After Successful 2012, UCAB Looks to the Future
Roller skating at Beckham Hall, henna or massages at Usdan, s’mores in the courtyard—for the Usdan Center Activities Board (UCAB), weekend nights are an open book.
UCAB has expanded and evolved since its inception in 2007 with the opening of the Usdan University Center, but its purpose remains the same: to brainstorm and coordinate free activities for all students on campus. Right now, the 13 UCAB board members, led by graduate intern Veronica Young, are wrapping up a whirlwind semester packed with events.
After experimenting with new ideas and some extra funding, the UCAB board members are reflecting on their progress and looking forward to next year.
“We take surveys of some people who turn up [to UCAB programs], and people have suggested that we do more active events,” said board member Shamira Dwarica ’15.
Dwarica was referring to activities like roller skating, laser tag, and rock climbing. These were some of UCAB’s most successful events this year, drawing unprecedented crowds.
“I think people really enjoy doing those things, because it’s something they’re not given in the Middletown area,” Dwarica added. “It’s something that surprises them and seems new to them that they can come out and do—and it’s free.”
UCAB board members said that they hope to offer ways for students to wind down after a stressful week. More recently, UCAB has stepped up its efforts to provide an alternative to the typical weekend party scene, adding fun activities to the Wesleyan nightlife that don’t include drugs or alcohol.
“I think there’s a fair amount of students who are at least looking for that sort of programming,” said board member Anya Morgan ’14. “I don’t know if we’ve harnessed that audience enough. Definitely some people have come intoxicated to events, which is an issue. But I think it’s important that we provide it and that it’s there for people who want it.”
Before this semester, UCAB only organized events for Thursday nights, but this February, UCAB got a spike in funding intended for a six-week trial period. During those six weeks, UCAB hosted events every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.
The extra funding was intended to facilitate events that would give students more alcohol-free options on the weekends. It also allowed for more elaborate activities than had previously been offered, ranging from nerf-gun fights in the Daniel Family Commons to a mechanical bull-riding machine to midnight sumo wrestling downstairs at Usdan.
The trial period of regular weekend events ended after Spring Break.
“We had mixed results,” said board member Samantha Sikder ’14. “We had people who would come and be drunk anyway and we had people who were really excited and completely sober; and we had people who would rather still go to parties, those who just didn’t show up. It was definitely a spectrum.”
Despite this somewhat mixed outcome, UCAB continues to consider ways to provide substance-free party alternatives.
“It’s important to have a safe place for kids to go that’s not crazy,” Sikder said.
The final UCAB event of the semester, the annual Music and S’mores, took place last night in the Usdan courtyard. Morgan said that this event, which features “all student bands, all student s’mores,” is consistently one of UCAB’s most popular activities.
Morgan remarked that UCAB events are worthwhile beyond their scope as party alternatives.
“I really don’t think enough people take advantage of them,” she said. “They’re all free events, and it’s really great stuff, but people always say they don’t know about it."
This might seem strange, since UCAB publicizes its events widely—the team creates Facebook events, puts up numerous flyers, advertises through Wesleying posts, and sends out campus emails about upcoming programs.
“We try to engage as much of the student community as possible, but sometimes the student community doesn’t want to be engaged,” Sikder said.
Despite relatively low turnouts on some nights, UCAB’s reach has grown considerably. According to some of the UCAB board members, when the organization first started hosting events, people generally only stumbled across its Thursday night events by accident. Now, with the help of its Facebook page, more students are in the know.
Ultimately, UCAB’s priority is always the student population, and what the board can do to provide it with interesting, dynamic events.
“It’s more about providing something for the Wesleyan student body,” Dwarica said. “If there’s something they want to come out and try, why not provide it for them?”