So Much To Do, So Little Time
Programming. What is it? Why are people doing it? Why is there so much of it? How is it changing?
The answer to these questions lies within. Chances are you may think you don't care -- but if you've ever gone to a Seinfeld Study Break in a residence hall, or an a cappella concert in a CFS organization, read on.
The amorphous quality known as programming is ubiquitous on this campus. It seems to include every event that does not involve alcohol (and a few that do), ranging from speakers to discussions to dances. And there's a lot of it.
CFS organizations, residential clusters, the Hopkins center, COSO organizations, class councils, the Programming Board, and the Rockefeller center, among others, all plan a variety of different events each term in order to achieve a variety of different goals. These goals include serving students, providing entertainment for the campus, and name recognition (in most cases).
Since I am the CFSC Programming Liaison, I can only focus on the programming within the Coed, Fraternal, and Sororal organizations on this campus. Our Minimum Standards currently require a good deal of programming from our organizations. Each organization is required to plan four membership development events, three Dartmouth community events, and two Community Service or philanthropy events per term. Assuming each of the 27 CFS organizations does the bare minimum, that's 243 programming events a term -- 24.3 per week, coming just from CFS organizations!
Admittedly, the actual number of events that students see coming from Greek houses isn't quite as large, because a large proportion of this theoretical 243 events is made up of events that are open only to a house's members, or cosponsored by numerous houses (thus one event may count as programming for many organizations). The number of events coming from the Greek system each term, however, remains substantial.
When you take all of our events, and throw them on top of the smorgasbord of other programming at Dartmouth, you end up with a huge number of opportunities for students just about every night. Now, take all of these events, and put them into competition with homework, work, meetings, athletics, exercise, and social lives, and it becomes easy to realize that there is no way the average Dartmouth student will be able to go to every program, or even most of them. On the other hand, it's quite possible that the "average" Dartmouth student doesn't go to ANY of this programming. Most of us are ridiculously busy -- do we have time for this stuff?
Clearly, the answer is no. And the attendance at many of these events shows it. With so many groups competing for people's time, we end up with a large number of events with generally meager attendance. Some events are traditionally large, such as a cappella concerts on Wednesday nights and Thursday night study breaks in residence halls. But many of the other opportunities are under-utilized because the campus seems to be over-programmed.
What does this mean? It means that a lot of hard-working people put a lot of time, effort and money into a lot of events that don't necessarily get the attendance they could.
OK, so now that I've complained about this for a while, I'm actually going to tell you what the CFS system is working on to combat the issue of over-programming within our system.
Our programming standard does require a great deal of programming from each house, but it doesn't say that each organization must be the only one involved in the planning of such an event. On that note, the CFS programming chairs have recently begun planning events on a much larger scale than before.
Following the model of the Panhellenic sororities, which have recently been holding all-sorority programming events, we have started planning all-CFS events for next term. Each event will be planned by several organizations, and funded from a pooled budget. One such event will be held per week, on the same night each week, and the entire system will make efforts to recruit audience members.
Under this new model, CFS houses have the opportunity to work together, to bring greater unity to the CFS system, and to work to improve the quality of programming on the campus as a whole. The events we're planning for next term look very promising. In my estimation, each of these events is of higher quality than we'd normally see from an event organized by any single house. Whereas previous efforts have primarily focused on quantity, our new plans will focus on quality -- and I think you'll notice the difference.