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EDITORIAL: Mainstage has lost its fire. We must do better.

Clarkston senior Haley Pote (left) and Grayling senior Boomer Wingard (right) give a fencing demonstration outside the club sports tent during Mainstage on Aug. 26 at Central Michigan University.

We made it through the first week, Chippewas. Does everyone remember how great a time Mainstage was this year? Yeah, we don’t either. 

The annual event designed to give new students a positive first look at the diverse opportunities that present themselves by being a student at Central Michigan University was a letdown. There was a lack of organization, entertainment and overall hype around the event than in previous years. 

The vendors themselves, which include anything from registered student organizations to athletic clubs and local businesses, did not know if they had a table at the event until just hours the night before. 

Even some of those clubs who registered, in fact, did not receive a table. 

“If you should have a table but do not currently have one, please visit the Student Activities Tent located in front of Finch Field House at 4 p.m.,” the announcement said the night before. 

The timing of this year’s event was off. Students didn’t even get a chance to eat dinner with their families after move-in before turning around and heading to Mainstage. Like in years past, Mainstage needs to be in the afternoon on a weekend, when students do not have any conflicting priorities. Let’s not forget that was also the Thursday before one of the most notorious party weekends in Central Michigan University history. 

Even if the students did find their way to Finch Fieldhouse on their first day of freedom, they were not greeted with any live music, entertainment or “welcome home” signage. Just tables and chairs from student groups spread out inside and out of one of the oldest buildings on campus. 

Editor-in-Chief Dylan Goetz’s Safari guide used to tell his group that Mainstage was important because any student could walk out of there with five or more free T-shirts. That is no longer the case. 

Let’s take a look at some former Mainstage events for context. 

The Mainstage in 2016 was canceled, but there wasn’t a lack of opportunity for students to get involved on campus. Program Board spent 20 percent of their annual budget on former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Jay Pharoah,  the Office of Student Activities and Involvement quickly organized the “Student Engagement Expo” in Mainstage’s place after an estimated 8,000 students planned to attend the event. 

The year before, Mainstage expected 10,000 students in attendance. There were long lines of students just waiting for a free T-shirt and branded pen. It was held on a sunny weekend day in the parking lot near Kelly/Shorts Stadium and the Student Activity Center — the ideal location for an event this size. 

During a ride-along in 2014, we reported on a free Dan + Shay concert as a part of CMU's "Weeks of Welcome" initiative. That same year, Dan + Shay performed at Faster Horses, the popular "three-day hillbilly sleepover" at Michigan Speedway in July. 

This year, Jimmy Johns only gave out subs to those who filled out job applications. 

Not only do the students suffer from not having a great experience, but RSOs, clubs and local businesses don't get any attention, either. It might be more valuable for Max and Emily’s, for example, to table outside the Bovee University Center on a Monday morning than to take four hours out of an employee’s Thursday night. 

We are not sure why Mainstage was scheduled differently this year. A call to the Office of Student Activities and Involvement just before Labor Day weekend didn't help. 

Danielle Rossman, assistant director for student organizations, said the event was moved to Finch Fieldhouse for better accommodations for those with disabilities. CMU wouldn't have to worry about accessibility if it was staged in the same lot alumni gather before football games. 

Finch Fieldhouse wasn't a much better idea. Tables were even spread out to Franklin Street, so many students didn’t even visit each part of the event. There was food located near the library and UC, so many hungry students didn’t even make it all the way to the tables in the first place. 

One of the former luxuries of randomizing the table organization was that students would always walk past each organization and see what they have to offer. We know everyone just goes for the free stuff, so there was no reason to check out the club sports grouping.  

We must do better to get new students acclimated to campus. Hundreds of students in the past have found their place at this event. This year, that was not the case.