Student groups watch engagement

Leaders describe experience with involvement, recruitment this fall

BY MO JUENGER, World News Editor
Photo Courtesy of @xaviersac on Instagram
Student leaders from Student Activities Council, Student Government Association, various clubs and the Center for International Education have noted lower rates of involvement as well as successes this semester. Leaders cite troubles recruiting and maintaining first-years and upperclassmen.

Organizations around cam- pus have struggled to keep student involvement up during the pandemic, with some implementing new strategies to draw in first-years and others attempting just to retain the members they already had.

Current Student Government Association (SGA) Senator Patrick Finlay commented on the lack of involvement in SGA, made publicly clear through the irregularly low number of senatorial candidates for the 2021 term.

“We went home in March…with Xavier’s decisions with COVID, all that stuff with the Black Lives Matter movement, there was a lot of stuff student government would have a voice in that was kind of lost,” Finlay said. “It was really hard to have things materialized, because of the circumstances… I think a lot of people were discouraged by that.”

The high level of involvement of sitting SGA senators, Finlay noted, may correlate to a quicker burnout period. “It’s a lot of highly-involved students, and a lot of people decided there was a better use of their time,” Finlay stated, noting that he too opted not to return to a senate seat in the next term. “We had a lot of freshman (Philosophy, Politics and the Public major) senators, and early on, a lot of people sign up for a lot of things and get really excited,” Finlay continued. “But you don’t have enough time and energy,”

Even clubs that do not have to adjust much for social distancing have struggled to increase student involvement. Vice President of the Running Club Diego Pulido noted that the pandemic has exacerbated the hardships of first-year recruitment, adding
that the novelty and confusion surrounding Club Day likely lowered first-year awareness of the club.

“I would say realistically the ones who were in last year (stayed active). But in terms
of new members, it’s been disappointing to see the numbers go down,” Pulido said, noting that retention of upperclassmen has remained strong even though first-year recruitment is down. “Other than the pandemic going away, I think the best
course of action would be utilizing technology,” Pulido responded when asked how clubs could combat low student involvement. “Using social media platforms would be
the best way to attract new members.”

Student Activities Council (SAC), which host the most events on campus, has also
seen a drop in attendance. “It depends on the event,” said SAC member Mike Marchese. “Outdoor events are better attended since there is more room to distance, but indoor events can be a mixed bag with low attendance.” Marchese also noted that the restrictions on tabling have forced SAC to rely more
on paper promo. Despite the roadblocks, SAC reported 1,330 unique contacts this semester.

With international flight untenable throughout the past several months, the Center for
International Education (CIE) is leaning into its roots. Junior international student Mahnoor Zahra noted advisers within the center have helped her and many other students to wade through confusing legislation regarding travel.

She added that with travel impossible due to both the pandemic and ICE restrictions, the CIE remained open throughout the winter break to provide international students with a place for social interaction. Though the core group of international students
with close connections to the CIE has been well-retained through the fall months, the
CIE’s office in Gallagher Stu- dent Center has lacked the vibrant energy that students
claim it has had in past years.

“CIE used to be crowded. Students would come in, sit, eat and do their homework but it’s been quiet this year. And it’s kind of sad to see that, because those are the friendships that I made here,” Zahra said. “(Now,) the sense of belonging is not there.”

There has been a similar lack of casual activity noted by the staff of Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Center for Faith and Justice. Events have played no
small part in the CIE’s successful student involvement, according to Zahra.

“(At) in-person events, the turnout is much better and students enjoy it much more. But (for) the online events, it’s hard to get students. People are tired of seeing each other on Zoom all day and then seeing each other on Zoom at events,” Zahra added.