October 28, 2010

Union Board aims to increase appeal

Forget obscure comedians and magicians. In order to increase its relevancy, this year’s Union Board has diversified its appeal and hosted everything from a cider social to a black light dance party.

“The students really wanted to make [Union Board events] more diverse,” said Jil Gates, Assistant Director of Campus Life. “They wanted to have events that people will be excited about.”

Last year, events such as comedy acts and little-known singer-songwriters failed to draw large crowds. Union Board began the year determined to revitalize its image and increase attendance at events.

“We actually wrote out our mission statement, and one of the things we decided was really important to us was to bring a variety of events so there’s something for everyone,” senior and Union Board co-chair Britt Anderson said.

The availability of the Seymour Union Student Lounge meant Union Board had the opportunity to host even more types of events, such as the black light dance party and a roller-skating rink. Other events this term have included slam poet George Watsky, games of capture the flag, and musical artist Ben Kweller.

Overall, Union Board’s “new direction” seems to have succeeded in attracting not only larger but also more varied audiences.

“Most events really trigger certain kinds of folks to come out,” Gates said. “The people who were at the roller-skating party, you might not have seen them at George Watsky.”

Both freshmen and students who have seen what Union Board has done in the past have responded favorably to this year’s events, Anderson believes.

“People I see [at events] are people who didn’t come last year,” she said. “The black light party was pretty heavily upperclassmen.”

Senior Krista Ahlberg agrees that Union Board’s focus has, by and large, shifted in the right direction. “I enjoy that they’re branching out and doing different types of events, but then again, I enjoyed the comedians too,” she said. “I have to say that I really dug the roller skating, though.”

“I don’t think that roller skating on a Thursday night was the best use of funds,” sophomore Josh Gunter said. “But Ben Kweller, Lincoln Fest, the PostSecret guy, those were neat.”

Ahlberg and Gunter’s opinions indicate something Gates believes is crucial to the mindset of event planning at Knox: the impossibility of pleasing everyone.

“Knox is diverse, and you can’t pick one all-encompassing event to make everyone happy,” she said. “We can’t make everyone happy, but we can make the people who are there have a good time.”

If students are displeased with Union Board events, Gates invites them to bring their own ideas to the Board. Gunter, however, pointed out that there is no clear venue for doing this.

“I think they could take more input from students,” he said. “There should be some way to propose ideas.”

Typically, individual Union Board members bring event ideas to the Board, explaining why certain performers should be showcased. Members also read literature on different acts sent to Knox by booking agencies. After looking at the affordability of the proposed events, the Board votes to narrow the list down to around seven events per term.

This process, while democratic, offers no official way for students not on Union Board to give their input on events.

“Usually, someone mentions something to a friend on Union Board, like ‘Hey, this band is really cool,’” Anderson said.

Students who have ideas for Union Board events are encouraged to make their voices heard by speaking with a Union Board member.

Anna Meier

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