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Increasing student fee causes controversy
Comedian, writer and actor BJ Novak performed stand-up comedy followed by a book signing at Webster University on Nov. 3. Though student activities members found the sold- out show to be a success with students, not everyone was on board with the campus events, including senior Parker Chase.
“People are saying BJ Novak was free for students but it wasn’t. . . the way I look at it, I paid $100 to see BJ Novak,” Chase said.
During the 2013-2014 spring SGA election, students had the chance to vote on a referendum for a student fee increase from $30 to $100. The increase won the vote by 18 percent (136 votes to 76 votes). Student activities said they posted memos on social media and blasted an email informing all students on the referendum on the SGA ballot 212 students participated in the vote.
Chase voted no on the student fee increase. She said she was more informed about campus activities when she lived on campus her freshman and sophomore year. She said it is unfair to increase the fee when most students at Webster commute. She relates it to her own experience as a commuter student and thinks students will not hear about the events.
“BJ Novak was the most advertised event I have seen in the four years I’ve been here” Chase said. “If they treat every event like BJ Novak they would get more students that would make the fee worth it.”
Director of Student Activities Jennifer Stewart said for higher budgeted events more advertising is a priority. For the BJ Novak comedy event, signs were hung around campus and an email blast was sent to all students explaining details on when the performance would be and how to receive tickets.
“I don’t think you could have turned the corner without seeing his face on a sign” Stewart said.
Stewart said an email blast would not reach all students for lower budgeted events. Email alerts for campus events go out to students who have signed up to be on the Student Activities mailing list. The sign up for the email list is on the their website and Facebook page.
Student Activities member Kristen McDowell proposed the increase at the 2013-14 spring Delegates Agenda. McDowell thinks the increase will have positive effects for student campus life. She says the turnout for the BJ Novak comedy event was more participation than she has seen. The 500 student tickets for the event completely sold out.
McDowell worried that not all the tickets would sell. Four days before the event, student activities had only sold 300 tickets. She says Webster has a reputation of being a “last minute campus.”
“You don’t think anyone will be at the events but last minute 20 extra people show up,” McDowell said.
The last minute reputation did not surprise Chase. She said because the lack of advertising, students hear about events last minute through word-of-mouth.
Stewart said with higher budgeted events happening this school year the advertisement will reach all students. Email blasts will be sent to all students to inform students about larger activities, including Springfest.
Springfest is a yearly event at Webster. An artist usually performs followed by related activities. The event changes every year depending on who will preform.
McDowell said traditionally student activities has only been able to focus on either a high budgeted fall or spring event. But with the fee increase, both fall and spring semester will have larger events than in the past.
“Having the money is great because we can reach a wider variety of student interest” McDowell said. “BJ Novak was the big fall thing, but we are planning on getting a larger artist than we have had in the past for Springfest. I think a lot of students will be happy.”
Student had the chance to vote for the artist they wanted by completing the survey on the student activities web page. The nominations included artist such as Capital City, Ben Folds and Ingrid Michaelson.
McDowell said once the nominations went out for the Springfest artist, the number of students voting skyrocketed. She thinks surveys are a proactive way to get the majority of student interest. The nominations for the spring performer began when a survey went up on the club’s Facebook and Twitter pages for genres. Once the top genres were picked student activities voted on bands and artists. The voting recently ended. McDowell says now it is a matter of finding out if the artist can come at the time of Springfest.
“With students we just need to know feedback. Obviously with the fee its something they want to do and if they don’t utilize it then we (student activities) aren’t doing our job,” McDowell said.
Chase says the amount of student engagement would increase if surveys and student input was promoted more than what she has seen in the past.