. Event Management at the Danforth University Center upgraded its Reserve-A-Space system in January to incorporate a calendar.
The calendar shows all events taking place in spaces managed by the DUC, Residential Life, the Performing Arts Department and the Engineering school. It can be accessed through the DUC website.
When groups reserve a space, an event is automatically created on the calendar, according to Leslie Heusted, Director of Event Management at the DUC.
“I like efficiency, so I’m excited about this component,” she said.
Heusted hopes spaces managed by more University organizations can be added to the Reserve-A-Space system so the calendar can become more useful to the University community.
Despite the amount of programming last week, some students didn’t attend any events because they were busy or didn’t know about the events.
“I didn’t even know half those things were going on. I only knew about EnWeek because my roommate is an engineer,” freshman Natalie Faust said.
Faust said she would have liked to participate if she’d known about the events.
Sophomore Amanda Aubel did not participate in any events last Saturday, though she would have gone to “The Book of Mormon” or to see the “MythBusters” speakers if circumstances had allowed.
“Last week was a better week to have a lot of events than this week,” Aubel said, noting the many midterms the week before spring break.
Given the variety of the events offered, she didn’t see an issue in the amount of programming last week.
Senior John Christopher Bick noted that in general, some weeks at Washington University have too many things going on at once.
“It’s hard to balance that with classes,” he said.