‘In Our Hands’ left students feeling confused and uncomfortable
This past Thursday, President Dean Bresciani asked for the campus to be shut down for the launch of the In Our Hands campaign. While there was a lot of confusion prior to the event of exactly what this campaign was, it was simply the announcement of a huge fundraising campaign on behalf of NDSU to help the school gain more scholarships, better faculty, updated facilities and programs.
The campaign, which has already raised $308.4 million of the expected $400 million, promises great things for the university and its students. However, as formidable as the changes to NDSU is likely to be, the handling of the campaign launch and the expectations of students to attend the event was seriously lacking. To say it was poorly handled is an understatement.
Previous to the In Our Hands event, advertisements were asked to be carried out largely by word of mouth. Students were asked to promote the event on their social media. Clubs were asked to welcome ambassadors of the event to present to increase the hype. However, most students were largely confused about what the purpose of the event was.
A largely nonsensical video advertisement was used to advertise the campaign. The video played out like a parody of a promotional video. The text used to explain the video is as follows: “What is a university inspired by its past could reach toward greater possibilities? What if the work ethic you were raised on could lift up our communities, our state, our world? And what if all of that potential is resting in your hands.”
Does this quote leave you wondering: well, what exactly is this event even about? Yeah, you’re not the only one.
Dean Bresciani had the university effectively shut down at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Many professors canceled their classes so that students could attend an event that almost none of them really knew the purpose of. With the promise that the event would be no longer than an hour, students were heavily encouraged to go.
Even upon entering the SHAC, it was clear the buildup for the event was going to fall flat. If confusion about the event wasn’t enough, heavy rain and cold temperatures left the arena feeling empty.
Students made up a large portion of those in attendance, and there was a reasonable number of alumni and their families; however, the SHAC was still only about one-fourth of the way full at most. This was a far cry from the promotional campaign asking to “Fill the SHAC!”
Then came the actual event. With a running time of about one hour and forty-five minutes, far more than the promised time, the arena only grew emptier and emptier as time went on. With fourteen speakers, from students to alumni, donors, little was done to keep people interested in staying.
During each transition from speakers, and each video played in the arena, dozens of students could be seen leaving the SHAC, and honestly, who could blame them?
The promotional video for ‘In Our Hands’ gave a good impression of the event itself: a vague, mishandled attempt to get money. Each speaker insisted on the importance of scholarships, which is all good and fine, but the majority of those in the audience, students, don’t need any more encouragement to see the need for scholarships.
It was clear, with the exception of those speaking or those who gave money to the campaign, everyone had lost interest four speakers in. Those who were still in the audience near the end of the event were on their phones. Some, in fact, had just gone and fallen asleep.
The final moment of cringe came during the final speech when the Dean brought the donors to the center of the court to cheer themselves on as a choir came out. These students were singing and dancing while everyone quickly shuffled out of the arena. By the end of the number, there were more people on the court than in the stands. The whole experience felt, in a word, icky.
It was clear the purpose of this event was to get money, which is fine, but why in the world were students so heavily encouraged to come? Following the event, I interviewed several students, all of which received scholarships from the university. For this reason, they insisted that their responses remain anonymous.
One freshman stated: “This was hands down the worst experience of my college career thus far. It was two hours of them sucking the d**** of donors.” Another student, a sophomore stated, “Something about that felt immensely gross and appalling. I felt like I was trying to be bribed.” However, a junior student put it best, “I still don’t get it. Why were we asked to be there?”
There were many things that were handled poorly with the event: the size of the event space, the number of speakers, and my goodness, that musical number was something else. However, the biggest mistake was having so many students present.
The event was clearly just for the sake of donors. I understand the impulse, show these people who just donated literally millions of dollars to the university the actual students who will be benefiting from their kindness. Instead, these donors were shown what NDSU students really value, and being indoctrinated into giving their school more money is certainly not at the top of anyone’s list.
Students already pay tuition. While most of us realize that NDSU is one of the most reasonably priced universities in the area, we also are the first to tell you that tuition costs are no joke. So having to sit and listen to all the great things about our university and how we should give them more money was just laughable.
What this campaign is going to do for the university is great. What this campaign accomplished at its launch? Not so great.