The first event senior Janie Sutherd organized for Union Board, only one person showed up.
This made Sutherd realize how crucial it is to do the work of promoting events to campus and capturing student interest.
“I don’t want to plan something and then no one comes to enjoy it,” she said. “Not just for my pride, but also because this is here for the campus and I want them to know about it and to enjoy it.”
As Operations Coordinator, Sutherd is one of the heads of Union Board, along with senior Courtney Pletcher. Union Board has the responsibility of delivering entertaining experiences to the Knox campus.
Sutherd described her duties as being focused on the day to day operations of Union Board and recruitment for the organization, which for Sutherd is a major highlight of her job.
“I love seeing that excitement on their faces as a new member and being able to bring them into Union Board and put that into something that the whole campus can enjoy,” she said.
Pletcher’s role as Special Events coordinators gives her part of the responsibility for some of the most prominent events on campus, from First-Year Orientation to Flunk Day.
Pletcher said she found transitioning into the many responsibilities of her position manageable through the help of the former coordinator Bob Lalky ‘19 and UB’s advisor, Assistant Director of Campus Life Andrew Salemi. But she still feels the burden of having to plan an event like Flunk Day.
“I think there’s a lot of expectations on what people want Flunk Day to be, and there’s a lot of limitations within that as well. We only have a certain amount of money. I don’t have control over the weather, unfortunately (…) You just can’t please everyone,” Pletcher said.
The UB members described the process the club goes through for selecting events, in which its various committees present their ideas with attached prices and examples before UB votes on what events to hold.
Sutherd stated that they seek to avoid events that have potentially gotten too stale for campus.
“We try not to, for example, book too many magicians and hypnotists close together because that’s something where — in some cases — if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all of them,” Sutherd said. “That’s one thing that we look for. Finding things that are new for campus and really exciting.”
In terms of attendance, Sutherd admitted it can be hit or miss, but felt there had been positive signs recently. Their recent Silent Disco event drew around 70 people throughout the evening in spite of being held during the harsh winter weather.
As Union Board’s Public Relations Chair, helping UB reach out to campus is a key concern for Kathryn Allee, junior.
“The goal is always just to get more people interested, because part of our trouble is just people don’t think they’ll have a good time or they don’t even know that the events are for them,” Allee said.
While Allee actively manages social media accounts for Union Board, she noted that she’s realized social media and posters are not the most effective means of reaching Knox students.
Instead, Allee believes they have to depend on word of mouth, directly speaking with students about events and encouraging them to bring friends to events.
UB has also been attempting to get more feedback from campus on what events to hold, such as by posting surveys online.
Allee felt that the progress Union Board has made in terms of attendance has largely been among underclassmen.
“I think it’s a lot harder for upperclassmen attendance, because they’ve already gone through 2 or 3 years of not being interested and now trying to get them to see Union Board in a more excited way — or even just pay attention and want to leave their dorm on the weekends — is a little bit harder, “ Allee said.
Allee believed that Union Board is also coming up against issues like seasonal depression keeping students from wanting to go out in the winter, and a general culture of not wanting to go out for activities.
Pletcher added that trying to ensure UB holds events in central, convenient locations like Seymour has been one of the ways UB has attempted to improve attendance. UB is also attempting to diversify its event through collaborating with other organizations like ABLE and Common Ground.
“I think Knox students just sometimes don’t want to leave their room, and we do our very best to get them out,” Pletcher said.
Allee suggested that students who wanted to see different events should consider simply joining Union Board to help the club plan them, and that in general students should seek to take advantage of what UB provides.
“At the very base line of it, your student activity fee — a good portion of that goes to Union Board. So you’re paying for this stuff, and you definitely want to get your money’s worth out if it,” Allee said.
Janie Sutherd is the Social Media Manager for TKS.