Soundings goes back to basics

Students line up to sign in at a Soundings event.
Heather Robinson/Castleton Spartan

Imagine you just spent hours at a Soundings event and are finally ready to answer the question. When you go on Moodle, however, you do not see a question and it says you did not even attend.

This has been a familiar and frustrating reality for many Castleton students. Last semester the Soundings program went completely electronic, causing new heights of frustration for both students and staff.

“I received over 1600 emails about Soundings last semester,” said Director of the Fine Arts Center and Soundings Instructor Rich Cowden. Cowden said around 75% of those had to do with attendance issues.

“Last semester with the scanners was hectic,” said box office employee Rebecca Hall. “Half of the students’ IDs would show up as ‘not in the system’ and we would have to go searching for them. The attendance lists would be in alphabetical order, but not by which course they were in.”

The complicated process was stressful for everyone involved. Seniors were particularly concerned because they need a passing grade in order to graduate.

“At the end of last semester my Soundings grade was NP even though I knew everything was fine. I freaked out because I’m a senior,” said student Kaylee Pratt. “I emailed Lauren Olewnik, and she said it was most likely because of an error inputting data.”

Due to all the confusion, the attendance system will be going back to basics this semester. Students will line up after an event to have their name checked off of a paper list. While this may seem tedious, it limits the opportunity for error and simplifies the process for the Soundings staff so that student can get their questions sooner.

“With taking attendance by hand and by section it eliminates the hassle of searching for unknown numbers,” Hall said. This also eliminates the guessing about which Soundings course each student is in, since they will be lining up at the corresponding table.  

Another change last fall that caused confusion in the Soundings world was the shuffling of roles.

“Our Soundings Manager [SallyAnn Majoya] remains on an indefinite leave so we’ve been splitting up the duties,” Cowden said. Cowden noted that Fine Arts Center secretary Ashley Haggerty stepped up into new capacities and has been a tremendous help.

The Soundings Staff for this semester includes, Rich Cowden, Sherrill Blodget, Monica McEnerny, Lauren Olewnik, and returning this semester, Robert Wuagneaux.

Their goal is to host events that interest students, making it a “get to go” rather than a “have to go” kind of thing.

“Our students come to us as first years without a lot of background in cultural events,” Cowden said. “If something is new and foreign, of course you’ll respond negatively. We want to create a culture where everyone is excited about what’s going on with Soundings.”

Cowden and the entire staff are looking to students for event ideas.  They want the semester’s list of events to “remain as diverse as it is now, but with a little more pop.”

All students and staff received an email from Cowden explaining how to suggest events using a Soundings proposal form. If a student suggests an event then they will have the opportunity to work with administrators to bring the performer or speaker to campus.

According to box office staff, Soundings students will have a week to complete their responses. Even so, some students think that the biggest Soundings distresses are being ignored.

Pratt, and many other students like her, think Soundings should go back to the way it was before when students answered the questions at the event.

 “Responses aren’t that big of a deal, they’re only 3 or 4 sentences, but it would be easier if they were done right there on the cards,” Pratt said.

Junior Julia McIntyre believes students should not have to answer a question at all.

“When you tell students from other places about the Soundings program it sounds cool to go to all these events for free, but I don’t think they realize there are assignments to go along with it,” McIntyre said. “The work takes away from the appreciation of the event. You go to do the assignment, you don’t just go because you find it interesting.”


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