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Monday, October 22, 2012

Use it or Lose it

Students at the Tigers' Den. The campus pub, once intended to be open as a regular night spot, closed two years ago, except for special events. The hope is to revive it, in a way, in the newly renovated Skyline Room.
A great number of things here that all seem like good ideas - sometimes don't pan out. It is often an issue of scale. Some examples:

- Last Saturday's leadership conference was nearly cancelled. About 50 students signed up and that translated to about $30 in expenses per student. The sophomore leadership program was cancelled because of minimal interest. That's a shame, as these are good programs.

- A showing of Casablanca ($600) was attended by about 20 students. We could have bought each of those students their own Bogey DVD and thrown in the Maltese Falcon to boot for that money.

- Career Services shut down its Tiger Treks program this fall because only four students signed up. Great idea, but it did require that students miss a full day of class. This isn't new to Career Services. They have had to cajole students into interviews, to job fairs, and to networking events where alumni often out-number students.

- I fear we will lose the Hertz on Demand program, which seems to answer all of the needs of students without cars. Free membership, $10 per hour rates (imagine if shared), no gas and insurance charges, and renters need only be 18 and have a license from anywhere in the world. Why aren't both vehicles constantly checked out, especially when international students report being campus-bound?

- This week we learned that the Tiger Ride Tiger Bucks voucher system is being discontinued for lack of use. That is what happened to the DVD Kiosk in the Coates University Center as well.

This isn't the fault of our students. While there is often a perceived need for various services, it may not warrant the investment in such services. This comes up routinely when students are asking for longer hours in the library and the recreation center. Keeping a building staffed for a half-dozen students does not make economic sense, is hard on workers, and presents security challenges. On the other hand, who knew we couldn't get enough of the Adirondack chairs all over campus?

The issue, then, is really not that students should use services just to keep them. It is that their lack of use makes it impractical to maintain them over time. Sometimes the University may be seen as unwilling to accommodate the requests of students. In fact, at a time when we are vigilant about controlling costs, maintaining certain programs and services is often uneconomical. No one is to blame, but this is the downside - one of the few - of a small place like Trinity. No doubt students are learning this in their Economics and Business courses. Supply and demand: Use it - or lose it.

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