Student Apathy

Rachel Healy and Caitlin Maloney

Departments and organizations across the University host many activities for students daily, including philanthropy events, educational and cultural offerings, service learning opportunities, class or peer bonding events, and recreational activities. Only a small portion of the student body regularly attends these events. The question surfaces–what does this mean for our student body? Does this reflect a lack of student involvement on campus? Does it mean that students are unengaged with student life? Are there too many events offered for us all to participate in?

By interviewing different students, conducting a survey, and speaking with the cultural center on campus, a conversation has been started. The following article offers perspectives on topics pertaining to student engagement from students, student leaders, organizations on campus, faculty, and staff.

Topic 1: Event Publicity

The perspectives:

  • “I hear so often that students didn’t know something was happening, or they didn’t know that was an option for them. One reactive way to solution that obviously would be to promote options and opportunities for engagement more. However, I also think that addressing this requires a much stronger cultural change in which all students and members of the Bucknell community take personal responsibility for exploring what Bucknell and the community has to offer and making informed engagement decisions as a result. This does not imply that the responsibility falls solely on each individual student, but promotion only works if people are listening,” Assistant Director of Campus Activities and Programs Chelsea Brown said.

Topic 2: Students are typically too busy with academics.

The perspectives:

  • “It is an issue of time. I am very thorough with my work and I am always a student first. The events are always interesting and engaging but if I have a large project or assignment that I want to do and still sleep, then I wouldn’t go. It’s not that my time management is poor, it’s just the college work load, and my other commitments really offer me small windows of repose,” Bwalya Mwaba ’16 said.
  • “Bucknellians tend to be very compartmentalized. We exceed in our academic realm and we exceed in our social realm. Oftentimes, these two realms overshadow time that we could have spent engaging in other activities. We can fix this by prioritizing extracurricular activities and allocating time for things that we are passionate about,” Bucknell Student Government (BSG) President Alex Rosen ’16 said.
  • “I am involved … at times it depends on my work load,” Fatima Arabzada ’16 said.

Topic 3: Required attendance.

The perspectives:

  • “I would like to see more athletes and first-years at non-required events (i.e., coming to an event not just because a coach required you to, or attending because it is an FYIS credit). I just don’t think we see them being represented enough at different events as much as other groups on campus,” Kortney Marshall ’16 said.
  • “I want people to get involved because they want to and because they find those certain things interesting, not just for the sake of getting ‘involved.’ People should really explore the different clubs and activities that this campus offers and get involved in things that really interest them, they shouldn’t let other people’s interests hinder their participation in something that they are really passionate about,” Meghan Belinsky ’18 said.

Topic 4: Characterizing student involvement.

The perspectives:

  • “From personal experience, it seems as though I work with the same students in various campus capacities. These students tend to hold the majority of the leadership positions and are genuinely passionate about their engagement. While it is nice to work closely with these students, I believe that we are missing a large majority of the student population,” Rosen said.
  • “I think overall a small proportion of students are very engaged, and then most others are either only involved in their Greek organization or sports team,” Quinn Flaks ’17 said.
  • “The level of involvement only grows from freshman year as students increase their awareness of resources, events, and organizations on campus. It also grows so much from freshman year because students are finding themselves: their academic interests, passions, career paths, and core values. So many of my peers inspire me: they are leaders; they are scholars; they are doing research; they are always in the library; and they still manage to find time to exercise, eat healthy, and join social organizations and attend social events,” Amanda Battle ’18 said. 

Topic 5: Lack of engagement.

The perspectives:

  • “Overall, students seem to be involved, but there does seem to be a hesitation amongst first-years to delay getting involved because they do not think it is socially ‘in’ or don’t know which activities are considered ‘good,’” Caldwell Harden ’19 said.
  • “I think that overall, student engagement could be better,” Rosalie Goldberg ’18 said.
  • “Unfortunately, students are not actively involved in many of the school sponsored activities. However, this may be offset by the multitude of clubs on campus which every student seems to find their niche in,” Adam Drake ’17 said.
  • “We have strong student engagement but not necessarily always in the ways that we want student engagement; a lot of it is with clubs and organizations that they are a part of,” Director of Campus Activities and Programs Mike Duignan said.

Topic 6: Importance of campus events.

