As I sat on a windowsill in the Student Center recently, I watched as most students walked around career fair tables set up in the Student Center lobby.
Notice I said walk around the tables, as in intentionally avoiding representatives at each station.
Students see the tables but continue to walk by to get food or search for a decent chair to fall asleep on. It happens almost every time there is an activity being held on campus because students are largely ignoring what’s being offered to them.
“During the day you’re focused on class, when your next nap will be and the fact that you haven’t showered. No one goes to the events in the Student Center alone because if they are alone, they are usually in a rush,” said Nicole Clause, a freshman advertising major.
That is unless, of course, a works-every-time, attention-grabbing card is played.
I asked students what draws them to attend on-campus events and they all replied identically: free stuff. A number of students said that they don’t have time or are disinterested in the on-campus events. Yet, as soon as one student or campus organization is offering free merchandise, everyone is interested and has time to go to the event.
After I watched students ignore the career fair, I walked around campus with Nicole. In mid sentence she paused, watched a girl walk by with a free Frisbee and immediately said, “Oh my God. Where are the Frisbees coming from? I want one!” It didn’t matter why the Frisbees were being given out or if Nicole was ever going to use the Frisbee. What mattered was that it was free.
This isn’t to say that students only participate if free stuff is involved. Director of Student Activities Rita Calicat spoke highly of student participation in respect to events that are held outside of the Student Center lobby – like concerts at the Liacouras Center or shopping trips to nearby malls – and said many of these events quickly sell out. So why are students hesitant to participate in activities held at the Student Center? The events are free, time does not have to be set aside to attend and anyone can arrive or leave at any time.
“I think [students are] discouraged by thinking they may look dumb throwing a ball through a hoop or making a Valentine’s Day card out of construction paper in front of the rest of Temple,” freshman John Pickersgill said. Students don’t participate because they feel self conscious? Nobody cares if you’re throwing a basketball around in the lobby, so if you want to shoot hoops, go do it.
This does not concern activities planners, though. Calicat mentioned that a big turnout for Noontime Diversions is not expected.
“What goes on in the Student Center is one of hundreds of programs. Student organizations plan events too,” Calicat said. True, but what is the point of holding events if students aren’t going to participate? Since students ignore them, why not make a change? Creating activities that students enjoy would do nothing but benefit the campus.
Although other events and city trips are popular, Calicat would like to see student participation grow. She explained why student participation isn’t as high as it could be. “Students are overwhelmed with advertisements. If the ad isn’t creative, it gets lost in a sea of stuff,” Calicat said.
But sometimes a lack of flashy advertising isn’t the problem. Nicole mentioned, “I read the calendar in the Student Center and plan on going to events, but I always forget. And I know a lot of people delete the e-mails that are sent out.”
If the typical means of hearing about activities doesn’t work, then there are a variety of other ways to learn about approaching events. Calicat recommended not only reading the calendar in the Student Center and the daily Temple Today e-mails, but also reading signs posted in residence halls, student organization listserv messages, the student activity Web site or hearing about things through word of mouth.
There’s more offered at Temple than karaoke and poster sales in the Student Center lobby. Take a look at the sea of stuff posted on the walls, write down the dates of events, and then go to them. Don’t drown yourself with excuses, Temple.
Beth Keeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.