Tartan Rewards is only a start

When I heard about the Tartan Rewards program, the first idea that popped into my head was to question whether or not the program was “fair.” At a place as diverse as Carnegie Mellon, it seems the school is constantly trying to push people toward mainly sporting events, and I’m not so sure it’s ever going to stick. But throughout the year, Tartan Rewards popped up at other campus events, such as Bhangra in the ’Burgh. This gave the program more of a sense of increasing school spirit overall, not just through sporting events.

Ask someone to describe the typical Carnegie Mellon student, and he or she will usually settle on “passionate.” While knowing that they are surrounded by people who are just as intense about their work gives many students a warm, fuzzy feeling, it also cleverly hides the fact that it is hard to find unifying common interests around campus. Even sports sometimes fail to bring students together.

While sports are popular among certain pockets of the community, excitement surrounding an upcoming sports season isn’t something that’s campus-wide. To solve this problem, the Tartan Rewards program was launched last school year in an effort to increase attendance and enthusiasm for sporting events. The Tartan Rewards program is an initiative that was started by Rotimi Abimbola and Adam Klein, last year’s student body president and vice president, respectively. Tartan Rewards selects several games throughout the season, with a focus on the biggest and most important, and offers special prizes and incentives for people to attend. However, for the program to be successful, it needs to create excitement about a variety of campus events while increasing school pride in the long run.

Now, as the program continues into the new school year, a new question of “fairness” was brought to my attention when reviewing the tentative fall schedule. It includes five football games, two men’s and two women’s soccer games, and one volleyball tournament. I was surprised to see cross country absent from the list. (Men’s tennis and golf are as well; however, these teams do not have home events in the fall.) Josh Centor, the assistant director of athletics and an advisor to the program, explained the rationale behind this decision. “The intent was, to best we could, boost enthusiasm and attendance at sporting events across the board,” he said. Scheduling presented a hurdle as cross country only has one home meet at the Schenley Park Oval, a location not familiar to many students.

I was skeptical about the Tartan Rewards program at first, but it seems to be having some success. “There was a direct correlation to an increase in student attendance at the events promoted by the Tartan Rewards Program,” said Susan Bassett, director of athletics. Soccer player Leila Bouabdellaoui, a sophomore civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy major, agreed. “It advertises for the games and gives people a reason to come out. Whether they’re excited or not, it gives people a chance to socialize,” she said.

In order for the program to grow, it needs to be focused on advertising the incentives and spreading them across a variety of events. I don’t think there is any reason for the program to center on football games, and I hope that all matches are considered equally. The directors of the program should also consider building a better relationship between sports and the community. There are plenty of sporting events this season and throughout the year that are not Rewards events. If Carnegie Mellon is really striving to create school spirit, it should monitor attendance at all games. In the long run, I would hope to see increased attendance, whether students were bribed with free stuff or not.

Overall, though, Carnegie Mellon students could use a push to get out of their typical niches, and the Tartan Rewards program is a good start at doing just that.