I’d like to start this article off by stating that I attend an institution of only about 13,000 students. Having said that, I don’t know how student initiative is at larger institutions but from general observation I can tell that there is not stagnation of life on those larger campuses, so initiative is not an issue. For anyone out there who attends or teaches at a smaller institution, I hope this serves as an inspiration for you, your students, and whomever needs a little kick to achieve what they know they can.
It wasn’t until about two or three weeks ago that the posts online about the campus being dead started to annoy me. I had gone three & a half years without paying it any mind, having been too focused with myself and keeping my grades up. Seeing posts on Facebook saying things like, “I wish I could get those first two mediocre years of my life back,” and “This school is so dead,” killed me. I thought to myself, “Ethan, you’ve gone here for almost four years now, and you’ve never had nothing to do.” That’s when I started to realize that while the school had many clubs and organizations students could join, there really wasn’t a lot that was cheap and fun to do out in the community except go to bars and drink, watch movies and occasionally get a bowling special.
At that point, I committed myself to making my campus as well as my community more student friendly and more active, although I wondered why it had taken so long for anybody to think the way I had. In my head I imagined the whole street on the University of Florida’s Gainesville campus dedicated to stuff for students and non-students to eat and do and couldn’t imagine how we didn’t have something similar by now. I realized shortly after that, that it may not have been anyone’s oversight, but a lack of initiative on behalf of someone who could’ve done it before me that might be the reason my school is as dead as it is.
A lot of upper-level administrators at small institutions will try to blame lack of funding for activity centers like this, but I can assure you that isn’t the case. There are several methods of raising money, some evolving and some time-tested, and the money is out there, but if graduates and driven upperclassmen of those small institutions decided to pool their energy and their drive to create a vibrant campus that students want to go to, there would be activity centers like the one at the University of Florida.
Student body initiative is what makes a campus alive. It is what creates a fun environment, a party school, higher retention rates, a school that is more active in the community than the occasional donation or involvement in Habitat For Humanity.
If you haven’t already, ask yourself how you feel about your school. Do you feel proud to attend it? Are you proud of what it has to offer academically? How’s your campus social scene? How can your school be improved? If after all those questions you come to the conclusion that your campus is awesome and can’t be improved any more, then good for you. If you find that there isn’t quite enough to do on a Saturday night except party and possibly get arrested or play video games, ask yourself if you want to be the change you wish to see in your school. Ask yourself if your school needs you or someone like you. Once you’ve figured out the answers to those questions, go and ask as many questions as possible to your faculty and administration. Be a driven individual, and create positive change at your school. If nothing else comes of your efforts, you’ve most certainly networked enough that your community is familiar with you and you wont have much trouble finding a job, or creating one of your own.