College Government (CG) Vice President Charlotte Harris noted a growing problem of over-programming at Wellesley during presidents’ training last month. Last year, 2,227 curricular events, 4,365 special events and 2,384 student activities took place. In total, students made 10,246 reservations last year and 470 reservation requests had already been processed this year by mid-September. Each year, Wellesley’s student activities fee of $276 per student sums to approximately $600,000 to be allocated to student organizations by the student bursar.
As student organizations request funding for a greater number of events, the Student Organizations Funding Committee (SOFC) must apportion money to a greater number of organizations. Often, organizations do not receive what they believe to be adequate funding for their events. With less funding, each event may be lower in quality as compared to fewer, better funded events. The problem may exacerbate stuents’ stress associated with planning organization-sponsored events.
The Student Organization and Appointments Committee (SOAC) blames over-programming for the underfunding of well-attended events and an excess of minimally attended events. On a survey conducted last year of students who hold executive board positions, students on average rated pressure to host events as “moderately high.” Many consider community time on Wednesdays to be a major contributor to the overall issue, since many events go unattended due to overestimation in student participation.
Harris expressed her concern with the growing problem of over-programming at Wellesley and offered suggestions from SOAC. Harris’s main suggestion to address over-programming is for organizations to host fewer events.
“Stressing udents feel like they need to [host events] to be a leader on campus,” Harris said. “Meanwhile, it’s really quality over quantity. A great event is better than an unattended one.”
Should each organization hold one less event per year, 160 fewer events would require funding from the available funding. A reduction of 160 events is miniscule compared to number of events students held last year, which is to over 10,000 events.
“That’s insane,” Harris emphasized, “and people don’t know [over-programming] is a problem until they see those numbers.’’
Harris also suggested that organizations “do less and collaborate more,” to avoid, for example, having lectures that are similar in theme or events with 10 attendees. “Each co-hosted event doubles outreach and resources,” Harris noted, “and should orgs collaborate, they could instead bring in fewer, much better speakers, host larger parties, or have a more widely-attended dance exhibition.”
SOAC is currently looking for ways to incentivize collaboration in the coming semester. However, their plans will require organizations to respect the honor code and not find ways to circumvent new rules. In the past, many students found ways to evade fundraising requirements set by SOFC, enough so that requirements were removed.
Caroline Bechtel ’17, executive board member of ALLIES, which facilitates conversations about civil-military issues, commented on the effects of over-programming on events.
“There is definitely a pressure to put on events — it affects the way I promote our own events. There’s a competition which forces me to advertise more and recruit more, and I think there are too many orgs that serve the same purpose,” Bechtel said.
Ianka Bhatia ’18 suggested measures to streamline the funding process for organizations.
“Perhaps it would be better if we ensured there was adequate interest in each event before granting the money,” she said. “In this way, the concern with perpetuated traditional events would be eliminated, and orgs would be forced to reinvent themselves for better outreach.”
Over-programming is not unique to Wellesley. Discussions among the Seven Sister colleges, set to occur again in November, have uncovered a widespread problem with over-programming and interorganizational competition that adds to overall student stress. Wellesley’s large number of organizations per student is also noted as a contributing factor to the growing problem. The college has a very high number of student organizations relative to peer institutions like Bryn Mawr College with 1,700 students and Smith College with 2,600 students. These colleges both offer approximately 100 student organizations. Meanwhile, Wellesley, with about 2,500 students, has over 160 constituted organizations.
Some students have not felt the harmful effects of over-programming.
“I’m on the e-board of Spectrum and we had to move the dates of our two major events a few times because there are so many things going on, but I think the number of events adds to campus life,” Nina-Marie Amadeo ’18 said. “One of the things I love about Wellesley is how easy it is to find something you’re interested in and meet people who share the same interest, usually through events.”
SOFC and SOAC hold that for Wellesley to continue hosting high-quality events with a limited budget, students must be proactive in their approach to college funding and collaborative when planning events.