Volume 18 • Issue 1
The Last Word
On a recent Friday I sat in The Cove watching the bizarre magician Brian Brushwood perform with over 250 students in attendance. The week prior, I had been in the Roberston Center where Wyclef Jean put on a show for over 850 people. Three years ago event attendance numbers like this would have been unbelievable. Now, they are commonplace.
When I was a student at Southwestern, Friday nights meant attending a sporting event, going out to eat and then meeting in someones room to watch a movie. Organizations were wise not to program events on Friday or Saturday nights, knowing that the turnout would be less than desirable. Students either went home for the weekend or found some form of entertainmentoften off campuson their own. We had our share of large eventsthe Toadies, Monte Montgomery and Mitch Hedberg to name a fewbut those events were infrequent. Even as recently as two years ago, programming on the weekend was challenging.
In the spring of 2005, Student Congress passed the Student Life Initiative, which was a plan intended to enhance student life on campus. Friday Night Live, Cinematic Saturday and the annual Large Act Concert were born out of this initiative. Friday Night Live, a weekly event featuring nationally touring artists, kicked off in the fall of 2005 with Columbia Recording Artist Ari Hest and comedian Kyle Cease. The first night yielded more than 300 students in attendance, with a successful semester average of 156 attendees. We had some great performers that year, and we received rave reviews from students, with some of the members of the class of 06 telling me they wished we had started this program when they were first-years. Students have had the opportunity to see some great entertainers, including comedian Christian Finnegan, a regular on VH1s Best Week Ever; Austin musician Bob Schneider, who packed more than 500 people into the Bishops Lounge; the comedienne Tess, who was a finalist on the first season of Last Comic Standing; and many others.
This effort to keep students on campus and enhance student life has paid off in other areas as well. Attendance at sporting events is up, as well as the spirit of those in attendance. In fact, a few years ago several students got together and built a pirate ship that can be seen at the home basketball games. You will often see students dressed up as pirates at games or even a group of students with their bodies painted up in Southwesterns colors. Participation in intramural events is also on the rise. With the addition of new and exciting intramural events, such as indoor soccer and arena football, participation should continue to increase.
So what does this mean? I think it means Southwestern students are happier, more well-rounded and that school spirit is more prevalent. In truth, it means Southwestern is now an even better place to be.