The perspectives:

  • “I feel that our campus has a lot more potential than we represent. I enjoy hearing about different perspectives on different issues (good or bad). With a better perspective, we can all understand better and have more respect for others. We need change in the realms of sexual assault, racism, classism, sexism … acceptance and equality of all people. We need more leadership from everyone as individuals and as a collective whole on campus,” Anthony Marcozzi ’16 said.
  • “I think it is important for us to appreciate what a special position we are in as Bucknell students–we don’t go to huge public school with 25,000 students so it is possible for us to have a close-knit community that engages in meaningful discussion, while it is still large enough for us to meet new people and learn something new about our community every day. Increasing awareness of the extraordinary opportunities we have to learn from each other and encouraging students to be accountable for their level of involvement in the Bucknell community might help unengaged students find the motivation to become more engaged,” Ellie Fraser ’16 said.
  • “I sympathize with students, they have a lot to do, there’s a lot going on, they have a lot to choose from. We do, of course, wish that they would be interested in events that are available to them and come of their own volition. Our role here is to plant a seed that will flower later in the students’ lives. Ten years down the road, when they’re out in the world deciding what they want to do with their time and how they’re going to entertain themselves, they remember: ‘Oh yeah I had to attend this poetry reading when I was in college, but now as an adult that’s something I like to do because I had to do that in college.’ That’s really at the heart of what we do here,” Program Manager of Stadler Center for Poetry Andrew Ciotola said.

Topic 7: Changing student involvement.

The perspectives:

  • “I would like to see more student involvement from the men on campus. I feel like the women are dominating the campus events, clubs, organizations, etc., while the men are involved in much less. From BSG to charity clubs to ACE–they’re all run by female students! Where are the men?” Emma Miller ’16 said.
  • “Engagement is high, but visibility isn’t high enough for first-year and transfer students. Many students miss out on chances to build community. If they could build community, they would be happier, get better grades, and be less likely to transfer,” Jared Feindt ’16 said.
  • “Bucknell spirit can be a little intimidating to those students who are not extroverted. Also, student involvement should include more diverse perspectives. Regardless of race or sexual orientation, everyone should feel welcomed to be involved in Bucknell community,” Jae Lee ’19 said.

Concluding paragraph: In most of the interviews conducted, the consensus is that the majority of students are engaged in some way on campus–academically, athletically, socially, or through extracurricular activities–and many of those who are not involved in campus events and activities have prior academic commitments that trump extracurricular activities. There is a general agreement that certain groups participate in campus events more frequently than other groups, and that involvement tends to increase with class year. Involvement on campus is important in connecting the campus community, developing our passions as young adults, and furthering the learning process outside of the classroom. While these interviews and the survey have helped to serve as a litmus test for a generalized opinion toward student engagement, they are by no means representative of every University student. Between classes, work, extracurricular activities, and other commitments, students are busy. Still, it is up to the students to shed their apathy and engage more passionately in campus events.

Comments from the student engagement survey in answer to the open-ended question: What do you think of student engagement at the University?

“I think it could be better. I honestly don’t like how students need to be bribed with food, FYIS credit, points, etc. to go to events. I would much prefer students attend lectures, concerts, or any other campus events because they want to. I think students are more interested in partying and drinking than other types of social activities.”

“I think it could be more collaborative but overall Bucknell provides many diverse activities for students and the community to participate in.”

“I wish more kinds of people would go. It seems that the same people go to campus events.”

“It appears to be lacking overall. Plenty of people are very involved with different organizations on campus and are very passionate about said activities but as for generating school-wide interest in programs/groups we aren’t doing a great job. It appears that those who attend many events are because they are part of the organization running it, it is mandatory, or they have a friend running an event. School spirit for sports teams is also very lackluster.”

“I believe students are overcommitted and overinvolved. When students find something they are passionate about, it is hard to get other students to be passionate about it as well. This is because the other students are already involved and/or passionate about something else. It’s a cycle and trend.”

“Good, but sometimes events are scheduled at inconvenient times and students don’t want to go even if they support something because of time and/or location.”

“Bucknell’s culture is highly conducive to involvement across a spectrum of groups, clubs, and activities.”

“It’s great–there’s something for everyone!”

“I think there is student involvement but not engagement. Students go to events but very few are inherently passionate.”

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