Does the Student Programming Board really reflect students’ wants and needs?

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Recently, I released a poll to all grade levels asking students to quickly detail their opinion of Bryant’s Student Programming Board, or SPB. For those who do not know what SPB is, they are a Partnering Organization comprised of students who are tasked with putting on events that other students will participate in and enjoy. Some of these events include Big B Weekend, Mr. Bryant, and Spring Weekend. The Student Programming Board is one of the largest organizations on this campus.

I created this poll to measure the degree of involvement students feel with the events the Student Programming Board puts on. The Bryant student population has a right to have a say in the events that we pay for at this private institution because democracy is the heart of change and innovation, a concept Bryant claims to foster in all its activities. I was genuinely curious of what the general opinions of such a large and university-supported organization were. Is SPB truly a reflection of what students want and need at Bryant?

Let’s see: according to the poll, fifty-seven percent of respondents have a positive opinion of SPB. This would suggest that more than half of Bryant (if we assume those that took this survey represent the student body in general) thinks SPB is fully functioning to their needs, however, it is worthy to note that many of those submissions with positive opinions are from SPB members themselves. This is a prime example of bias in our system, which should encourage us to be careful when we survey on a controversial topic. In addition, thirty percent of respondents had a negative attitude towards the Student Programming Board and a little less than thirteen percent expressed no opinion at all. Clearly, there is an issue to be solved about the perception of the organization. So I ask, what can be done to fix that negative perception?

First, we must discuss the aspects we all like about the organization. This group of students running SPB clearly put a lot of effort into their events, and they take a lot of pride in what they do. Many respondents of the poll credited SPB for their sober event options, great prizes, free food, consistency, and that they try to bring the campus together. The operative word being “try”, as respondents go on to admit that the campus often is not that engaged in SPB events.

On the other hand, respondents dislike the poor advertising, the quality and types of events, speaker/concert choices, scheduling, and organization. Many respondents expressed concern with SPB’s overall communication skills. One student noted that they run a Spring Concert poll, but then pick whatever artist they want, ignoring the outcome of the poll. Another student also commented that events are often of little interest to students and are always attended by the same few.

Other students question the target audience of many SPB events. A respondent with a strong opinion stated that events are often geared more towards a younger audience rather than college students. This respondent makes the point that it should not be surprising when adults do not want to attend “uninteresting, uninspired arts and crafts events” or other boring options. I would argue that better communication between SPB and students would inspire events that adults truly would enjoy attending. Bryant would like to get away from its stigma of being a party school, but organizations appointed to create alternate events do not appeal to the students on the level that they are on.

Many respondents stated their continuing unhappiness with the absorption of Bryant @ Night and the Student Arts & Speaker Series into SPB. They miss the high quality of events from SASS, which now take a lesser priority to larger, traditional SPB events. Many students also miss the weekend night events from Bryant @ Night, sober alternatives to the party scene. Students are less engaged with weekday or weekend day activities.

Lastly, there have been many occurrences where SPB sponsored activities interfere with other clubs and organizations’ events. I believe this inequality is important because smaller clubs are often overtaken by the power SPB holds on this campus. A respondent of the poll commented, “My organization has planned events that have been overbooked multiple times because SPB wants to host an event.” These smaller clubs and organizations can put the same amount of or more effort into their events and then have no attendance because SPB had their event on the same day. Bryant’s current system leaves no room for smaller clubs to be successful in the light of a much better funded and staffed SPB. Another respondent disliked that they “crush every other program in their path.” This relevancy issue is not only SPB’s problem, but the Office of Campus Engagement’s problem as a whole.

I believe it is important to state that, other than Executive Board members, the Student Programming Board is not elected by the student body. Anyone on campus can be a general member. Compared to another large organization with power on this campus, the Student Senate is also tasked with representing the student body and making decisions that reflect their wants and needs. They are very similar, except Senate members must be elected, through a pretty rigorous process. We put our trust and faith in Senate members because we personally had a say in them holding office. With a very comparable amount of power, SPB is not even close to being as highly regulated. Also, the Student Programming Board is not under the jurisdiction of the Way and Means committee, which determines the financial need of many clubs/organizations on campus and distributes funds to those most worthy. We can all assume SPB has an exuberantly huge amount of money each academic year and we, as students who pay involvement fees that fund their budget, have no say in who spends that money. I urge you to consider the power we put in our student leaders’ hands and how they handle that power.

Now that we have a few things to think about, I’d like to end on a positive note, looking towards the future. I made sure to ask in the poll which specific events students would like to see SPB sponsor as we move forward. Some ideas include more live music, a psychic/medium, a paint dance, relaxation events, off campus events with discount student prices, recreational classes, partnerships with smaller organizations, and speakers and debates about real issues that impact our lives. Students are looking for quality and to be given opportunities at their level. Once these needs are met, I can predict SPB will have higher satisfaction and involvement rates. For now, let’s try to enjoy the bouncy houses we pay forty thousand dollars a year for.

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