Most Valuable Program?

Many St. John’s students are probably aware of the importance of getting involved with campus activities and the consequent incentive program that has been established to increase campus involvement, otherwise known as the MVP program. The Office of Student Engagement reported a 148 percent increase in student attendance at events when comparing September 2008 to September 2009. Attendance at weekend events on campus increased by 339 percent from September 2008 to September 2009. Here a technical question is raised: is the program the best way to attain student interest?

Clearly the program has been working and a number of students attending these campus events have increased, but it is very easy to make the blanket statement that there has been more involvement on campus. What needs to be addressed is the prioritization of the MVP program. The question must be raised: Who gets to decide which programs are quite literally “worth” more than other programs?

St. John’s University has had a long tradition of being an athletic school and, in a nation struggling with obesity, there is nothing wrong with encouraging athleticism and other such extra-curricular activities. However, athletics are not the activities that get students their degrees.

Sure, athletics assist student athletes with scholarships, but even athletes must attend classes and maintain good GPA’s in order to stay on their respective teams. Nowhere in the St. John’s mission does it state that athletics are more important than academics, in fact the mission stresses the University that St. John’s is a learning institution first and foremost.

Why then do athletics seem to dominate the distribution of MVP points? Since when is attaining a 4.0 GPA worth the same amount as attending a golf tournament (ten points to be exact)?

The MVP program started as an incentive program, but it also has become a reflection of what the University values. In lieu of this, the St. John’s community should have more say in the value distribution of the MVP points. The program is apparently limited, as it awards people who attend events in several limited categories. The “Academic Lecture Series” category only contains three options, each of which is only worth four points.

The service aspect of the St. John’s Vincentian mission is reduced to sharing a category with “Leadership Development,” and nowhere in these categories is there any room for groups dedicated to social justice.

This leads to the question: Why incentivize activities that already have high attendance? Athletics is by far the largest category for MVP points, the very title MVP reveals this favoritism towards those activities. People already attend athletic events in high numbers, so why push for even higher attendance? The MVP program should focus its attention instead on groups that struggle to get attendance.

There is also an issue with any incentive program: the authenticity of the student attendance. Are they really there for the events themselves or are they there to get those MVP points? This new program, in an indirect way, is endorsing the rude and apathetic behavior of leaving at the beginning or middle of an event, which is sometimes seen at the non-athletic events held at St. John’s.

Extra-curricular activities are valuable to leading a balanced student life, but the MVP program is manipulating this balance. There is a total lack of representation for the smaller campus groups, and far too many points allotted to athletic events that already experience high attendance.

The priorities of this program must be questioned, for the MVP program is successful on paper, but is this the right way to increase student involvement on campus?