Campus is a vibrant and happening environment: living in Ann Arbor presents many opportunities to learn outside of class. Unfortunately, undergraduate students are often unaware of these opportunities, and they are not always at fault. While students should undeniably be more aware of their surroundings, the various University departments and organizations that sponsor noteworthy events and important speakers should also make a more concerted and organized effort to advertise them.
A university setting is meant to foster education and facilitate the broadening of our mental horizons. The diverse range of events that occurs on a college campus is nearly unparalleled. Where else can a person attend a Warhol exhibit, a question-and-answer session with the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and a speech from a Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist all in the span of one month for free? It’s important to utilize this advantage as students, since such opportunities may never return. Tuition is hardly inexpensive, so we should get the most knowledge for our buck.
But it’s difficult to take advantage of these opportunities when they aren’t well advertised. I followed Paul Krugman’s weekly column in the New York Times over the summer and would have been interested to hear him speak had I known he would be visiting campus. The Michigan Daily did a short news story on Krugman’s planned visit, but it ran on Sept. 15 and said the tickets were gone. Luckily, one of my Political Science GSIs had sent an email to students in my class on Sept. 9 informing us of the upcoming event — I went to the Union and picked up tickets the next day. I couldn’t have been the only person who was ill-informed, because not many other undergraduates I spoke with knew of Krugman’s visit, either.
The promotion of sponsored events on campus is clearly uncoordinated. While this isn’t anyone’s fault specifically, it’s instead due to the conglomeration of event sponsors on campus that all use different methods of promoting their functions. For example, the Public Policy School and the Citigroup Foundation will host Krugman whereas the Michigan Student Assembly hosted oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens for Homecoming Week last year. The different advertising methods make it difficult to find specifics on each event in a centralized location.
The University does have resources to advertise events: the UM Events website lists a great number of happenings around campus. But the problem with the website is that especially significant functions are drowned out by a flood of other events.
The best way to fix this problem would be to have events advertised through a well-sorted centralized source. UM Events does this to a certain extent, but does not differentiate between a Free Shabbat Dinner at Hillel and Paul Krugman’s lecture, unless the user specifies they are looking for a lecture. The student should have some responsibility in finding events of their interest but should not have to sift through so much information in order to find them if they’re not entirely sure what they might be looking for. If the website was redesigned to highlight events that occur less regularly, like Krugman’s visit, or if there were centralized e-mail lists to direct student attention, information might be better distributed.
While it’s true that many do attend noteworthy events — Krugman tickets were gone, after all — it doesn’t mean that enough people know about them. A rush for tickets is obviously not desirable — the reason I was able to obtain mine may have been because people weren’t aware he was coming. But just because the seats are filling doesn’t mean there’s enough promotion. People who want to attend should be able to if they’re willing to wait for tickets early enough. It’s only fair.
Becoming more knowledgeable is something we all should strive for. A more diverse perspective is never bad, be it in the arts, politics, or sciences. It’s vital that students are made more aware of the opportunities that they have to learn on campus.
Harsha Panduranga can be reached at email@example.com.