December 7, 2019

Our campus organizations are having a crisis: Here’s what you can do

I’m not sure when the trend began, but I remember picking up on it at the end of my sophomore year. There were rumors of dropping numbers in a number of on campus organizations, from the fraternities and sororities to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

I wasn’t quite sure how bad it was at the beginning, but upon returning to Capital after a semester long medical absence, the decline in numbers started to become clear when JJ. Price and I started campaigning for President and Vice President of the student body.

The more that I began to visit our organizations, the more I started to notice a decline. Something that every single student on our campus should see as a concern.

When I was a first-year, I remember being impressed by the amount of campus life and opportunities that the university offered. Most of the organizations had a very defined culture and I immediately felt welcomed into a lot of them.

But as I’ve gotten older, that seems to have taken a disturbing change. Many organizations are now worried looking forward to next semester and some may even die.

The problem is taking place because people simply are not coming. The Pride organization that welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like home my first year now has dwindling numbers, as do many of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) organizations that add an important and diverse voice to our student body.

Our fraternities and sororities (which I will add that I am not a part of) have also have seen some alarming decline in numbers. I will not speak for them, because I am not, nor have ever been, affiliated with them. I will, however, take the liberty to point out that unless the attendance in some of these organizations rises this semester, they may not be around for students in the future. And that is just sad.

Here’s the deal: you should care about this. For a lot of reasons, but very specifically because student organizations are the lifeblood of any college or university. They teach skills, allow students to meet friends, and often maintain student grades and retention rates.

Being involved in college may seem like a lot of pointless drama, but it doesn’t have to be. Not if you cultivate a culture that encourages students. This is the whole point of organizations.

But they’re also an important part of giving our students a voice and having a conversation about our beliefs, especially in the case of the ODI and political organizations. College is where students learn how to do community organizing around topics they care about. Without that, you’re losing a massive part of the college experience and doing a disservice to the greater community.

I do understand that most of our students have jobs and busy lives outside of college. I do understand that life is hard and most of us have a lot going on. But while that is an explanation for not being involved on campus, it is hardly an excuse.

You should care about this place that you live, learn, and thrive in as well as the other people here. We are all busy. We will all always be busy. But making time for your community is a skill that you should cultivate and enjoy.

Now, here’s what you can and should do: Do you identify with an organization on our campus? Have you not been going to their meetings? You should go. You should find out who they are and where they meet.

You should take the time out of your day to find a cause that you actually care about and do something about it other than scrolling on Twitter in between classes. Why? Because if you think, which I know most of you do, that our world is in a bad place right now, rather than sitting around and complaining about it, you could get involved and make a small change in our community. You could learn more about it and make our campus a better place for everyone.

You could show that you actually care, which is more than enough.

One thought on “Our campus organizations are having a crisis: Here’s what you can do

  1. First it is wonderful to have you back in the mix on campus. Your unique voice is a model and an inspiration to all of us. keep getting better.

    I disagree in part and agree in part. I’ve helped more student orgs than I can remember. Club lacrosse, a pep band, those goofy Paint Dry guys. Quiditch, LED, PATSO and others. So I have some thoughts.

    First- student orgs are fragile. Most coalesce around a significant leader like Giggles or Daniel Robey- great people but unique and very hard to replace. Or they come together in purpose shared inwards but not so much outwardly. LED is struggling with that at the moment a bit. So some is just the nature of the activity and some just human nature. We tend to graze more than garden.

    But I do think there is another factor. I’ve communicated on this issue elsewhere. I don’t know that many will agree. But I think a factor is that service like leading orgs seems lessened as the use of stipends and course releases for service work for faculty has grown. Some faculty see this work as service and some as work to be remunerated. The pay model is limited as we are not a wealthy school. We aspire to create experiences beyond our resources.

    Example- I would like to start a USITT student section. No idea how we could find that even if I did it for free. It’s a lot of work. Some would see the service as beneficial and some that it would just be clutter. Monetary incentives might tip that scale but we don’t do that.

    I agree with Kpo that the decline is significant. But part is more student working more hours and the creeping perception that service should be freely given for leaders.

    I do much of my best work in orgs. But it costs time and money. Do it any way. Be bold. Lead. Inspire. Crestevchange. Be changed. Do it for good. Do something.

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