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Part of life is just showing up

Published: March 10, 2006
Section: Opinions


A few weeks ago, Student Events held an open forum for students to come and help determine how to spend $9,000. The staff stuffed bags of fake money, put up signs everywhere explaining the event, featured it on the Student Events website, and sent several all-campus emails about it to ensure that the student body knew about the forum. But no one came.

Well, thats not completely true. According to Coordinator of Special Events, Sarah Blaker, about five people showed up. Five people outside of the Student Events staff were interested in determining how $9,000 was spent. It seems a little hard to believe considering the determined opinions people have about Student Events funding.

Recently, the Student Union created forums on myBrandeis for people to discuss Secured Group Reform, and specifically Student Events Reform. The comments have included ones that range from thoughtful suggestions to narrow the mission of Student Events to ones suggesting that Student Events just be thrown into the trash.
I can understand the frustration. Student Events currently receives a little more than $200,000 each year and there is little knowledge of how that money gets used.

Heck, Im a Student Events coordinator, (new this semester) and Im not completely sure how all of it gets allocated. But I believe in the truth and that the truth makes everything better, so Im going to write about what I know and try to fill in the rest of it by looking at the SE budget and talking to Wendy Silverstein, Assistant Director of Finance for Student Events.

The largest chunk of money that gets spent is the budget for Major Entertainment. They get about $50,000 per semester (nearly one half of Student Events funding) and they put on the two major concerts and help fund and organize Springfest. Im not going to argue that this funding cannot be cut (in fact, I won't argue that any of Student Events' funding can't be cut), just that those three events are expensive and Major Entertainment does use its budget to put them on.

The second largest chunk of money goes to the Entertainment division, who receive $15,000 per semester (I'm going to keep a running tally of how we get to $200,000, and this $15,000 puts us up to $130,000 for a year). The Entertainment department does various events throughout the year like comedy shows, small concerts, dances, and the like. As an example, the Christian Finnegan comedy show (which had so many people in attendance that they were spilling out of the Shapiro Theater) was done by the Entertainment department.

The third largest chunk of money go to Special Events, the Director/Cosponsorship fund, and Films , which average a little over $10,000 each per semester (which brings us up to $190,000 for a year). Special Events is the division of SE that puts on things like Louis Louis, Camp Bronstein, and the Screw Your Roommate Dance. The Cosponsorship money goes to other organizations' events that Student Events helps to fund, like the Super Bowl party. Finally, the Films department puts on films on Tuesdays and Fridays oh, and Student Events can't just show a DVD bought at WalMart.

Bringing up the back end are Services and Publicity, who receive about $5,000 and $3,000 respectively (bringing us to $206,000). The Services department helps manage Student Events volunteers and recruits new members as well as overseeing Student Production Services. For those of you who don't know, Student Production Services (SPS) provides production equipment and workers for various campus events. As Dave Zimmerman, Production Coordinator for Student Events puts it, Basically we do the production for all the major student run shows on campus which includes both sound and lighting [sic] not DJing, because that's WBRS, although we do have the capability. Part of the Services funding goes to that end paying to purchase and maintain equipment, and to pay staff to work events. Publicity (my department) is responsible for getting the word out about the events that SE does. Most of the money in our department just goes to printing posters and the like.

So, the money does go to things. It goes to programming meant to enrich the lives of students on this campus. I say “meant” there, because what enriches the lives of students on campus varies depending on who you are. If youre a member of Kinda Like Duck Hunt, you might think different things benefit the campus than a member of the Ballroom Dance Team. The fact is that were always going to disagree about what benefits the campus. One student rightly noted on the myBrandeis forums, do you honestly think that there's ANY way to please over 3000 people? Student Events spends its budget on events meant to appeal to the whole campus like comedy shows, concerts, the theme weeks and everything else. Would you rather go to a school that didn't have these events? That's not a rhetorical question, but one you should really consider.

So who gets to decide where the money goes? Those who show up. Another student noted on the myBrandeis forums that we could take the 9,000 that student events held ransom and spend it on something useful that ALL students can appreciate! But thats what the Ransom event was all about. The Ransom event was about getting students involved to decide how to spend $9,000 in a way that all students could appreciate but no one showed up. We offered up $9,000 and free food, but the campus didnt come to our door.

This isn't meant to say that we're perfect. As Assistant Director of Publicity Nicole Herz points out, We aren't receptive enough to the student body, but at the same time, the student body is not receptive to us. It is a two way partnership and both people need to pull their weight. The students need to tell us what they want and we need to provide that for them. And right now we're working at improving communication with the student body to bring even more fun events to the Brandeis community. She also thought I should point out that the budget of Student Events is open for anyone to look at and you can contact us through StudentEvents@brandeis.edu or our website: http://people.brandeis.edu/~studentevents.

So, while SE isn't a perfect organization, each year, Student Events assembles a staff of over 20 people who just show up, time and again. On a Friday night, when many of us might have wanted to go out, we showed up at Levin Ballroom and put on a Winter Carnival that hundreds and hundreds of students came to. Every Friday, we show up to put on movies for the campus. We show up in Usdan to offer ice cream. Student Events shows up.

Life is determined by those who show up. There are a lot of people with great ideas that never realize those ideas (Im sometimes one of those people), but those people arent the ones that affect our world. If you have an idea for an event, do it. If youd like to see different things, show up.