Note: “Student speaks” is an ongoing column in which current’s editor Grace Olson will write about on and off-campus student suggested issues.
Joining a student club or organization is a great way for students to be involved and an important part of the college experience, Jordan Blue, a third year special education student, said. But this year clubs are struggling to obtain new members and retain past members, he said.
Blue, president of the bowling club and vice president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, said he has to do a lot of recruitment work to get students interested in these organizations.
“Pre-COVID I was really able to dig in and start getting people interested, and then COVID came and kind of distorted everything,” Blue said. “I feel like a lot of students, because of COVID, have realized ‘I really don’t need to be involved, but it’s such a crucial part of college.”
Blue said it’s been difficult to gain membership this past year; college students are not seeing a place for being in an organization, which has made it difficult to get people interested.
He said this has been difficult because clubs and organizations don’t necessarily know why people aren’t joining.
“Is it because it takes up too much time? Because there are other student orgs that are meeting at the same time?” Blue said.
Jimmy Smith, a third year psychology student, said he has seen difficulties in getting students to join Greek life as well.
Smith is in Delta Tau Delta and Order of Omega, he said normally between the three chapters there are usually about 30 new participants, but this year they only saw about 10.
Smith said retention has been a large issue too. He said they have lost about 10 people either due to issues related to COVID-19 or financial obligations.
There has also been an issue in social life, Smith said. When he lived in the dorms his first year, that experience was very involved. Whether students were hanging out in the lobby or in each other’s rooms, there was always something social happening, Smith said.
Smith also lived in the dorms last year which was very restrictive and he didn’t talk to anyone on his floor, he said.
“I’m sure it’s similar this year, so it’s hard to reach them,” Smith said. “They don’t get to experience things like in the past.”
He said he feels students probably aren’t inspired to join simply because they don’t know what’s going on or what is offered to them.
Similarly, Blue said, it’s hard to have a social aspect to student organizations because they haven’t been able to have many social events in-person, instead they have been held over Zoom.
Blue said it’s been difficult to navigate these struggles in a world of COVID-19 and said he believes if there were some resources to help with that navigation, organizations may have more luck in obtaining new students, and retaining past members.
He also said he feels as though many students don’t want to spend more time on campus than they need to, or there are other opportunities off campus, which plays into the struggle of recruiting new members.
The university has been doing a great job at promoting clubs, Blue said, but he thinks if there were less restrictions on where clubs could go, that may help too.
For example, Blue said digital flyers can only be up for seven days, but some students aren’t on campus every day of the week and won’t see them.
Smith said it would be helpful to clubs and organizations if they were able to hold more events indoors — especially as the weather continues to get colder — to reach more students and include that social aspect of clubs once again.
To learn more about student clubs and organizations visit UW-Eau Claire’s Blugold Connect website here.
Olson can be reached at [email protected]