Enrollment one factor causing lower student involvement

Brooke Schwartz, Administration Reporter

With student enrollment down, Eastern has seen a trend of low student involvement that has been plaguing the campus for the past couple of years.

Student Body President Luke Young said lower enrollment has had a massive effect on the number of students involved in student government and many other organizations.

“I think as enrollment goes up, involvement will go up because I think more people equals more energy equals more excitement and less apathy,” Young said. “I think higher enrollment of students that are going to come and be on campus, that is going to drive a lot of different things.”

Ceci Brinker, the director of student life, said she has noticed a downward trend in involvement in most areas, such as student government, multicultural organizations and student programming. This has led to the students who actually are involved stretching themselves out to fill the gaps in many organizations.

“In terms of enrollment, you’re actually finding yourself sharing a lot of the same student leaders, which pulls them into three or four different directions,” Brinker said. “When there were more students as far as enrollment, students had more options and they were less likely to overlap in so many other areas because there were enough things they were engaged in that did not require them to be in several areas across the board.”

Another factor influencing this trend is the number of students who have had to spend the time they would have spent in an organization at a job in order to provide for themselves, Brinker said.

Beth Gillespie, the interim director of civic engagement and volunteerism, said student involvement in her office has stayed consistent over the years and has not been hit by lower enrollment. Students are still averaging eight hours of service per semester.

Gillespie said this dedication to volunteering is shown to be generational.

“I think the reason that we haven’t seen (the downward trend) so much is because statistics show that (this) generation is one that values getting involved and volunteering,” Gillespie said. “(This generation) has gone through school with the expectations to volunteer, so it’s been part of (their) educational process for a long time, which it was not when I went to school.”

Brinker, Gillespie and Young said they agreed that being involved helps build students’ résumés and connections on campus, as well as their leadership skills.

Alyssa Nichols, a junior accounting major, is a part of Delta Sigma Pi, the Student Accounting Society and Beta Alpha Psi.  Nichols said she got involved to meet people.

“I’m a transfer student, so this is my first semester here and I didn’t know anyone, so it’s kind of (a way for me to) connect with people in the School of Business and throughout the campus,” Nichols said.

Allison Behnke, a sophomore special education major as well as a member of a sorority, said everyone should try to get involved with something on campus.

“There are so many different clubs and organizations here, there’s bound to be something you like,” Behnke said.

Young said being busy should not be an excuse for students to not try an organization out.

“I know a big concern is ‘oh, I might be a little busy,’ but that’s kind of the great thing about college,” Young said. “You’re busy, it can be stressful at times, but I would tell people you’d rather look back on college and say, ‘I gave it all that I had, and I gained a lot of really cool experiences and was a little stressed’ then to look back and say ‘I didn’t do that and I really wish I would’ve.’”

Brinker said getting involved is a chance for students to leave their marks on the university.

“I think students need to make the most of their opportunities while they’re here, because these are their college years, make the most of that,” Brinker said. “If you’re going to be here, getting involved gives you the opportunity to not only make an impact, but you also have an opportunity to leave a legacy and leave something here for others to remember.”

Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].