Lode editorial: Student Entertainment Board discusses their untimely demise


Mason Liagre, News Editor

The Lode met with two individuals recently who wished to share their experiences with the special budgetary group fund allocation process and their opinions on how to improve it. Sharon (name changed), the former advisor to the now-extinct Student Entertainment Board, current advisor to the cheer team and Director of Programming and Development at the Rozsa Center and Jack (name changed), who worked under the office of student activities until the Outdoor Adventure Program was moved to athletics and recreation, both weighed in. Sharon relates the decline of the Student Entertainment Board and its absorption by the MUB Board.

The organization was given probationary status in 2015 following difficulties drawing large crowds to their events.

“This is where I feel like I’m being fair, it was perhaps the right call. They were given large sums of money in the past and they were charged to bring in acts of all kinds, I mean SEB used to bring in more than just Winter Carnival comedian. They had upwards of $30,000 of a budget to bring in several shows and the year that I took over as their advisor in 14-15 the handful of shows that they brought in were not attended well. Their organization numbers were low, hovering right around the 10-15 number. It wasn’t a massive group, they were having trouble recruiting.” According to Sharon, the two shows besides the Winter Carnival comedian that year saw only about 80 and 200 people attend.

“For those reasons, they were put on probation. Over the next several years, I worked with student leaders to address all the terms of their probation, and we kind of tried to reimagine how the organization would run. We became a much more collaborative organization, working with a lot of other student orgs to try to generate buy-in. We focused on trying to bring in just one comedian a year rather than a whole bunch of things. They also didn’t have any money at that point, their budget was slashed. They were getting maybe zero to 5,000 and you can’t really do much with that anyways. But the organization saw success. Winter Carnival comedian numbers were up in the 6, 7, 800 person range, it was free for students for the first time in a long time…recruiting numbers kind of wavered. I think that they hit all the marks of their probation and for whatever reason they still were not getting any funding, they were still given probation status despite all their best efforts and it really just seemed like no matter what SEB did or was going to do they were never going to be given funding. And if an organization that’s charged with bringing in shows is not given money, then there’s really nothing for that organization to do.”

During their struggle to secure funding again, the Student Entertainment Board collaborated with the Memorial Union Board to put on an event. Sharon says that the organization of the event was “completely on MUB Board’s terms. Essentially they said, ‘SEB, you are now part of the way we do things.’ There was no meet in the middle. SEB felt that it was an opportunity to show their leadership and collaborate, and what ended up happening was they were just a part of MUB Board’s process.”

Sharon is the Director of Programming and Development at the Rozsa Center. The Rozsa Center puts on its events using endowed funds, money that has been donated under the condition that it is used to put on events for students. The Student Entertainment Board, like other special budgetary groups, was funded by the Student Activity Fee. “The loss of SEB is also one less point of contact for me to bring in programming that is in line with the students,” said Sharon.

Jack explained why he thinks that the current way that special budgetary groups are given funding is imperfect due to conflicts of interest and how it could be fixed.

“The process for SBGs changed, I want to say around 2010, as to how they applied for their money. At that time it was written that the group would include two USG reps, a GSG rep, the Director of Student Activities and a faculty member. At that time, the Director of Student Activities did not advise MUB Board. So that conflict wasn’t there.”

“It was basically what is being done now, but without the connection to the student organizations that are applying for funds.”

“I think that there’s been conflicts that have been continually added over the years. When USG originally changed their plan, there were very little conflicts and the Director of Student Activities was not an advisor to the MUB Board and wasn’t an advisor to any SBGs.”

Elaborating on his point of view, Jack says “I apply for two funds through the SBG process- the OAP in general and the challenge course. I don’t get to sit on the decision-making committee, I just go in and I hope they see value in what we’re doing. The Director of Student Activities presents… (counting) sevenish, eight if you count MUB Board budgets to that same committee. This includes community service, late night programming, welcome week, K-day, which is a partnership with IFC but how many students know that Greek life puts that on? Not to mention that the Director of Student Activities is the advisor to the men’s Greek organizations as well.”

“When someone who sits on the committee that allocates all these funds out has half of the accounts that need to be funded, that’s where the conflict is. Where she may abstain from voting on those, there’s a certain degree of lobbying that can take place.”

As an alternate way of dividing up the Student Activity Fee, he suggests a committee consisting of one member of each special budgetary group. “I think the issue now is that there’s too much conflict from the folks that are sitting on the committee. If they have 8 budgets in the pool of money that they’re approving budgets out of, there is some inherent bias or some perceived bias. I think that a solution- maybe not the best solution, but at least a way forward- is to let every special budget group have a voice in that decision.” As of right now, the written and verbal case that SBGs make to the special budgetary committee has a large bearing on the allotment they receive. Having a member on the committee would allow them to have ongoing input rather than their budget allotment hinging on one presentation.

Sharon, in reference to Jesse Stapleton being an advisor to both the Undergraduate Student Government and MUB Board, says “I think that that speaks to maybe where the real change is needed. Despite feelings or sentiments about a specific person, it is the process. We give a lot of breadth, responsibility and leeway to the students that run student government. And the person that oversees student government- it depends on what that person is, who they are.”

“It’s really easy to hide behind “well i’m just their advisor, they make their own decisions,” as justification for how things get done or how decisions get made, when the influence of the advisor really dictates how students learn to make decisions in that organization.”

“You can’t argue that MUB Board is the most important student organization,” said Sharon.

Jack concurred, saying “They’re all important.”