By Ethan Nichols, World News Editor
Student involvement is not a new problem. The number of students participating in on campus clubs, organizations and activities plummeted during COVID-19. While those numbers have begun to rise again, clubs across campus have faced difficulty with retention and involvement.
With a number of contributing factors, Xavier’s Student Government Association (SGA) has been no stranger to struggles with student engagement and retention. This past election cycle, SGA saw only 10 students run for a total of 20 spots on the Senate and only one ticket run for the executive positions of president and vice presidents.
In March 2020, clubs and student organizations were forced to more or less shut down in-person activities due to the pandemic.
Sen. Nick Jebsen, chair of the Campus On and Off Living Committee, believes COVID-19 still plays a major factor in student involvement issues, even as restrictions have been lifted.
“I believe one of the main factors contributing to student engagement and involvement issues is COVID overlap. It’s becoming more and more irritating to blame involvement on COVID, but it is becoming more apparent that this is the case,” Jebsen said.
“Students became more accustomed to not participating in events and clubs during COVID, and now it is becoming a hard habit to break for many… We are reaping the effects, even though most all of the restrictions have been lifted,” he added.
Senators, who are elected each October with terms running from January to December each calendar year, are elected or appointed with the intention of serving a full year. Often times, that isn’t the case, though.
In the 2022 Senate term, numerous senators resigned at various points of the term. Several left for jobs, according to SGA President Ashley Findley, who served on Senate last year.
“A big reason people didn’t carry over last year, from summer to fall, was jobs when they got back to school. One of our people… got a job with the Cincinnati Reds,” Findley said.
There were seven senators who resigned mid-term last year, according to former SGA vice president and current Sen. Evan Nash.
“I believe that the reason SGA struggles with retention is a mixed bag. Many of the vacancies during our term were due to students receiving better opportunities, while some kids struggle with time management or don’t have the dedication. Ultimately, the last three years have been harder in involvement overall,” Nash said.
Findley acknowledged that many students are simply unaware of the process for running and that finding avenues to reach students is important.
“I think it’s honestly a lack of awareness. We try and push it out there as much as possible, but if people don’t know or are nervous to run. I know when I initially went to a meeting, I was like ‘Oh, a campaign budget… What am I going to be spending money on? How do I put that together?’” Findley said.
Jebsen’s proposed building a strong Board of Elections will increase student involvement and interest in SGA.
“I believe we need to refocus this year and make sure that there is a strong Board of Elections (BOE) group. Last year, I know BOE had a difficult time getting representatives to join them, and this can partially explain the lack of Senators that ran. BOE is our best route for recruiting and encouraging more senators to run near election time since there are always existing SGA members campaigning for themselves,” Jebsen said.
SGA offers a public forum at 3 p.m. on Mondays during their weekly meetings in GSC 214, which are open to all students.