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Letter to the editor: Better ways to share STAR’s resources

By , Matthew J. Deutsch  |  Tuesday, February 22, 2011 10:38 PM

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

This item was posted in Letters From Readers, Opinions and has 8 comments so far.

8 Comments

  1. Mark Schreck
    Feb. 23, 2011 1:12 AM

    I think that Matthew is spot on with his letter. STAR needs to implement some sort of lottery system, so that the students that get to go aren’t just the ones that are free spend all morning in line on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since STAR sells all of the tickets during convo hour, it is in a way discouraging students from participating in clubs. It is difficult to resist the idea of a $5 meal at Fogo de Chao even if there is an interesting speaker at a club that students could be attending instead.

  2. Trina Sturlaugson
    Feb. 23, 2011 9:45 AM

    I understand where Matthew is coming from, however, what is occuring is just part of life. If you can’t handle it now, how can you handle it in the future? What happens when Eminem or Taylor Swift tickets go on Sale at 10 am on a Thursday and you are in class? Are you going to call Ticketmaster and ask them to switch? I am guess STAR Implemented the way they are doing things because its what works best for the majority. Yes, it happens thousands of times around the world, but in situations like these, people must do whats best for the majority. It is an opportunity cost. Since you know when STAR usually sells tickets, if you really want to make sure that you get in on those events, then plan your classes around it. If you are joining a club, you may have to give up the option of getting tickets to the events, or give up the club to get tickets. One cannot have everything, you may have to pick and choose it is a fact of life. I understand where Matthew is coming from, but even if you are in class, an online “lottery” would not help because you should be paying attention in class, not buying tickets. And still inevitably some students will be left out. As long as what STAR is doing serves the majority, its how best they should do it. 

  3. Trina Sturlaugson
    Feb. 23, 2011 9:48 AM

    I would agree with Matthew about switching up times now and then for ticket sales. Not always Thursday at noon. But I understand that is over convo hour and I am guess they do it them because every student has the OPTION of having that hour open. If you choose to join a club, thats your choice, but you may give up a chance at a STAR event. If you choose to wait in line, you may be missing out on a great club. But thats life, you cant always have everything. Another suggestion, would be if one person could buy 2 tickets for another person, as long as they had their friends ID. And had it approved ahead of time at the box office that there was a legitimate reason [the student has class] that he/she could not be there. That would *hopefully* eliminate the people who just dont want to wait in line, to the people who actually cannot be in line.

  4. Grant Goerke
    Feb. 23, 2011 10:49 AM

    Thankfully, I have never invested in Ticketmaster. I say thankfully because there are already so many headaches associated with purchasing event tickets (e.g. presales, prices, additional fees) that knowing my money is supporting that system regardless of whether I actually purchase a ticket would be even more infuriating.

    With STAR and the Box Office, things are different. They are operations founded to serve the student body. Student money funds STAR, at least. (I’m not sure whether the Box Office receives a percentage of activity fees.) Accordingly, that group should be continuously seeking student feedback like this letter. I hope they take note and work on implementing new ways to share these opportunities with all students. The ideas this letter suggest seem simple enough. STAR should at least look into them to see if they’re possible and perhaps helpful even. They sound like they would be.

    Students should not have to say “That’s life!” and move on. STAR is an integral part of student life at UST. It exists to serve the students. Every student invests in the group and deserves to see something in return. There are many ways to do this, but as discussed, tickets are probably the most popular. Everyone should get a chance.

  5. Grant Spanier
    Feb. 23, 2011 1:42 PM

    Boom. Roasted.

    Nicely written Matthew.

  6. John Mettcalff
    Feb. 23, 2011 8:18 PM

    Trina, if the tickets go online at that time, I would simply pull out my laptop and order them online… That is what Matthew here is proposing, an online system that would work much better. Not to mention it would decrease the need to have someone staff the office to sell tickets, and inherently make the process more efficient.

  7. Nicholas Haugan
    Feb. 25, 2011 1:15 PM

    As a Political Science major, I understand fully the need to reconcile the will of the majority, with the rights of the minority. Now I am not saying that every student has a “right” to tickets, but they are entitled to an EQUAL OPPORTUNITY to obtain them. What I am arguing is that the current system STAR has in place does the exact OPPOSITE of what some have claimed. As the author points out, these tickets are only available to a “sedentary or lucky” minority. These privileged few are often in line for an hour or two, long before convo hour even begins. Also, students should not be forced to make the choice between participating in a club which is happening in the present, and obtaining tickets for an event in the future. This is why I fully support the enactment of an online procedure which would enable everyone an EQUAL chance of procuring tickets. If one’s goal is to learn of life’s disappointments through this experience, I would direct him/her to Mark Twain, who once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Isn’t that the point of these expeditions?

  8. Hilary Becker
    Feb. 27, 2011 8:55 AM

    Touscé to Nicholas. There’s NOTHING worse than sitting in your Wednesday afternoon class thinking, “I should be getting tickets right now.” 

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