Alternative Breaks, SGA and other groups seeing lower student engagement
By Mo Juenger, Staff Writer
Student involvement is drastically decreasing this academic year, and organizations around campus are seeing fewer applications to previously high-interest programs.
Before reopening their application portal, Alternative Breaks (AB), which typically sends more than 250 students on immersive social justice based experiences during spring and fall break each year had half the number of student applications compared to last year.
Financial Chair for AB and junior Kelly DeLano expressed disappointment with the turnout, noting low student application numbers indicate the program may not be able to offer the total number of experiences planned.
“Last year, we didn’t have to reopen applications at all, and we had a bunch of people on the waitlist,” DeLano said. “This year, we might have to end up cutting experiences if we don’t have enough people. We can’t send four students on an experience.”
As of last Friday, approximately 15 students had applied to be a part of the Student Government Association’s (SGA) student Senate after the deadline for applications had been extended. Previous years have seen up to 30 applicants, and the typical number of applicants is around 20, the amount needed to fill Senate seats.
“Office of Student Involvement (OSI) sent an email targeting every eligible student, so if you were a first-year, sophomore or junior with no conduct (referrals), you received an email with the Senate flyer,” SGA Vice President Alfredo Mercedes said. “That was sent out to 2,000 students.”
SGA Board of Elections Chair and senior Miles Tiemeyer remarked that Senate may not have a full ballot in the upcoming SGA elections.
Student government applications closed last Friday and AB closed last Saturday. These low application numbers could lead to major program updates across campus in coming years.
Tiemeyer is also the co-chair for Community Action Day (CAD), a semesterly day of service in the Cincinnati community, and noted another instance of low student involvement during fall CAD.
“We had room for 375 students. Our goal was at least 300, and we had around 225 students. That’s not typical for the fall,” Tiemeyer said. “I know it’s more of a symptom of an overall campus cause, but it’s a little disappointing.”
While this overall campus cause has affected various groups on campus, some believe it can be correlated to generational differences between upperclassmen and underclassmen.
Assistant Director of Leadership and Activities at OSI Deb Ayoade discussed student impartiality and suggested a change in programming could be necessary to increase involvement this year.
“College generations change, probably every two years. As older students move out and newer students come in, they just have different interests,” Ayoade said. “We need to be more critical about what we’re offering students and see if it still meets the needs of the students now as well as it met it two years ago.”
President of the Hispanic Organization for Latinx Awareness (HOLA) and junior Julian Razo also spoke about how the trend has affected HOLA. He shared a similar perspective on raising awareness and maintaining interest for student groups across campus, adding that the inclusion of more leadership roles could create incentive for first-years to become more involved.
“I believe that, in order for us to increase the amount of students that are getting involved at Xavier, we should implement different organizations that are more interesting to students,” Razo said. “If we’re able to integrate different leadership roles in different organizations, that will increase student involvement.”
In contrast, some recently formed organizations such as Xavier Socialists are growing. Xavier Socialists Vice President junior Grayson Walker believes that student interest in the club is correlated to the current relevance of democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sander’s role in the 2020 presidential election.
SGA Vice President Desmond Varner believes a possible solution to student’s lack of involvement lies in the hands of current student leaders.
“There’s been such a difficulty in getting underclassmen to apply for leadership positions,” he said, “and we, as upperclassmen, have a responsibility to better pass the baton.”
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