This year, student organizations at William Jewell College have implemented several changes to student programming and the way that student events are held on campus. Ernie Stufflebean, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life, discussed these changes.
“We have made a lot of changes this year in regards to programming. Both with the programs that we’re doing and also the time, the manner and the way we’re communicating with students about events,” said Stufflebean.
The Student and Residence Life offices created these policy changes at the end of the last school year in response to student surveys, and they prepared to implement the changes over the summer. When this school year began again, the office worked with Campus Union Activities (CUA) directors, intramural heads, Student Senate and other student organizations to put these changes into effect.
Changes from previous years include rescheduling Jewell-sponsored events, tracking event attendance with apps like “Check I’m Here” and merging calendars amongst various Jewell organizations to avoid conflicts, in addition to other changes. One of the goals of the changes was to hold more events on weekends.
“We sat down this summer and looked at student satisfaction survey results and one of the things we were hearing from students on those surveys was—they felt like Jewell was a place where there wasn’t a lot going on on the weekends and there weren’t things for them to do,” said Stufflebean. “It’s not that we won’t do things on week nights, but we’ll make a concerted effort to program weekend, evenings, and late night hours when students are out-and-about. We’ve really made that shift and tried hard to make sure that every night that students are here and there’s no class the next day, to give students something to do.”
Now Intramural sports are held at 10 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday nights (last year they were held at earlier times on Tuesday and Thursday). Additionally, Saturday nights were divided between CUA and residence life to make sure one of those organizations would hold an event every Saturday.
These programming changes also affected Residence Life staff and hall events. One of the biggest changes was the elimination of hall councils, a group that in previous years planned and implemented hall events.
“We’re using our RA’s to be the catalyst and man power behind all of that now” said Resident Director Kayla Turner, “Every year we had an election process, but we were almost always begging people to serve on hall council, and then we never really had attendance at hall council meetings, so we went back to the RA model. Then we could lump programming training into RA training at the beginning of the year rather than putting training two weeks into the year after they’d been voted in. We felt like we could deliver better programming using trained RAs.”
These programming changes were implemented, in part, to encourage students to stay on campus on weekends.
“We want to create a culture on campus where students feel like there’s a sense of community and there’s things to do and ways for them to engage and ways for them to be involved,” said Stufflebean. “I think that’s important, for students to feel connected, to feel engaged and that there are things going on for them.”
These programming changes were also implemented at the same time that amendments to the alcohol policy were put in place, including increased fines for alcohol violations. Some students speculate that the changes in programming have been done in an effort to minimize the “alcohol culture” on campus.
“That is a part of the conversation” said Stufflebean. “We want to provide healthy alternatives for students to engage in healthy activities and that’s not just on weekends, that’s at any time. We’re always concerned about student health, student safety, student well-being, so I think it’s a fair assumption to say that any time we can sponsor activities that provide a healthy alternative—so that’s always part of our conversation and thinking.”
Some students do not think that changes in programming are an effective answer to the issue of underage drinking or alcohol abuse.
Senior English, political science and ACT-In major Ben Shinogle said, “Honestly, the impression I have gotten from my peers seems to suggest a negative reaction to the programming change. I have heard students are drinking before events particularly those on the weekends, and that athletes are now less able to participate in intramurals since they travel most weekends. Personally, I noticed several students inebriated at a recent capture the flag event with an already middling turn out.”
It is still early in the year to determine whether these changes have been effective at building community or at curbing drinking.
“Turn out has been up and down” said Stufflebean. “CUA did a local band on labor day weekend and we had 44 students who attended that event, but we had several sports teams out of town that weekend and it was a three day weekend so a lot of students were out of town. But to have 44 students show up, that’s pretty good.”
Turner also discussed attendance. “We’re still really fresh and new at it, but our events so far in Melrose—like capture the flag—have had great attendance,” Turner said.
Both Turner and Stufflebean encouraged student feedback about programming events, since it will be the way to gauge how effective these changes are.
“I don’t think we can determine if the measure is successful or not quite yet,” said Shinogle. “There is some cause to be doubtful, but then again the goals underlying the change are undoubtedly worthwhile: to get students out on the weekend more, to keep them from going home as often and to give them an alternative to drinking. I will note that, to my knowledge, no students were asked for input when the change was considered. This worries me, particularly because I see certain failings in this logic. When I was CUA director, the tools I would use to determine the success of an event were how many people showed up to it, how efficient it was with money and the experience students had when they were there. I think there could be cause to believe that changing the times of events could have regressive effects on these three criteria.”