When UGBC voted to split off its programming department, a committee was formed under the Student Programs Office (SPO) to establish the form that the new Programming Board will take, as well as the guidelines under which it will operate. Since the committee began meeting at the beginning of this semester, it has made little quantifiable progress toward finalizing the structure of the new board, and has announced that it will push back its original April 1 deadline by two weeks.
Given how important the beginning of this new board is in setting the precedent for its operation in the subsequent years, it is worrisome that it has fallen behind schedule so early in the process, as the new structure must be put in place and the members of the inaugural Programming Board must be chosen before the current semester ends. The students on the board say that they have done literature reviews, best practices reviews, and internal reviews of the UGBC programming department’s structures, as well as reviews of similar schools, but the structure of the new board is still uncertain.
The committee has decided that there will be an interview process to determine the board’s membership, but the format of those interviews has not yet been determined. As its direct supervisor, SPO will likely have some say in choosing membership-however, it should not unilaterally pick members. SPO will already have significant oversight of the board, and since the board will be spending the Student Activities Fee (SAF), its decisions, as well as its composition, should represent the needs of the student body. To this end, students should have a direct role in determining who is on the new programming board. As the people most familiar with the new board and how it will operate, it would make sense for the students working on the committee to weigh in.
The board’s timeline is also concerning. With the committee’s revised plans to finish in mid-April, there is little time left in this semester to conduct a thorough recruitment process. The committee has yet to determine what its publicity plans will be, but it should ensure that as many students as possible are aware of the opportunity to be on the board-one method would be in an email blast to the entire student body. In the past, the leadership of the UGBC programming department has been mainly comprised of upperclassmen, leaving few experienced students around the following year to provide institutional memory, continue successful practices, and prevent the same mistakes from being made again. The committee should save entry-level spots for current underclassmen, in order to avoid extreme turnover from year to year. While it might be convenient and tempting to draw people from within either the current structures of Nights on the Heights (NOTH) or the UGBC programming department, whoever is selecting the board should strive to include students from outside of those groups.
Since it will be separate from UGBC, the new board will also have to seriously consider its marketing plans going forward. Although it has been ineffective at times, UGBC’s publicity department has been a resource for its programming department. Without that access, the new board will need to develop in-house marketing capabilities and should spend considerable effort doing so. Marketing programming to students and getting them excited about upcoming events is important and, if the new board hopes to be successful, it will need to do a better job than UGBC has done in this past year.
It is currently unclear exactly what the budget will look like for the new board, but it has been determined that it will be receiving most of the money formerly allocated to the UGBC programming department, as well as all of the funds allocated to NOTH. The board would be stronger and have greater flexibility in its programming if it combined all of the budgeted money into one fund to distribute to various programs, as opposed to keeping it separated for each of the entities that have gone into making up the new board-NOTH, BC2Boston, and on-campus programming. So far, BC2Boston programs and the NOTH-sponsored free concerts at Robsham Theater have been some of the most successful programs at BC, and they could be strengthened with access to greater funding.
In the process of restructuring programming on campus, the new board should also reconsider the role that each aspect of programming plays and how they can be improved. It should not tamper with what is currently working very well with BC2Boston. It should, on the other hand, rethink the role of NOTH at BC. NOTH currently hosts events every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but many of these events appeal to a limited audience. Whatever form NOTH takes in the structure of the new board, it should make an effort to use its funds more judiciously, and try to host events that appeal to larger audiences.
One area in which UGBC programming has frequently been lacking is in communication with the student body. In developing guidelines for the new board, the current committee should emphasize the need to communicate regularly with students about what works and what does not. As the new board will have no formal method of getting feedback-such as the representatives that the Student Assembly provides to the executive branch of UGBC-it ought to go about doing this itself. The board will be spending the students’ money, and so it is responsible for remaining accountable to the student body.
With only two weeks left until the committee’s new mid-April deadline, it needs to move quickly to hammer out the rest of the details for the new board. If it has taken this long to get to this point and the committee is still trying to fill the board before the academic year ends, it risks stretching the process into finals, which would jeopardize the board’s successful commencement. To this end, the committee should not get too tied up in structure-the new board does not need a large bureaucracy. Rather, the committee should focus on creating an efficient board that is equipped to provide the programming that the student body desires.