Presenter’s Office turnout steady

The Associated Students of the University of Utah changed administrative policy Jan. 29 to make the Presenter’s Office more representative of students.

Professional staff members, who were formerly “directors,” accepted their new roles as “advisers” when student-organizers took on more of the coordination and planning responsibilities.

As a result, organizers said this year’s Presenter’s Office is more successful in addressing students’ interests and many more are volunteering in the office to make programs more representative of the campus.

“The concept behind ASUU is that it’s a student-run student government,” said Alex Lowe, ASUU president. “The Presenter’s Office was very efficient, it’s just a matter of making sure it’s the student-run, student-governed entity.”

The effect on attendance

Organizers say the new emphasis on the student populace has improved events and more are attending.

“The staff members took on more of an advisory roll and put more of the control back into the hands of the students,” said Emily Justice, ASUU’s Presenter’s Office director, who was appointed in November of 2003, before the change took place.

“I think it’s been a huge help. It’s done a lot for the students who work here and it’s also done a lot for the students we’re trying to represent,” she added.

However, popularity of this semester’s events has remained consistent with last year’s numbers. Little to no progress has been manifested in numbers.

Justice touted the success of this year’s speaker, Morgan Spurlock, director of the fast food documentary, “Super Size Me.”

“Trying to have minimum 50 percent students, and preferably a greater majority, is very important,” she said. “A lot of the things we did in the past sold well, but there was more community and less campus. Morgan Spurlock is a great example where more than half the people were students.”

Justice also cited this semester’s Redfest, which featured Deathcab for Cutie, as an example of student-organizers’ ability to succeed.

“It went so perfectly and that was mainly run by students, most of whom had never done anything like that before,” she said. “That just shows what students are capable of.”

The ASUU connection

As a part of ASUU, the Presenter’s Office receives the largest portion of the student fee-generated budget at 39 percent or $539,000.

Several Presenter’s Office events were classified as failures by last year’s student government, especially in the Fall Semester of 2003.

However, Lowe said past failures were not the driving force behind the legislative change to the Presenter’s Office, and the ASUU administration simply wanted functions to be more student-driven.

ASUU Vice President Bobby Harrington agreed and said the students have improved the Presenter’s Office.

“It’s been a work in progress and there have definitely been improvements made as far as the type of programming and the decisions that are made,” Harrington said.

The ASUU Executive Board must approve any Presenter’s Office project that will cost more than $10,000.

Nothing has been turned down this year, a fact Lowe attributes to a positive working relationship with the Presenter’s Office.

“We really are involved heavily with the Presenter’s Office. Usually before it comes to a vote before that board, it’s been discussed already-basically approved by everyone and passed off,” Lowe said. “There have been ideas that have come up and we’ve said, ‘OK, we don’t want to do that, let’s take it in a different direction.'”

Those changes have generally been made because of a couple issues.

“Funding is always an issue,” Lowe said. “The draw and popularity for students is too…it could be any of those things.”

Former president of the ASUU, Adrian Johnson, had a different perspective on the issue in April.

“It’s difficult for me to go to an event at Kingsbury Hall and see it only half-full, or maybe even just a quarter full, and then go to someplace like UVSC and see thousands and thousands of students show up to their events,” he said.

Justice said it’s important that the events draw enough students out to break even financially.

“If we lose money, we don’t get to do other things later on in the year,” she said.

As a result of the office’s inability to break even last fall, the Presenter’s Office was forced to cut down on their events for the Spring Semester 2004.

“We ended up with a lot fewer events in the spring last year, which is something we’re trying to avoid this year,” Justice said.

Even after funding was carefully rationed for the spring, all events from the 2003-2004 academic year yielded a net loss of $9,452.

The Presenter’s Office Annual Report called 2003-2004 a “productive and tumultuous year.” It also had a positive take on the administrative changes.

The report reads, “A mid-year change in leadership (from Director Sheldon Gilbert to Director Emily Justice) and numerous legislative improvements shed new light on the ASUU Presenter’s Office.”

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