There’s no doubt that on the University of Maryland’s campus, Art Attack is a major event. The most recent edition, held in May, started with a day of buildup on McKeldin Mall—DIY flower crowns, a petting zoo and an obstacle course, among other activities—before Harlem-based rapper A$AP Ferg performed to a raucous Xfinity Center crowd.
Surely such a production requires the resources and efforts of a professional department somewhere within the university’s administration. That would be a reasonable assumption, but it would ultimately be incorrect.
“It is completely student-led … and I think that’s super important for people to know,” said Laura Hood, manager of student programs at the Stamp Student Union and advisor to Student Entertainment Events—the body responsible for booking raucous concerts, advance movie screenings and thought-provoking lectures.
“I think when (students) see Art Attack or the comedy show, they’re like, ‘Oh, University of Maryland,’ but it’s not,” Hood said. “It’s students. Students talked to the agents. Students paid the performers. Students made sure everyone was in the building.”
SEE was founded in 1977, growing out of its predecessor the University Program Board, according to records in the University Archives. The Student Government Association, which partners with Stamp to set SEE’s yearly budget, established the organization “to centralize funding for student-sponsored events and to ensure equal representation of campus groups.”
SEE’s slate of 70-100 events per year ranges in size and scope from massive concert productions like Art Attack—which brings major national artists like Vince Staples, Weezer and Nelly to campus—to build-your-own-terrarium sessions and DIY tie-dye events in Stamp, but the mission of representing a diverse campus is never far from the minds of SEE’s 23-member executive board.
“We like to acknowledge that everyone has different experiences, backgrounds—things that they like, that they dislike,” said Taylor Markey, a senior multiplatform journalism major and SEE’s current president. “So we like to take that into account, and we try to program and partner with different groups on campus.”
Partnerships with organizations like the Black Student Union and Terps After Dark help SEE ensure that events are properly funded and that word gets out to the broadest possible audience.
“We can’t reach every single student on campus, and those organizations often can help us with that,” said Yoad Merin, a junior economics and business management student who is currently serving as comedy director and will take over for Markey as president next year. New presidents are selected a year in advance so they can learn the ropes for a year and oversee the selection of any new directors.
Hip-hop has taken over Art Attack in the 2010s, dominating all other genres
Data includes years with multiple co-headlining acts. Source: SEE records
Efforts at representing the campus community don’t stop with organizational partnerships. SEE holds frequent surveys to give students a chance to weigh in on what events and entertainment they’d like to see, and lectures director Christina Moore said that the directors—whose email addresses are all listed on SEE’s website—receive regular messages that help build a “loop of communication” between SEE and the rest of the student body.
Musical arts director Divya Kapoor, a junior double majoring in information systems and operations management and business analytics, sees growing diversity among the board and an increased focus on social awareness as catalysts for a change in the entertainment slate.
“I think we’ve seen our interests and our backgrounds manifest into different types of acts that we want to bring,” Kapoor said, “and we’ve also become … more diligent about serving the campus.”
The overwhelming majority of SEE's events are held at Stamp
Series events like the Fall Free Movie Series count as one event. Source: SEE Facebook event listings dating back to 2017-2018 school year
Nolan Marks, a sophomore marketing major and SEE’s cinema director, sees programming for a diverse campus as an opportunity rather than a burden.
“We have the privilege of being able to experiment and try new things,” said Marks, who incorporated the Indian film "3 Idiots" into SEE’s annual Free Fall Movie Series, which is typically made up of big-budget theatrical releases and some already-recognized classics. “There’s a lot…from a programmer’s perspective that we do to try and be as inclusive as we can while creating the best quality programming lineup.”
Ultimately, Hood says, the students that sit on SEE’s board—all of whom are unpaid volunteers—do so out of a passion for serving the campus community.
“They do it not for … resume building,” Hood said, “but because they like the work and want to entertain.”