Change is Coming to Bryant University

 

On February 23rd, 2016, the Student Arts & Speakers Series was notified that starting in the Fall of 2016 we (along with [email protected]) would become subcommittees of the Student Programming Board. This proposed merger, which had been under discussion since November, had not been mentioned to the committee until February. Neither SASS, nor [email protected] were involved in the process of this merger. We were told what decisions were being made, asked our opinions, and told our opinions were biased. Yet no opinions were sought from the student body as a whole. The argument was that the majority of campus would not notice a difference.

 

As early as November, there were questions raised within administration discussing the reasoning behind our Bryant programming organizations being separated. The focus was on this question- why aren’t we like every other university when it comes to programming? Most other university programming consists of one entity rather than several different ones.  Moving forward, the entirety of the conversation seemed to be raised around this one reasoning. But why did it matter that we were different?  Bryant University prides itself upon being different and following a different set of rules to provide great opportunities and services to our students. We understand that some of our groups overlap and end up competing for audiences, but then why not create a communication board for SASS, [email protected], and SPB to communicate regularly to avoid these issues? Rather than fully considering the decision and weighing different options based on student input, the merger was rushed forward by the administration

           

SASS and SPB are not the same. SASS puts on highly attended, greatly appreciated events with quality speakers and programs for our community. We have events that are marketed well, gather enough buzz, and excite students. While SPB does great programming, their mission is not the same as ours. We strive to interest, engage, and inspire the Bryant Community through our programming. We promote arts and cultural involvement on campus, a topic that so often gets little attention due to the business nature of this school. SPB’s mission inherently conflicts with this.

 

Members from SASS are hand selected through an application and interview process. The process selects only the most dedicated and excited students to work for SASS. Their commitment is what leads to such successful events. Additionally, these students are recruited from the entire campus, to create a unique and diverse mix. There are no prior experiences or requirements to apply, just a dedication to provide our community with unique artistic and cultural events. SPB members are mostly volunteers who show up and leave when they want to. The commitment level is not the same, which can be reflected in their programming. There are dedicated SPB members who are exempt from this and help put on wonderful events. That being said, when SASS merges with SPB, we are concerned with how events will be planned, staffed and executed.

 

SASS has a brand and an image that certain students appreciate. While not every student could tell you the difference between these boards, the students who seek these experiences will notice a change. SPB is very different in that it is more broad as a group and has a nonspecific brand for programming. Every other programming entity on campus has a more specific purpose; SASS provides quality speakers and meaningful artistic events, [email protected] does weekend alternatives, MSU markets events toward diversity, ISO celebrates international cultures, each of these groups has a purpose.           

This new structure will create layers of bureaucracy that will slow down and restrict what SASS will be able to do. Currently, as a small committee we are able to react quickly and change our plans when needed. Several of our events over the past few years have been contracted, planned, marketed, and executed in three weeks time. Now SASS will report to a President, E-board, and marketing team that are currently not used to handle the challenges we face on a daily basis. The new SASS co-chairs will have to report to the VP of Marketing in SPB, who has to report to their President, and then confirm for us, to then book our speaker or arts event. 

           

As a committee we have never been given the chance to voice our opinions to anyone aside from discussions with Judy Kawamoto. We were brought into these conversations very late in the game and feel as though our opinions, and the opinions of the greater student body, were not invited. Even with this outlet, we feel our concerns were not taken seriously. Our understanding of the new merger is very different from the reality that will be taking place come next fall. SASS was intentionally created as a separate committee from any other organization on campus. We were created to bring arts and culture to a predominantly business oriented campus. While we have come a long way since then, this is still very much a need. By making SASS a subcommittee of SPB, we are afraid that there will be less of a focus on the arts and cultural aspect of our committee. There have been no assurances made that make us comfortable that this will not be the case.

 

We as a board feel that this raises an extremely important question about student programing and organization life as a whole. At the core, these decisions affect student organizations and student life, using funds provided by students. Yet the students themselves are not adequately involved in the decision making process. They do not have a real voice or influence on the decision. In this case, the SASS committee was not even informed until it was too late to create a change or stop it. No one heard the now strong student voice speaking out against the decision. The general student population was not even informed until the merger had already happened. The merger of SASS and [email protected] under SPB reflects not only a problem within a reorganization of programming, but rather a campus wide problem with student input in decisions.