EDITORIALS

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May 4, 2010

Preaching to the listhost

The University should provide better tools for publicizing events across campus

At noon today, the Center for the Study of Race, Culture, and Politics Artist-in-Residence Kimberly Mayhorn will put on a performance entitled, “The Tea Party: An Intimate Conversation.” (If you hurry, you might still make it.) Thursday night at I-House, there will be a talk and reception with James Fallows, the Vare Writer-in-Residence, who has written articles for The Atlantic and speeches for former President Jimmy Carter. Two nights after Fallows, I-House will host the African and Caribbean Student Association’s cultural show, “Woman Take Two.”

Mayhorn, Fallows, and the ACSA might sound like an odd trio, but their events have at least a few things in common: They are interesting and rewarding additions to our usual routines of sitting in class, sitting in the dining hall, and sitting at our computer desks; they require significant investments of time and dollars; and, of course, most of us on campus haven’t heard about any of them.

It’s a shame that so many campus events don’t receive the publicity they deserve. Not every school is so fortunate to have the breadth and number of speakers, performances, exhibits, discussions, and free meals that are offered at the U of C. Too often RSOs and departments pour hours of work into these events, only to have a handful of people show up. Large events like Summer Breeze, Scav, and UT shows have established reputations, plus the manpower to advertise widely and turn out hundreds of people. High-profile events are only a small slice of what the campus offers, though, and lesser-known events with only a few people backing them shouldn’t get swept under the rug.

At present, the resources available to those advertising new events just aren’t sufficient. Putting up posters on bulletin boards is easy enough, but the boards become multilayered hodgepodges of outdated, oversized fliers, and information about campus events gets crowded out by ads from grad schools and test-prep companies. Listhosts help spread the word, but they miss a large chunk of any event’s possible audience. Many people on campus—and not only students—would be interested in hearing Jimmy Carter’s speechwriter talk, but only a fraction of them are on listhosts that have received the e-mail blast about the Fallows event. Relying on listhosts will get you an audience, but it will be essentially the same audience each time. This doesn’t facilitate the sort of intellectual dabbling the University endorses.

A few measures could help the situation. For RSO events, Student Government should consider putting up weekly fliers for the events it sponsors—similar to the highly visible fliers Doc uses to advertise its weekly lineups. The my.UChicago portal already features a calendar of coming events; the same widget could be placed on other pages students frequent, like Chalk and cMore. And the Events calendar at event.uchicago.edu should allow community members to subscribe so that they receive notices about events that interest them, like physics lectures or literature readings. Few people will visit the Events calendar daily, but notices in their inboxes would help remind them.

For all the work that goes into organizing events on this campus, the publicity shouldn’t be a slapdash, scattershot effort, but that’s often what it comes down to. The events can be a tremendous addition to the campus experience of staff, faculty, and students, and more should be done to ensure that organizers can get the word out to everyone interested.

—The Maroon Editorial Board includes the Editor-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.

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