Recent GMC policy changes to affect student ushers

As the Green Music Center seeks to use more community volunteers instead of student ushers, a handful of current ushers will be given new work opportunities.

Under a new policy enacted during the summer, volunteers will be employed as ushers alongside students. Kathryn Stewart, the associate director of communications for the Green Music Center, said no student ushers will lose their jobs under the new policy.

“I think it’s part of our job as representatives of Sonoma State University to really connect with our community and be of service to engage them in different ways,” Stewart said.

Lead ushers, who are in charge of all regular ushers during concerts, will continue their jobs, volunteers will support general usher tasks, and regular student ushers can choose to transfer to the Seawolf Ambassador Program, where they will work in different areas on campus.

Students in this program will be cross trained in a variety of areas ranging from security support and operational support.

Neil Markley, the associate vice president for administration and finance, says about 100 students are employed at the Green Music Center, but the number of student ushers fluctuates based on the time of year. Less students work during the summer than during the school year.

During this past summer, the center began allowing community volunteers over the age of 18 to work under student lead ushers.

Stewart acknowledged that students were made aware of the new changes during spring 2017. Though some were initially nervous about what the policy’s impact might be, all of the responses Stewart has received have been positive.

Stewart said she sees the Seawolf Ambassador Program as a positive change.

“The chance to be an ambassador for Sonoma State is a really incredible opportunity for students,” Stewart said.

Some student ushers have expressed concern about the new program and having more community volunteers.

Mercedes Castro, who graduated in spring 2017 with a bachelor’s in music education, is currently in the credential program at Sonoma State and has been working as an usher at the Green Music Center since the summer of 2015. Currently, she is a lead usher in charge of other student and volunteer ushers during performances.

“I have an appreciation for the hall and I like to share that with the patrons that came in,” Castro said.

Castro will not be a part of the new program because she only has one year left at Sonoma State, but she said she is not fond of it. Castro said she likes having the student ushers specifically at the Green Music Center and feels that student ushers are already being replaced by volunteers.

Castro said that before this past summer, summer positions were previously exclusive to Sonoma State and Santa Rosa Junior College students.

“That’s kind of what made us unique, because most music halls use volunteers,” Castro said.

While she understands the intent behind the new program, Castro said she thinks the Green Music Center would lose something special by having less student ushers.

“A lot of the patrons expressed that they loved that the students worked there, and that will be lost if they continue with using more volunteers,” Castro said.

Jana Duncan, a fourth-year communications major at Sonoma State, has been working at the Green Music Center for over a year and is currently a lead usher. She also expressed concern about the new policy.

“I think it’s just because we care. We want to see the GMC taken care of,” Duncan said. “I think we’ve all found a special bond in this job.”

Duncan said she appreciates that the Green Music Center is flexible with student ushers juggling work and school responsibilities. She explained that including volunteers was a decision made mainly to get the community more involved with Sonoma State, and student ushers being moved to the Seawolf Ambassador Program had nothing to do with students’ competence and performance as ushers.

While Duncan understands that this new policy is about community involvement, she said that “not paying students would save money.”

“It’s hard to say if I think it’s worth it… I think there’s something really special about having students working and students being able to learn in such a nice venue,” Duncan said.

For more information about the Green Music Center, contact Kathryn Stewart at (707) 664-3813 or stewart@sonoma.edu.