By Andrew Devine, Contributing Writer
It seems that campus has been quiet this year. For the better part of the 2016-2017 school year, it appears that student involvement in campus activities has been on the decline. While some groups have shown success, several clubs, organizations, events, and programs in general have been counting fewer attendees than expected or hoped for.
This trend was first noticed by Flyer staff when it was announced that the Humans versus Zombies (HVZ) game, run by the UMF Table Gaming Club, would be postponed due to low registration of players.
Lukas Kenison, a member of the Table Gaming Club (TGC), shared his perspective after tabling for HVZ registration over the past several weeks. “With the Table Gaming Club it is very much an issue of lack of PR and getting people out here,” said Kenison. “People don’t know what HVZ is so they don’t get involved.”
According to Kenison a game of HVZ requires at least 30 players. With only 11 students signed up, TGC had to temporarily postpone the game. However, following the postponement the club was able to garner enough interest to hold a game last week of about 30 players, according to participant Joseph Needle.
Similarly, a problem has surfaced with the Campus Residence Council (CRC). The student representative group for on-campus residents has had information posted regarding open positions for the various residence halls most of the school year. However, the billings show that there are still a number of open positions in most, if not all, residence halls on campus.
Club president Ben Rodriguez weighed in. “There’s difficulty in recruitment for positions because of students’ awareness of CRC, what the organization is and what it does,” said Rodriguez, adding that he believes misconceptions about the time commitment involved may be a factor.
Rodriguez continued, “It’s also difficult to reach out to people in the second semester of the school year since it’s more difficult to add something new to your routine, such as CRC or a new club. I think most clubs and organizations see that challenge at some point but it makes it worth it to see your group succeed.”
Another organization struggling with low attendance is the Association for Campus Entertainment, also known as ACE. Marisa Getchell, treasurer of ACE, wrote in an online interview, “I’d definitely say that attendance has been down this semester and this year, both in terms of club members and in the campus population coming to events that we host/sponsor.”
Getchell suggested that a supposed change in the commuter population may explain the decline. “I’ve also seen an increase of commuters and people who work outside of campus, so their time here is being divided a lot.”
Cody Smith, president of the Commuter Council, reported that while it’s fairly common that students move off campus after their first or second year, this trend has not increased significantly this year. Getchell’s hypothesis may not be far off, but it seems that the numbers don’t exactly show that there are necessarily more students away from campus.
President of Student Senate Jamie Austin also commented on the apparently declining student involvement patterns. “In a lot of clubs, people are just worn out, not wanting to keep involved. Senate itself had a hard time recruiting people for fundraising and volunteer events.”
However, these trends do not reflect across all campus activities. Certain organizations are finding a greater, or at least steady, number of attendees and participants this school year.
For example, Kenison, also a member of the Computer Club, reported that the membership of that group has been steady.
Mainely Outdoors has also been performing well this year according to staffer Robbie Knowles. “We seem to get more and more people to come out to events even when we don’t anticipate it,” said Knowles in a phone interview. “Even in the winter, we get people who want to hike or cross country-ski, surprisingly.”
What are these clubs that are succeeding doing differently from the organizations struggling with declining membership? What can each group do to encourage a better turn-out? These are questions that returning club leaders might keep in mind over the summer as they gear up for member recruitment next fall.