The lack of student involvement at USM is no secret, and it’s a fairly easy problem to pin down when looked at from a student’s perspective. With a large commuter population, getting anyone to trek back to campus after class is a tall order, and not terribly realistic given Portland’s superior brand of nightlife.
But the Portland and Gorham Events Boards’ insistence in spending money to finance chronically under(and in some cases un)attended events shows a disconnect between what counts as “entertainment” in the eyes of the average student, and those who dole out our student activity fund.
The most recent example of this disconnect took place two weekends ago at the “Rock for a Cure” concert held on Saturday night at the Brooks Student Center in Gorham. The event brought local rock acts The Leftovers, Grand Hotel and Eric Bettencourt – all of whom feature USM students past and present – to perform on the Gorham campus, a line-up that cost GEB $1,760.96 according to incoming GEB chair Sahara Doane.
The GEB also purchased $9,607.45 in sound equipment to replace an outdated system, a set-up that will be used for future music events, but was first unveiled for the “Rock for a Cure” show.
It should be noted that the event has traditionally been a philanthropic fundraiser held by the brothers of Sigma Nu to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and while they did assist in planning this year’s concert, they “didn’t give us as much help with the event as we expected at all,” according to incoming GEB chair Sahara Doane.
Add to this organizational ‘perfect storm’ the fact that the event was also supposed to be held outside, but was forced into the Brook’s Student Center lower-level due to bad weather on the day of the event.
After dropping $1,700 on a concert, and nearly $10,000 to present future shows, one would hope the event was at least well attended, but a Saturday night at USM is typically spent either in a mad-dash toward intoxication – either clandestinely in one’s own dorm room, or on the streets of the Old Port – or else home at one’s parents house, and the event, to little surprise, drew half a dozen to a dozen patrons, most of whom, Doane admits, “were bystanders in the cafeteria.”
Since factoring in the cost of the new sound equipment does juke the stats a bit, we can just say that the show cost $1,700, meaning the show cost over $200 a student, if one was to figure that at least eight students actually meant to go to the concert, and didn’t simply listen in while waiting for their chicken fingers.
We don’t wish to criticize the efforts of the GEB, Sigma Nu or any other campus organization that seeks to provide entertainment or involvement for USM’s student body. We only ask that, in the future, when our student activity fee dollars are being used, such events are vetted first for their viability and interest to avoid such under-involvement.
Putting on a rock concert on a college campus is a noble effort, but not a very wise decision given the wider range of entertainment options located just 25 minutes away in Portland.
Ideally, we would divert the funds used to put on such ill-advised events to help run the Portland-Gorham shuttles later into the night – at least on weekends – which has the double benefit of allowing student’s to experience Portland nightlife, and be ensured a safe ride back to campus.
Refusal on the school’s part to run what some would inveitably dub a “drunk bus” is downright irresponsible. Convincing students to stick around for a soon-to-be-busted dorm party is near impossible, as is discouraging them from taking a weekly Old Port pilgrimage.
Using student activity fees on things students are doing anyway, and be able to add a level of safety is an easy-solution to an age old problem.
Our activity fee would be better spent on subsidizing the things we are going to do anyway, something that the GEB and PEB have done in the past, offering free or reduced tickets to Sea Dogs and Red Claws games and stand-up at the Comedy Connection. The GEB is now holding an impromptu sale of Sea Dogs’ tickets to raise money for St. Jude, after taking in only five dollars at the “Rock for a Cure” event.
Groups like WMPG and Words & Images provide a similar model for successful involvement, hosting events like the WMPG Fashion Show at SPACE Gallery. The school philosophy symposium has also held events at SPACE, and writing majors recently attended a poetry slam at Portland’s North Star Cafe en masse.
If we can tie events into things that students have already shown an interest in, and not just take a wild guess that “hey, everyone likes a rock concert” then we will have less reason to complain that our tuition dollars are not being spent to serve us as a community.