Event planners assess NGB role

The Neighborhood Review Committee report that marked this semester as a period of formal reflection on the neighborhood system included recognition of the role that each Neighborhood Governance Board (NGB) plays in terms of social event planning. According to the report, the Currier, Dodd, Spencer and Wood boards have over $100,000 at their disposal to plan neighborhood-sponsored events.

The report states that there exists on campus “a lack of consensus over the success of neighborhoods in fostering events, combined with a pervasive belief that some Neighborhoods have been better in this area than others.” Despite the efforts NGBs make to plan events, however, students oftentimes choose which events they want to attend based on interest rather than neighborhood affiliation.

Fostering neighborhood identity

The report found that while some students appreciated the diversity of social events that neighborhood planning provided, many students noted that Dodd neighborhood seemed to host both a higher number of events and those that were also often the most appealing.

“We’ve hosted an incredible variety of events,” Dodd President Zach Padovani ’11 said. “Parties are actually a very small part of what we do.”

According to Padovani, Dodd’s Minority Coalition representatives have orchestrated a series of Global Gourmet cooking workshops, and Dodd has also sponsored workshops on baking cupcakes, brewing beer and sushi rolling. Dodd’s board has also organized community engagement events for local children, including pumpkin carving and a Halloween trail.

Kyle Martin ’12, Currier’s social chair, provided insight into the NGB’s main objective. “Our goal for Currier this year is to foster the pride of kids that live in the Currier Neighborhood,” Martin said. “That pride hasn’t yet been developed because the neighborhoods are a new thing,” he continued.

Martin explained that the NGB members do aim to shape an individual identity for their neighborhood and sometimes inspire friendly party-planning competition for this purpose.

“We want people to think, ‘Currier’s throwing a party – it’s got to be good.’ That’s our goal,” he said.

Andrew Forrest ’10, president of Wood Neighborhood, emphasized the importance of the way NGBs plan events for both their neighborhoods and the campus as a whole. “This way we can attempt to build unity within our neighborhoods, but at the same time not exclude other members of the Williams community,” he said. According to Forrest, Wood has hosted events ranging from weekend parties to baking and cooking classes to several nights at the Forge restaurant.

As Spencer Neighborhood’s social chairs, Chelsey Barrios ’12 and Yvette Stanziola ’12 share the responsibility of event planning for their neighborhood.

“There’s been a movement to create within the community a smaller community,” Stanziola said. She explained that each neighborhood hosts events for specific residential houses, for the entire neighborhood and for the entire campus.

Kate Barrows ’13 gave a first-year perspective on the extent to which she associates social events with the NGB that planned them. “I generally don’t know if what I’m gong to is a neighborhood event or not,” Barrows said. Barrows added that while she has not attended that many neighborhood-sponsored events, she chooses to go to parties like Spencer’s Purple and Gold party based on how interesting the event sounds, not on which neighborhood is hosting the event.

Zach Baca ’13 also acknowledged the importance of neighborhood unity. According to Baca, putting neighborhoods largely in charge of campus event planning “brings people together that normally wouldn’t be together [and] creates smaller communities within the campus community.”

Student-NGB relations

Baxter Fellows help provide a more direct link between the student body and NGBs. According to Martin, Baxter Fellows attend NGB meetings along with board members and make valuable contributions because they work with small house groups and can represent the needs and wants of individual houses.

Stanziola, who is also a Baxter Fellow for Spencer, coordinates events like house snacks, which are specific to each residential building within the neighborhood. Stanziola said that Baxter Fellows serve to “cater to the individuality of [each] house.”

Martin explained that the weekly NGB meetings consist of brainstorming social event ideas and new ways to fund-raise, as well as logistical discussions on how, where and by whom events will be hosted, and “a lot of delegation,” he said. Before every month, the Currier NGB aims to have a plan of programs and social events that will run that month. According to Martin, Currier Neighborhood aims to host at least one event each week.

“We have proposed to open [suggestions] up to Currier Neighborhood,” Martin said. And while the Currier NGB does not receive many suggestions from students, Martin admitted that it is probably due to a lack of transparency between the Currier NGB and the student body. “I think in a way we kind of are separated, and I wish there wasn’t so much separation,” Martin said.

According to Padovani, Dodd’s NGB meetings plan events and also discuss their own contribution. “We discuss the system at large and ways we can improve our own part in that,” Padovani said. As for improvements, Padovani said it would benefit the NGB if residents got more involved.
“I think if residents took a more active role in their neighborhoods, the system would improve immensely,” Padovani said. “Also, I think it would help if residents were more open to attending events. It’s always sad to have a really fun and great event that a lot of time and energy went into get under-attended.”

Fox added that she thinks that Wood’s NGB has plenty of good ideas and is successful at advertising – especially through Facebook messages. “I think they do as good a job as they could,” Fox said. “But it’s hard for students to attend events like massage workshops or something, because if they’re during the school week a lot of people have other things to do.”

Barrios and Stanziola said for the most part it is their responsibility to brainstorm event ideas, but, while there is no concrete method of collecting student suggestions, ideas circulate by word-of-mouth.

“We definitely try to take into account what would attract the largest amount of people,” Barrios said. But the Spencer Neighborhood social chairs agreed that communication lines cold be improved. “Maybe we should think about having a more concrete way of student communicating their ideas to us,” Stanziola said.

Shared responsibility

Padovani noted that the focus of NGBs should be specifically on planning events centered around their respective neighborhoods; he believes that All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) and Campus Life should concentrate more on all-campus events.

According to Tim Leonard, student activities coordinator for Campus Life, Campus Life focuses event planning efforts on Big Weekend programming (such as for Homecoming and Winter Carnival), a Super Stressbusters event every semester and Senior Week. Campus Life has also committed to helping with weekly Williams After Dark events this semester.

ACE President Julianne Feder ’10 spoke to the uncertain relationship between NGBs and other student organizations that plan campus events. “I think the role of the Neighborhoods [in social programming] is still in the process of being decided,” Feder said. “I think both ACE and the neighborhoods are responsible for putting on events. ACE is supposed to put on larger all-campus events, while the neighborhoods are intended to put on neighborhood-oriented events.”

Nordia Savage ’10, president of the Black Student Union (BSU), said that neighborhoods, ACE and other student groups should all be responsible for social programming on campus. “It adds variety to the types of programming [and] events that would be available,” Savage said.

Veronica Rabelo, social coordinator for the Queer Student Union (QSU), agreed that all three levels of organization should share responsibility for events, but said that planning should be delegated on an event-by-event basis.

Rabelo also said that NGBs are helpful to a point in terms of planning events. “In our experience, the NGBs have provided financial support, but have not expressed interest in collaborating in the actual planning process of the event,” she said.

Eric Beam ’10, founder of the All Acoustic Alliance, finds it helpful to partner with Dodd to host the monthly Coffeehouses. “The neighborhoods usually have more people and more money working for them, so they can provide a lot of support,” Beam said.

Martin also agreed that neighborhoods and student clubs working in teams is often beneficial. “Now with money as tight as it is, co-sponsoring is good,” Martin said.