Participation problems plague Temple activities

While new-student enrollment has soared at Temple, student participation has flat-lined, even with a growth in activities available to students. More than 130 organizations, including clubs and Greek life, are registered with the Student Activities

While new-student enrollment has soared at Temple, student participation has flat-lined, even with a growth in activities available to students.

More than 130 organizations, including clubs and Greek life, are registered with the Student Activities Office, and more than 50 sports programs are available to the 30,000-plus enrolled students at Temple.

Yet little more than 70 percent of participation expectations are met for student club activities, according to Rita Calicat, associate director of Student Activities.

Because Temple is still a large commuter college, enticing students to come back on campus is difficult. This takes away a large number of students who could fill the void in student participation.

Some of the perceptions of student apathy on campus prove to be invalid. When student organizations hold an event, they must provide a target attendance for the Office of Student Activities to help determine a location for the event.

Some clubs may expect 10 people to show and if eight actually do turn out it can be considered successful. Misperceptions come from the fact that, because of availability on campus, that event may be placed in a room that could easily hold 50 students.

This gives the appearance of a bad turnout, when in fact it was considered a success. On the other hand, an event with a large target attendance may be forced into a small room unable to hold the capacity.

Even with all the activities options open to students at Temple, Calicat continues to hear students complaining “there’s nothing to do.”

“There’s so much [promotion]. Students are bombarded by kiosks and bulletins boards and in halls,” Calicat said of students’ complaints.

It is not unusual to see event advertisements fill an entire kiosk and the next day a new covering. The Office of Student Activities puts out its own publication, Live; available in all buildings on campus, it includes a schedule of current events and information on upcoming ones. Organization websites are also available to inform students.

Many students do feel that the sheer volume of events Temple offers is staggering.

“The amount of activities on campus is overwhelming, and I have a job that takes me home on the weekends,” Neil Martin, 20, said.

Steve Young, of Recreation Services, has noticed a decline in the number of printed Recreation Services activity and program schedules being taken by students since the website for the office was updated.

Calicat finds the students’ opinions “interesting” and said that students need to broaden their scope of interests and how they get information on these events. Students Activies’ guidelines require a three- to four-week advance notice of events planned, so there is time for word to spread across campus.

Temple is a diverse college with a large number of activities for most any interest.

One problem resulting from this is that with dozens of events and meetings taking place each week, students may find the overlapping schedules of club gatherings prevent them from participating in all their interests.

Outdoor events are typically more successful than those run by single small student organizations. But outdoor programming put together by the University Programming Board and Student Activities faces another problem. Weather on a fair day can increase student attendance, but fair weather does not happen in every instance.

Unplanned-for rainy days can lead to cancellation of an event, and rain dates are not always possible. Many times performers are here on contract for that day, and finding another day available may prove to be difficult.

Some events have rain dates planned or have indoor spaces ready should the weather turn foul. A general rule is that the weather at the beginning of the day affects the event taking place later on. A beautiful morning means an event will stay outside even if rain falls later in the day.

Other factors, such as additional cost to take part in an activity, affect student participation. Some events require money up front, necessary to cover operation costs and future events, which can prove to be detrimental to an activity.

Money is less of a factor with Recreational Service facilities. This is because all full-time students (12 credits or more for undergraduate and nine or more for graduate) are assessed a $30 fee on their semester bill whether or not they use the facilities. This ends up being an incentive for using the facilities; the money has already been paid so one might as well put it to use.

Frequency seems to be the deciding factor in success of a student event. The most successful program run by Student Activities is the movie theater, which runs movies several times a day every day of the week. Its success warrants a major renovation for the theater during SAC renovations. The seating capacity will expand from 150 to 250 and may feature graded seating, a larger screen and better surround-sound.

The same reason the movie theater is a success applies to Recreational Services in general. The athletic services provided, including the IBC, intra-murals and the Student Pavilion, are available from morning to night and activities take place several times each week.

When describing the use of the IBC and Student Pavilion, Young said, “They are close to saturation during peak hours.”

Daily there are 1,100 students and faculty who use the IBC — 300 to 400 from last year. Because Temple is still a commuter college, Friday and weekend numbers are lower.

Peak hours are from 3 to 7 p.m., and during this time some activities such as racquetball leave students waiting around for a court to open.

The number of students participating in other activities is less spectacular. Though the number of resident students has increased, the number of students taking up intramural activities has increased only marginally, five to 10 percent, according to Young.

Young said he wished more people would take part in intramurals, but that capacity was almost reached – as is capacity for the pools in Pearson Hall.

He said that like the problem with Student Activities, the numbers were misleading. For example, the pool for recreational use, which has six lanes, cannot hold many more than 14 people per hour. The Student Pavilion holds at most 48 people, so over the course of the day between 500 and 600 students use it.

President Peter J. Liacouras was shocked by this number; he had expected numbers greater than 1,000. But with the Pavilion broken into courts for use only for basketball, volleyball or badminton, there are limits to what it can hold.

Recreational Services also works with sports clubs, all student upstarts, which compete with clubs at other colleges and universities, but not in the varsity realm. Over the past two years, this number has grown from 11 to 14.

The new facilities the college has built over the past two years have helped the number of sports clubs grow. One factor that contributes to many clubs’ failure is the requirement of a constitution, offices and a budget that the students must put together themselves.

Participation of dorm residents appears to be on the rise, though at different levels for each dorm. This year Temple Towers residents have been more enthusiastic participants than in other years.

Donna Gray, Resident Director of Towers, cites this increase with the larger number of sophomores and juniors in the dorm. She said there are differences in other dorms, such as the Johnson and Hardwick Halls, which house new freshman. They may be new to the Philadelphia area and college life, so activities that take them off campus are usually successful.

A recent Towers bingo event turned out to be standing-room-only, but this is partly because “Towers has limited programming space,” Gray said.

Gray attributes lack of participation for some events to the workload of students living her dorm. She says many of the students in her dorm work in excess of 20 hours per week.

In the future, Gray would like to see specialized activities for her residents and new experiences for returning students. These would include an event about cooking and what to be aware of when looking at apartments off campus.

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