The Student Activities Board’s accomplishment in bringing Aziz Ansari and Immortal Technique to Stony Brook in the same week highlights what can now be called a successful transition from the old SAB to the current one.

As the one-year-anniversary of the drastic reformation of SAB approaches, it’s clear that what the current members of the Undergraduate Student Government and SAB are doing is benefiting the campus as a whole.

From last semester’s events that included comedian Christian Finnegan and indie band Best Coast, to last week’s performances by Aziz Ansari and Immortal Technique, Stony Brook has thus far hosted artists in events that could very easily rival those held at other universities, except for SUNY Purchase (those kids are mad cultured).

But the semester is far from over and so are the events. Christopher Hitchens, a prominent and well-respected author and journalist will be coming to campus on March 8. Former presidential candidate and life-long consumer advocate Ralph Nader will also be coming in mid-March as part of SAB’s speaker series.

And before the close of the semester, SAB plans to bring a television-comedian and stand-up legend valued at $40,000 to campus. This would take place just a month before an end-of-the-year concert that is slated to host artists who performed in the 2011 Grammy Award Show. The price of this concert is valued at more than $100,000 and the show will be part of a national tour.

Contracts for the two events are still pending, and The Press was asked to hold off publishing the prospective artists for contractual reasons.

“I guess one thing is you can use the word artists plurally,” said David Mazza, USG Vice President of Communications. “That’s an improvement.”

The attendance records of last year’s end-of-the-year concert have already been surpassed in much smaller and less funded events, such as the Aziz show that attracted more than 1,000 students and the Immortal Technique concert, which attracted 800 people, 700 of whom were students.

“It’s the small events that bring similarity between the people who attend, but that’s not what the student government ought to be doing,” says Moiz Khan, Student Programming Agency Director. “They should be working towards creating events that bring everyone together. In some way you have to do events that force people in the same room together that are different,” said Khan. This, he thinks, builds community.

What doesn’t build community however, is a small, selective group of students, near 15 or so out of more than 15,000 students who are to represent and choose which artists to bring to campus. So far, there hasn’t been too much of a complaint about which artists SAB brought—they all seem to be high profile, which advertises itself, diverse, both in genre and style, and generally favored.
But current members of SAB and USG are setting a precedent of exclusivity in the decision making process that brings artists to campus.

“I think that it’s open in the sense that all of our meetings are open,” said Mazza. “It operates in a very similar way to the senate. Does anyone really ever show up? No not really, unless there’s a particular issue.”

And that mentality, which appears to be in the back of everyone’s minds at USG and SAB as they go forth in planning this semester, is extremely dissatisfying and disconcerting. The idea that $404,000 of the student activity fee being handled by just a few students should concern all of us who are looking for accountability and for great artists to bring on campus.
At some point, this issue needs to be addressed, albeit in the form of a town-hall meeting or some student-input structure included in SAB. Having a concert team of roughly 15 students and additional volunteers is not enough to accurately represent the entire student body.

If nothing is done, the very recent success of the large-upscale and well-attended events that strive to build a larger and more vibrant campus community would be all for naught. You can’t have a community of more than 15,000 with less than 1 percent making all the decisions.

Sure it looks like it’s working now, but at some point, to be truly successful, that has to change.

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