letter to the editor

NOTICE: The views expressed in The Vermilion's opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect those of The Vermilion staff or of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

To Whom It May Concern,

Lachelle Smith’s article on football game day experience is nothing short of an opinion piece with false claims about the Athletic Department and UL Lafayette as a whole. It is scarce of facts, statistical evidence, and accurate representations. The sample Smith drew from is not a representation of the entire student body and therefore, prohibits making any generalizations. Social media is an excellent way to gauge feedback, but it must be supported by evidence, something this article lacks entirely.

I would like to focus on this particular quote from Smith’s article: “Without any consideration or input from students, the tailgate location was moved for the 2019 season. The Ragin’ Cajun Athletics department decided it would encourage their student attendance numbers by moving tailgate back to Cajun Field on the southside concourse of the stadium, making it somewhat inevitable for students to go in the game. The decision was made solely by people that are not students, but seem to feel inclined to know exactly what students want.”

During the fall semester of 2018, Heidie Lindsey (Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Engagement and Leadership) and I met to discuss student involvement and engagement at football games. Since student tailgating is directed and led primarily by the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership, Heidie was looking to make any changes and improvements to enhance the student tailgate experience. A survey was sent out via OrgSync and email to all students in the summer of 2018 regarding students’ feelings on tailgating, game day activities, and more. The responses from the survey indicated that students were unhappy with the distant location, the lack of athletic involvement (i.e. Cajun Walk), and the expenses that were attached to reserving spaces and tents. Using this information, myself, Heidie, Margarita Perez (Dean of Students), Jacob LeMeunier (SGA Chief of Staff 2018-2019), Connor Whelan (Athletic Director of Marketing & External Engagement), Nico Yantko (Deputy Director of Athletics), and other students and athletic staff members met consistently-as often as once every two weeks to develop a plan for the upcoming football season. To ensure that this project was implemented, we invited student leaders Rachel Lautigar (Homecoming Queen and 2019-20 SGA President) and Dominique Williams (Homecoming King and student athlete) to join the conversation in which they have continued the effort to make game day experience a memorable one.

To say that no student was considered in making these changes is completely false and a bold accusation to make without any evidence. The changes to football game days did not happen overnight, nor did it only involve a few athletic staff members. It was a year long initiative that was driven by the interest of the students. Smith’s claim that the student body is unhappy with the changes stems from a selectively-biased group of students voicing their opinions on social media. While it is important for all student opinions to be heard and accounted for, it is nearly impossible for the Athletic Department and the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership to understand and cater to every individual want and need from students.

Thank you,

Chandler Harris

2018-19 UL Lafayette SGA President

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