November 9, 2011

How Union Board entertains Knox

As a new student at Knox, you may wonder who is behind all the various acts that find their way to campus, such as a paranormal investigator, an African dance troupe or famous B-moviemaker Tommy Wiseau. All these events and more are put on by a committee of students known as Union Board, and you will likely be hearing a lot about them in the coming years.
The planners of the revered Flunk Day, Union Board (UB) plays a huge role in campus life and events. Assistant Director of Campus Life for Student Activities Jill Gates, who is the head of the board, is joined by 25 other members — 23 volunteers and a junior and senior coordinator — in planning events for each term. The planning for winter and spring term events is already in motion.
UB typically tries to plan about 8 to 10 events per term, with fall term having a little more than others due to orientation. The event that is voted as the most exciting and favored by the board members is considered regardless of its price. For example, one of the events planned for next term is Second City’s Laugh Out Loud tour, which will take up the bulk of the money for the term due to a high level of member interest.
“When we’re looking per term within our money amount we’ll decide what event people will want to see no matter what,” Gates said, “[Union Board members] usually get one more expensive event and then several smaller events after that.”
The basic process of planning an event in Union Board is broken down into three parts: brainstorming, researching and consensus. During the first stage, Union Board members gather general ideas from the student body and campus groups. These ideas are then brought to a brainstorming meeting, where the possible ones are considered and the implausible ones are thrown out. The board usually comes up with around 50 total ideas before narrowing them down.
With the most plausible ideas in mind, the group begins the second stage of researching the areas of interest, finding out the fees, etc. After breaking it down to around a dozen possibilities, the members that brought forth those ideas must give a one-minute presentation of what their proposed events would look like, when it will happen, etc.
Once these event ideas are presented, the entire committee holds a final vote for their favorite events and come to a consensus on which ones would be best suited for the Knox community.
Gates attributes close coordination, evaluation of past events and training to UB’s past successes.
“[Our success is due to] a lot of coordination, a lot of training in the early parts … [which includes] what’s expected in planning an event, how to do an event. I work really closely with the coordinators and the chairs about small details.”
Normally, Gates herself is most involved in contacting booking agents for the acts. But more recently, she said, members have shown initiative in that area.
“More members of UB are looking to be involved in the booking process,” she said.
Gates also credited a National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) conference that Union Board members go to every year as a very important source of ideas for events. The association is a nationwide talent agency with partnerships with over 950 colleges and universities. At the yearly conference, performers connected to the agency get a chance to put on a show for all the visiting campus event planners from member colleges and universities.
The conference has been responsible for bringing in acts to Knox such as Landon Pigg and Jared Mahone last year for Lincoln Fest. In addition, it is where Gates first saw Harvard graduate and musical artist Rachel Brown, who Union Board will be bringing in during winter term.
In regards to Flunk Day, Gates was not as open about disclosing information.
“There’s some top secret information on that,” she said. “I can tell you that the two coordinators are part of the committee and then the rest is chosen by the powers that be.”
In addition to planning its own events, UB also provides tech help for any events put on by clubs on campus. Students interested in doing so should contact Jill Gates and give at least a week’s prior notice when planning their events. Trained UB students will also run the equipment.

Sam Brownson
Sam Brownson ’12 majored in philosophy and minored in anthropology and sociology. This is his second year copy editing for TKS; he is also currently a post-baccalaureate fellow in music and theater and will be composing the music for two productions as part of Knox’s Repertory Theatre Term. A self-described grammar Nazi, Sam worked as a TKS reporter and as a writer and editor for his high school newspaper before joining the TKS editorial staff. He also manages social media for Brownson Properties in Holland, Mich.

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