Last quarter, this campus was abuzz with interest in this year’s new Panther Perks system. Although most of us have gotten over the initial excitement, one of us still gets an iPad every few weeks. But beyond material rewards, the question remains: what continues to entice everyone out of their rooms and into the “hopping” Prin social scene?

When asked to what extent she thought the Panther Perk system motivated people to participate in all-campus events, Student Activities Director Julia Frank said: “Panther Perks may be what gets them there, but they end up having a great time. There was a student who had never been to a basketball game before, and he ended up going and having a great time.”

The Panther Perk is just an incentive program that encourages students to attend events. However, Frank believes that once you are sitting listening to a speaker or at another type of event, you’ll end up enjoying yourself. “I don’t think that the Panther Perk is the driving force behind increased participation, because if it was we would only see people [who received the perks] at those events. We aren’t, we’re seeing increased attendance at all events, and not all events are Panther Perks,” said Frank.

Sophomore Carolyn Vernon shows off her flashy SEP hat. All of the Social Event Planners have these hats so they can be easily spotted at events. photo / Trisha McGinnis

Along with changing attendance rates, the social events program at Prin seems to be constantly evolving. According to Frank, “The biggest difference is that we added more SEPs (Student Event Planners). Instead of three to five SEPs, there are nine now.” According to Frank, the SEPs now work in teams of three, and each team plans events for three weeks of the quarter. She added, “There is no burnout and they’re just as excited [for each event].” What this means for the program is that the SEPs have been able to “take more ownership of events and go to houses and see what events are needed,” said Frank. These student planners bring energy to their events and are genuinely excited about social life on campus.

This energy can explain why the program is now operating more creatively. Now, “Instead of [hosting] a movie every Friday or Saturday night or just having some form of entertainment, we’ve tried to do a bigger event that is not just entertainment but is more interactive,” said Frank. The SEPs have been trying very hard to get students more involved and not just to entertain them. The ultimate goal is to get people out of their rooms and create energy on campus.

All this new attention on social life at Prin makes it seem like more events are actually on the calendar. But according to Frank, “there haven’t been more events; there has been more attendance at events. Actually, we are spending less than they have in the past, but for some reason we have had higher attendance than we ever have.”

This spike in attendance can be largely attributed to the dynamic group of SEPs on campus. One of the new SEPs this term, sophomore Sara McCauley, said she loves being an SEP because: “it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and make new connections on our campus.” She has added that her fellow SEPs are especially great to work with.

The SEPs have a meeting each Monday to brainstorm and schedule who will work the events each week. These events are a chance for the SEPs to touch base regularly. McCauley said, “These meetings are not very long and our actual workload per week is not too burdensome. All in all, being an SEP has been a great part of my sophomore year.”

Another SEP, freshman Christine Nacewicz, also loves being an SEP because she enjoys getting involved with social events. “When we have a successful event it makes me feel like I’ve made someone’s night better,” said Nacewicz. In fact, the only concern Nacewicz had about the program is that communication with the student body could sometimes be more effective. “Sometimes we post stuff on the Facebook page that isn’t seen because we post it at the last minute,” explained Nacewicz.

The SEPs all work hard, and according to McCauley, Frank, and Nacewicz, they all have good energy and work really well together. Like most everything on campus, there will be some degree of turnover in the coming year; some SEPs are graduating while others will be going on abroads.

Frank hopes to make lots of fun changes in the coming years. Her main goal is to increase student involvement. “I am a big fan of working with student teams and student groups,” said Frank. Frank also hopes to see more active and involved student house boards. Since semesters allow more time for involvement each term, Frank hopes to see house boards become as active as they were when she was a student here from 2002-2005.

Whatever happens with the SEP program in the future, it’s good to know that they have the funding and support to make things happen. As many community members know, the SEP budget was in trouble following the Week 6 vandalizing of the painting in the Concourse, The Triumph of Truth over Error. In order to fund the restoration project, there was consequent talk of freezing student activity assets to pay for the repair work. According to Frank, “Basically with the egging, they found the student and the student will be held accountable, so it’s a non-issue now.”

The SEPs plan to finish the year strong and prepare for more social events in the fall. The SEPs also have quite a few spots opening up in the fall, and as Frank said, she is constantly looking for more student help.

Image courtesy of admin