Reginald Wright looks ahead at the 46 students in front of him in line at the Baptist Student Ministry on campus. Though the ministry is a religious group on campus, it is not the worship that has made BSM a fixed part of Wright’s Wednesday routine; it’s the free food.
Students cannot seem to get enough free stuff. Whether it’s food, pens, shirts or Frisbees, college students flock to giveaways like moths to porch lights.
“At the majority of our programs we give away some kind of free things,” Program Council social chair, Onaome Mukoro said. “At our movie nights, we always have free food there. Usually we throw out T-shirts at our events, too. If we have 30 programs a semester, about 11 to 15 of those will have some kind of shirt for it.”
Among campus groups, T-shirts and food have proven to be the giveaways that attract the most students. For many programs, these have been the key in increasing attendance and marketing events.
“What you have to know is that if you do some big giveaways every game, the demand is going to diminish game by game,” Fontaine said. “That’s why we have one night where we’ll have a discount on food like 25-cent hot dog night for woman’s basketball. Attendance went from 200-300 to almost 700. Did they all watch the game? Who knows, but they probably all got hot dogs.”
Many times, discounted food is enough to make any student stray from their everyday Raman Noodles, however, sometimes programs have to break out the big guns. For those in the Athletic Department, it’s the Mr. Gatti’s T-shirt gun.
“One thing [students] don’t do a lot of is laundry,” Athletic Marketing Assistant Nathan Fontaine said. “At the last four football games last year we threw anywhere from 50-100 shirts in the student section. We always have the Gatti’s T-shirt gun at our basketball games. If there’s one thing college students want, it’s free shirts.”
For the university’s Welcome Week, Student Activities produces 1500 shirts to hand out to new students. Those same students can expect to get another 15-20 different shirts from Student Activities.
“Shirts are a marker for our program,” Student Activities Program Coordinator Brandon Cooper said. “It’s the student’s favorite thing to get. They’ll wear it for years. But they’re also good unifying product. Anything that has SHSU on it builds campus around campus.”
There is such a demand for free things around campus that some organizations have to enforce a sort of mob control for their giveaways.
“People will come up to us even before our event has started and ask for shirts,” Cooper said. “Sometimes they get a little demanding. We really have been mobbed before. When one person sees we’re handing out free stuff, it just spreads until we’re surrounded by 60 or 70 screaming [students].”
Despite the risks, student organizations continue to prove if you throw it, they will come.
“People usually don’t come to [events] unless you have something to give them,” Mukoro said. “Who wouldn’t want free stuff?”