Columns / Discourse / January 23, 2019

Sustaining campus life

Community is touted as a major pillar at Knox, but why do so many aspects of campus life feel so hollow? Is there something that I’ve missed in understanding how to draw people to events even through the harsh stress of winter and the pressure of classes? As a member of club execs, I have had my share of successes and failures — yet regarding the aspect of community, I can feel the weight of my failures in building up community. When you join a club, who wouldn’t want for it to be favored with the future of its choice and even for it to live to see a thousand reasons to rejoice? Hearing veteran exec members recall the days of great pride and prosperity made me want to see it reach that prime once again, but I found myself in most cases sitting idly by waiting for something to happen. We tried collaborating with other organizations and tailoring events with hectic schedules in mind. Yet we still found ourselves at the brink of oblivion with empty meetings and unattended events.

What does it take to sustain a community on this campus where everyone is under so much pressure to excel both in their classes and socially? The answer certainly does not lie in the regular smattering of events an organization has to offer, but in something more engaging that breaks the mold. A shared interest in a general idea brings us to attend events, or maybe it’s the need for human connection, or perhaps it’s the drive to advance your own personal interests by being able to plug a title on your resume. Whatever it is, hopefully something has driven you to engage with events on campus and at the very least, this newspaper you’ve found lying somewhere. From here, what do you do when you’re at the event? What do you do when you’re hosting it? How do you get people engaged in the sense that they want to help contribute to whatever organization you may be? How do you source the glue that binds everyone together into a community? I don’t know if I will ever come to understand the mystic powers that draw people together under an organization on campus, but I certainly do hope that others do.

There are over 100 student organization on campus, yet with a student population of around 1,400, why do organizations struggle to draw 50 people (4 percent) to a single event? Yes, people have a wide variety of interests and with so many clubs vying for their attention it may be difficult to choose which meetings to attend, but please at the very least engage with something. Perhaps I have only been a part of more niche clubs, but it is an exciting moment when just 15 people or 1 percent of students attend a meeting! Why does that have to be the case? Does the answer lie in a lack of appeal clubs may have, the constant pressure of general campus life, or is it within an issue of promotion? For instance, this past Fall Term, I saw the most dreadful Student Organization Fair in my past years at Knox. It was indoors on a near cloudless day with a limited table count for only 45 organizations, but there were 63 that signed up. Eighteen clubs were put on a waiting list, some waited by for a table to go unclaimed while others took to taking advantage of the weather and promoted themselves at the doors of the building. Are those who were unable to find a table and chose not to promote themselves outdoors just expected to wait until the next carnival of clubs? There has to be a better way of attracting more people to join clubs and it should even be normal for clubs to see turnouts of 15 people to meetings rather than a celebratory event. For everyone’s sake, get involved with student organizations and the entirety of the campus will be better off for it. If you feel like this is the case or I’ve misrepresented the majority of clubs on campus, email me at shcho@knox.edu.

Rafael Cho

Tags:  campus Exec Board student organizations

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