How often does it happen? You see a poster from STAR on a public billboard advertising a dinner on the town, a trip to a ski resort or tickets to the hottest show in town at a bargain price. You read further, only to discover the box office is selling tickets while you have class!
Perhaps you instead just happen to be checking your mailbox in MHC and see a line 100 students long in front of the Box Office. You ask what they are all waiting for and prepare for the keen agony felt by those who have been left out. For a brief moment you imagine the fun that will be had by those who actually have the time to wait in line for the rush at the Box Office, but you quickly forget your woes and shuffle along to class. You tell yourself, “Somebody else will enjoy that trip.”
The problem is you will likely be consoling yourself more often than you will be proudly pocketing tickets to the fantastic events you see on the fliers. Most students are too busy to bother with a rush on the Box Office. Meanwhile, those who happen to have nothing better to do than sit in a line for an hour or two will reap all the benefits.
Is this fair, considering that you are paying about $200 a year for a “student activity fee,” 60 percent of which is allocated to STAR for events such as this? Why is it that the few people who happen to have free time at noon Tuesdays – because they are not otherwise occupied with class, work, or club meetings – are the only ones able to benefit from these outstanding programs put together by STAR? Do I have your attention yet?
There is a better way to share the student activity fee. I have several suggestions that would accomplish this, though there are other approaches. What is important is that students recognize the issue and petition the STAR Committee to mobilize change. Otherwise, the few who are sedentary or lucky will continue to be the exclusive beneficiaries of the resources that belong to everyone.
I want to make it clear that the activities I am referring to only make up a small portion of the programming STAR plans over the course of an academic year. I think STAR does a good job of serving the diverse interests of the student body by providing programs in the areas of lectures, music, entertainment, expeditions, community building, cultural celebration and various special events. The events that cause the rush at the Box Office are the wildly popular expeditions with typical prices between $5 and $10 and limited spots available. The three suggestions below should be considered only for this specific classification of events, from here on called “expeditions.”
I am not saying expeditions should be discontinued, but rather that the planning and execution of ticket sales should be actively and thoughtfully managed. This is a process that should be continued and refined from year to year. It would not take much additional effort, but the impact on the satisfaction of students would be significant. Although some will never be happy, discontent about the equal opportunity to benefit from the allocation of funds would be much improved.
Special attention should be given to the popularity of each expedition. This could be measured by the number of people turned away from the Box Office when ticket sales end, or by instigating an online registration procedure that keeps track of the number of ticket inquiries. Based on this knowledge, STAR could refine the process by which it allocates funds to each expedition to allow for more slots at the more popular ones.
Students should be limited in the number of expeditions they participate in. These are unique opportunities to build community with other students and enjoy an exciting activity at a price palatable to any college student, but there are only a few opportunities available and a large student body to serve. Students will naturally have varying preferences about the expeditions they like best – let them choose their favorite one or two as opposed to attending them all indiscriminately because it is such a good deal.
A measure that may aid in implementing the two suggestions above would be a survey of the student body concerning possible expeditions for a given year. In the same way that students are asked to vote for their favorite bands as STAR plans fall and spring concerts, they could vote for their top 10 expedition choices for the following year from a list of restaurant excursions, up-and-coming shows, sporting events and activities such as skiing and ice skating.
At the beginning of the year, a full list of excursion opportunities could be published, and the students informed that they are eligible to attend two or three to allow as many people as possible the opportunity to attend one.
These suggestions are simple, but not trivial. If implemented by STAR, they could eliminate the current advantage held by a privileged few. What can you do? If you want to take direct action in mobilizing change, join the STAR Committee (more information at http://www.stthomas.edu/star/getinvolved/default.html). At the very least, you can voice your opinion via STAR’s website (http://www.stthomas.edu/star/contact/default.html).
It may mean that you never again have to walk away from a STAR flier in dismay telling yourself, “Somebody else will enjoy that trip.”
Matthew J. Deutsch
Senior, Mechanical Engineering Major