The office of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) moved this spring’s activities fair from the Rec Center to the Breezeway and lengthened the event to a full week. The new format, called Student Involvement Week, lasted from Feb. 1-5 and included tabling at the Breezeway and a Student Organization Showcase on Wednesday. Each category of student groups — Advocacy and Awareness, Performing Arts, etc. — was assigned a day to set up tables at the Breezeway and attract students passing by.
The Editorial Board recognizes the reason behind these changes: The SLI wanted to create a stronger sense of community by integrating these student groups into the heart of campus. However we believe that these changes, as well-intentioned as they were, greatly diminished the quality and effectiveness of student groups’ recruitment efforts.
Firstly, the club tables were outdoors in the middle of winter. Passing students were contending with snowdrifts and the biting cold –– not formidable conditions to stop and chat. The weather was even less pleasant for club officers who had to sit and man tables.
Second, the Breezeway is not a place for extended conversation; it is the area of highest foot traffic on campus. Most students walking on the Breezeway are on their way to class and likely do not have time to spare — their mindset is to get to class, not stop and learn about a club. If a lot of students had participated and stopped at tables, as was intended, this would have hindered foot traffic and clogged the way.
Third, because the schedule was poorly publicized and the event a week long, it was difficult for students to find a given group. An element of what makes the traditional activities fair so accessible is that students walk into the fair’s location without an agenda and simply peruse the tables, possibly ending up speaking to a group previously unbeknownst to them.
With advertising primarily through Today’s Announcements and without any emails to the general student body, students weren’t familiar with the schedule, or didn’t even know that Student Involvement Week was going on. An event of this importance needs to be publicized well, and because this was an entirely new format, an extra strong publicity effort was need to make sure that both students and student organization leaders understood the changes.
The new format of this event is impractical, and there are simply too many factors that prevent this event from being successful. Part of the rationale behind making the campus involvement session a week long was that the Rec Center was short on room for all campus groups. We contend that is not sufficient. We’re glad that this fall’s activities fair will still be in the Rec Center, albeit with groups sharing tables, but we suggest that the SLI take advantage of the auxiliary gyms in the Athletic Center in addition to the Rec Center space in order to house all student groups under the same roof during a four-hour period. This could provide enough room for any overflow created by the fair’s presence in the Rec Center. Next year, we hope that the SLI formats their student involvement initiative as a one-time indoor event under one roof.