The Struggles With Student Involvement on Campus

As the clock nears 7 p.m. on a Thursday night, students look around the mostly empty room wondering when people will start filing in for Jim Keady’s lecture on his campaign to fight Nike’s abuse of worker’s rights. With chairs set for 50, the Forum is mostly empty, with about 18 occupied by students interested in hearing about Keady’s passion for his cause.

While he talks about all of the changes he has made and people he has moved with his activism, students wonder why no one else has come out to support this worthy cause.

“I feel like students [at McDaniel] are really apathetic in general and don’t want to spend time actually putting forth effort,” said Senior Mara Siebert, who has been involved in many different organizations in her four years at McDaniel.

This concern can be seen in many different areas of activity on campus; students and faculty are continually trying to come up with new ideas to get the campus excited.

Lindsey Henderson, assistant director of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE), has been working on coordinating events for students since the office opened in the fall of 2010. Her response to the topic was quite optimistic.

“My overall thought is things have gone well for our office,” said Henderson. This office, as well as other new clubs, seem to be doing very well in their beginning.

She says the office is experimenting with different types of events and activities to see what the students enjoy most.

“Free stuff goes over really well,” she said. Events where students could make their own street signs and paint their own pottery had an attendance of 150-200 students each time.

Henderson admits that not all OSE sponsored events go as well as students would like. She said that she will work with a committee of five or six different students to plan an event, and although it may be something that those specific students are interested in, it doesn’t always attract the rest of the student body.

Their next experiment will be in April; Henderson explained that students have been asking for music, so they are bringing a musician to campus and they will “see how it goes.”

The Office of Student Engagement also oversees student clubs on campus. McDaniel boasts of the diversity of its clubs for such a small campus to visiting students. The college’s website says “there are more than 70 organizations for students.” She reported that when the OSE office opened there were around 50 clubs. There are currently 92 listed.

This number, however, is deceiving. Henderson said that although there are 92 clubs listed, she has no idea of how many are active and is currently in the process of contacting the leaders of each club to determine if they are still active.

The Office of Student Engagement has the benefit of attracting students with free, fun activities; it seems that where involvement is lacking is in the area of clubs that are drawing people together based on a common interest. Clubs and organizations face the challenge of getting students excited to be a part of something bigger.

Siebert founded the Advocacy Team in the spring semester of 2010. She began rounding up membership from friends. “We pulled everyone we knew,” she says. “Everyone we were living with we made come to these meetings.” When asked if attendance for meetings and events have been consistent since then, she laughed, saying “not at all.” This, however, does not hinder their success. Although as time has passed their membership has dwindled, the club still consists of many dedicated members.

Siebert is perplexed about the involvement of students on campus. “You should want to go [to a meeting] because you are generally interested in it”

Although her club started out with 15-20 members, it has now become a core group of dedicated students. Siebert attributes this to the appeal of a new and exciting organization on campus.

“Maybe because it was super new and nothing had existed like this on campus,” she said.

New clubs have the benefit of being new and exciting, which attracts many students at first. For instance, the People Watching Club got a lot of attention on campus in the fall of 2011 but has now fizzled out and no longer exists.

Gina Mayonado, president of the Astronomy Club, talked about the positive outcomes they have had at its events. As another new club on campus (it was founded this past fall), Mayonado is very happy with the number of members the club has.

“We have 30 people signed up as members and usually get at least 10 people per event, often a lot more.”

Hosting many events outdoors, the astronomy club does face challenges getting students to brave this winter weather and observe the stars.

“We’re hoping that indoor events will draw more people this time of year,” said Mayonado. In the near future she plans on showing space-related movies. She looks to the future of the club with a positive attitude, in hopes of continuing to engage students in a subject that she has a passion for.

“We have had a lot of fun so far and are really excited for the rest of the year.”