My best friends and I like to live by the mantra “If it’s free, it’s for me.”
It has become abundantly clear to me that more and more Shippensburg University students do not share that mindset.
I am genuinely confused by and curious about the widespread lack of engagement and disinterest many students I interact with have had about campus events this semester, including the many Homecoming festivities of the past week.
I am a resident assistant in Seavers Hall, a first-year student building, and we have seen firsthand how this class of students is less engaged in both the community we want to build in our hall and the entire campus community. Events within the building are lucky to have 10 residents show up, our Hall Council has yet to host an event and I nearly weep with joy on the rare occasion I get a response in my floor’s GroupMe.
It is not just first-year students, though. I was shocked when I was recently talking to the president of a large and well-respected campus organization about Homecoming and learned she had not even looked at the schedule of events. All campus student leaders are role models, whether we want to be or not, so we must be informed and spread the word to students who do not keep themselves in the loop.
Let’s think about Sexy Bingo, which was hosted by the PAGE Center and APB on Oct. 6. I showed up about 20 minutes after the advertised start time, and there were people sitting on the floor because it was so crowded. To me, this is a clear example of how students will show up if they care. Therefore, I believe our student body is suffering from an epidemic of apathy.
This issue is complex and impacted by a plethora of factors. Current first-year students were in their first year of high school when the pandemic began and had a truly unprecedented experience, but I think it is lazy to blame that for our current crisis. If anything, these students should be taking advantage of absolutely everything they can because COVID proved the social bonds we build through academic and social traditions can be eliminated in an instant.
Some of the blame must be put on SU. First, I think the decision to remove the wall of flyers in the CUB and replace it with monitors was a grave mistake. Before, students would see an event advertised for days or even a week before it occurred, and you would have to be completely oblivious to not be at least vaguely aware of what was happening around campus. Now, each flyer flashes for about 10 seconds before moving on, so it is much easier to miss things.
We are also painfully stuck in the age of email. I wish I had a solution to a more effective form of communication, but there is a percentage of our student body and Generation Z that simply will never reliably check their email as a source of information. For example, all resident assistants are now required to create a poster for engagements instead of just a flyer due to so-called “flyer fatigue.” It is about time for us to take a serious look at email fatigue.
And the lack of student engagement has already caused at least one casualty. The Red Sea is no longer operating as SU’s student section. It will continue to hold pop-up events and work to celebrate school spirit, but the work its members put in did not make up for the few students who chose to participate.
As we rapidly approach the end of another semester, student affairs professionals across campus must work on ways to get students more engaged, but the ultimate blame is on my fellow students.
There is an expectation you are serving as an active member of our campus community and taking advantage of things your tuition helps pay for. I can guarantee that you are not too cool to show up to things, even if you are one of a handful who do. Campus traditions are not forever. Don’t put us in danger of watching them disappear.