The tables at the Ratty are about to get a little less interesting. Because of a collaborative effort by the Undergraduate Council of Students, the Brown University Activities Council and the Undergraduate Finance Board, student groups will not receive funding for tableslips starting after spring break. While this move promises to save paper and money, we have a few concerns — and not just because we like having things to read over lunch.
The tableslip funding cut is the first step in a larger effort to phase out the paper slips completely. UCS, UFB and BUAC say eliminating tableslips will reduce waste and free up more money for student activities. Quite a lot of it, actually — UFB Chair Jose Vasconez '10 estimated that cutting funding for slips for an entire year would allow $5,000 to $10,000 to be channeled to other student group initiatives.
If tableslips had a comparable alternative, this would be a no-brainer. But as things stand now, the options to reach a wide segment of campus are limited. Student groups can turn to bulletin boards, posters and the online events calendar. Posters are expensive, and bulletin boards don't reach nearly as many students as tableslips. The online calendar's layout is sterile and difficult to navigate, and most students are not in the habit of checking a University web page for information about events like parties.
We're glad that UCS, UFB and BUAC are trying to increase funding for student activities and contribute to broader efforts to reduce campus paper consumption. Still, representatives must keep in mind that a successful event depends on turnout as well as money. Tableslips give student groups an easy way to get the word out to a wide audience. What's more, many freshmen and sophomores rely heavily on tableslips to find out about events. Since underclassmen may have less developed social networks, they're less likely to get invited to events on Facebook. Before UCS, UFB and BUAC remove the paper slips completely, they should ensure that students have a reliable alternative for finding out about events.
The push to end funding for tableslips now is in part motivated by a desire to get incoming freshman next fall to adjust to a new system. We'd just like to be more certain that a new system will work as well.
The new campus center, which is slated to open next fall, could possibly serve as a central location for event postings. But the fall is a long way off, and even when it arrives, UCS should take time to gauge the new building's impact on campus publicity efforts. In the meantime, UCS might want to begin the phase-out by reducing funding for table slips, rather than cutting it completely. UCS should also get more creative with event notification mechanisms that already exist online. For example, the council could send out a bi-weekly Facebook event digest. Student groups could create Facebook events and submit them to UCS. UCS could then send campus-wide emails — one for weekday events, one for weekend events — with links to each invitation.
We admit it — eventually, we'd love to see those paper slips gone from Ratty tables (especially the ones that have little bits of food stuck to them). But UCS and BUAC have some more work to do before they take events paperless. We'll look forward to clear tables only when we know our weekend planning isn't at stake.
Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly attributed an estimate of potential savings from phasing out tableslips to Undergraduate Finance Board Chair Juan Vasconez '10. In fact, the estimate came from UFB Chair Jose Vasconez '10. Juan Vasconez is the UFB vice-chair.