A glitch in the system

Like many students, I’ve logged on to UIS frequently during my time at St. John’s to register for classes, and view my tuition balance, among other things. And starting in the fall, I could now also check how many MVP points they had accrued during the semester.

The MVP Rewards Program was created to generate excitement among students. Every time students swipe into an event, whether it’s a lecture or athletic game, they gain points which can later be cashed in for prizes, such as T-shirts, gift cards, and for the highest point-earners, an iPod Touch, X-Box 360 or Nintendo Wii.

On the surface, this seems like a great idea. Now, the students who regularly attend events will be rewarded for doing so, and those that attend events infrequently may be convinced to do so more often.

And not only are students rewarded for attending events, they also gain points on a sliding scale for obtaining a GPA of a 3.5 or higher, as part of an “academic incentive.”

When I talked to some of my friends though, they didn’t know why they had gotten the number of points that they did. One friend, for example, said she was awarded more than 100 points even though she didn’t attend any on-campus events. And while I should have received nine points for my GPA this semester, the last time I logged onto UIS, my balance was zero.

The MVP Rewards Program has been around for a semester now, and this is more than enough time for the University to have worked out all of the kinks. The program can’t be as effective as the University wants it to be if points aren’t accurately distributed onto a student’s UIS account. If students don’t receive as many points as they should, this might even deter them from attending more events in the future.

But the program has seemed to help attract more students to campus events. The Office of Student Engagement reported a 148 percent increase in attendance at student events when comparing September 2009 to September 2008. Attendance at weekend events on campus was 339 percent higher in September 2009 than it was in September 2008.

While the University states that there has been record-breaking attendance at all campus events, from lectures to athletic games, we all know students who swipe in at an event and then leave before it’s even halfway over. In addition to this, students who have never been involved on campus still may not be swayed to become more active, simply because the events themselves are still not engaging enough on their own.

Students also shouldn’t be rewarded for their GPAs. At this point in our lives, the motivation for getting good grades should come from the desire to get into a good graduate school, start a successful career, or simply for our own personal happiness-not to win a gift card or other prize, which can only offer temporary, short-lived satisfaction.

The University should be focusing all of their energy on improving the quality of its events. That is the only way to get students actively engaged and to foster school spirit. In order for the University to achieve a sustainable high level of attendance, the events themselves need to really excite the students, regardless of whether or not they will receive prizes to be there.

But if St. John’s is serious about continuing the MVP Rewards Program into the future, they need to make sure that all of their systems are running smoothly and that they are putting their energy into the right efforts.

At the end of last semester, I received a phone call from Campus Activities asking if I would participate in a survey about on-campus events and why I hadn’t attended any during the fall. I quickly made up an excuse, and hung up the phone, annoyed that St. John’s would call me at home. Is this really the most successful way for St. John’s to gauge a student’s interest?