LMU stuck in programming rut

Originally published by the Los Angeles Loyolan. For original, please refer to: LMU stuck in programming rut – The Los Angeles Loyolan.

Pop quiz for all you Lions who have been around for a while; don’t worry, you should be able to ace it.

What event, to be held next month, is put on by Belles and Crimson Circle service organizations every year?

What philanthropy events did Delta Zeta and Delta Gamma host earlier this year? Follow up: How often are these events held on campus?

Essay question: Does LMU have a problem with repetitive programming?

The answers are, in order, “Charity Ball,” “Turtle Tug and Anchor Splash,” “every year” and “if you nailed the other questions, you already know the answer.”

LMU is hardly mired in tradition – our identity as a campus is continually evolving, and our sports traditions don’t travel far beyond Hank’s House. What it is stuck with, however, are student organizations putting on the same events year after year. For college students increasingly spending time in their own social media-driven world and away from the campus community, that is potentially fatal to LMU’s programming success.

From Madness at Midnight to Derby Days to Almost Golf, it’s striking how similar each year’s calendar is. Is it tradition? Maybe, but I’d chalk it up more to a rut. And if there’s one thing that inspires tweets like “wait this is so lame omg my school is embarrassing #overit,” it’s a rut.

None of this is to say that any of this programming is inherently bad – far from it, actually. Charity Ball next month will surely be a blast, and regarding Greek philanthropies, why fix what’s not broken? LMU students are only here for four years. For the next crop, all these events are brand new.

Except for the class of 2017, these events will be old hat next year. Even if they go, they might embrace their ennui and take their troubles to Twitter instead of paying attention. More likely, they’ll find something else to do – there’s always some new dessert to put a picture of on Instagram that can only be found off campus.

Attention spans are getting shorter, says psychologist and author Daniel Goleman in his new book “Focus: The Hidden Driver for Excellence.” In the book, as excerpted in the Huffington Post last week, Goleman interviews executives who feel addicted to their mobile devices – and those are the kinds of people running companies. We’re college students who often can barely pay attention in core classes. Student groups settling for the same old programming are clearly not going to hold students’ attention for very long.

Luckily, some organizations are getting creative. Pi Beta Phi traded in its Speed Read event of the past for this year’s Dodge the Arrow, a twist on the old theme that still benefits the same cause. They’ll still have Arrowspike next semester, but it’s a start.

In that same vein, ASLMU totally revamped After Sunset this year, bringing it outside – holding it, er, mostly before sunset – and introducing a live musical performance. It was a resounding success, and a huge mark in favor of innovation. You don’t even have to change the name of the event, just freshen up what happens. (Though if it’s going to continue to be before sunset, they might want to change the name.)

Unfortunately, those two steps forward aren’t enough. This semester alone, we’ve already had a bevy of events that more or less followed the agendas from previous years: Lip Sync and Stroll-Off. Glow. Homeless Awareness Week. Rodeo. Sure, there might have been slight alterations, but the focal points were the same – and they were fine. But they won’t be fine for much longer; they’ll be boring.

LMU, like all universities, has to appeal to a changing student body. Student organizations should not ignore the challenge and remain at a standstill, but use it as an opportunity to try new things and move forward. Otherwise, the social media-obsessed community will pass right by, tweeting all the while about how boring their school is. “#overit,” indeed.