Feature – By Albert Nall, Staff Writer
Left: A Cliff Hanger of the Mirthweek Carnival – Photo by Yiting Zhang, The Current © 2015
The tradition of Mirthday at UMSL goes well beyond an annual carnival event with cotton candy and rollercoaster rides. Mirthday’s evolution into Mirthweek 2015 carries with it a major objective among student groups on campus. Mirhtweek is a series of networking events with the purposes of increasing memberships in student organizations and boosting a sense of campus identity and civic engagement. This is the time of year when campus organizations are planning their transitions from the current academic year to the 2015-2016 year. These groups must have a solid roster of members or risk getting insufficient funding from Student Life. It makes sense that many of these groups reach out to high school students in the area, who are in the process of deciding where they plan to attend college. It is fair to say that the visibility that the Mirthweek tradition offers has increased enrollment to UMSL by both high school students and community college transfers alike over the years.
Mirhthweek’s challenge for 2015 has come about due to cuts in funding to student groups on the UMSL campus. Many of these groups, including “The Current,” are making the transition from being funded by Student Life to being independent of student life as an institution. Go to https://crowdfund.umsl.edu/, and you can see that many organizations have used crowdfunding to cover significant voids in their budgets. Increased campus solidarity and an expanded social media presence during future Murthweeks would significantly augment student activity fundraising. We also need to consider community sponsors and alumni in the aims of Mirthweek. These groups help cover things ranging from student activity expenses to scholarships for students in need. In fact, the Homecoming King and Queen candidates at UMSL for 2015 raised $8,061 for UMSL scholarships in just 5 ½ days.
With that said, there appears to be an unexpressed feeling that student groups cut off from Student Activity Board funding were in some way excluded from the Mirhtweek festivities. While all individual students are welcome to Mirthweek activities, the enmity among groups could create long-term divides that could pit student organizations against one another. There is a lingering sentiment that student groups really do not have much exposure to one another, and this could become a self-fulfilling prophesy that could impede the future of the Mirthweek tradition.
On another note, it is said that “all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy,”and this point is well expressed. However, making the transition from being an undergraduate to a graduate student requires three times the presentations, three times the written papers, and significantly more scholarly reading. If you think this is bad, imagine what it is like for the graduate assistants who play a role in sponsoring campus activities from Homecoming to Mirthweek and must also maintain their normal end-of-semester workload. The graduate assistants, along with campus life departments such as Residential Life, and the Pierre Laclede Honor College, to cite a couple of examples, have the rigor of bringing a diverse student demographic together during Mirthweek. While Student Life as an institution does a great job of enhancing morale on the UMSL campus, their many undertakings deserve their full attention, and Mirthweek may be too much of a distraction from their duties. In addition, many students are planning for final exams while the Mirthday festival is taking place, and Mirthweek could also be a distraction for them. So here is a bold suggestion; why not schedule Mirthweek after the week of Memorial Day–when finals and presentations are no longer an issue–and have an increased Mirthday festival schedule. This would give more of the Triton community to an opportunity to participate in the official end of the academic year with a real celebration of campus cohesion.