I’m going to discuss the problem with student engagement at UTA The Shorthorn mentioned in this article about lack of school spirit.
First off, yes, I would agree that more involvement would be a beautiful thing! As one who got involved at the start, I have found my college experience to be as enriching as it is exhausting. I have become a better person in large part due to the organizations I joined.
Why is it that no one is getting involved? I'm going to play devil's advocate for a minute. Let’s start with sports. According to the article, 85 percent of the student population commutes. If they want more attendance, they should really reach out to them. Why is it that dorm students have access to all home sporting events for free, but commuter students are charged $3 per game? Are not all UTA students? Not to mention, parking at those sporting events can be a nightmare. If UT Arlington wants more students at its games, give the commuters free tickets to start. We can make that money back through merchandise sales and by selling tickets to the greater Arlington community.
Now, let’s talk about the lack of involvement in student organizations. I think there are a few reasons for this. A big reason commuters are “ignoring engagement opportunities available to them” is because commuters tend to have other things to worry about. We have jobs to work so that we can pay for gas, books, the constantly rising tuition. We have families to help take care of. We have atrocious amounts of homework to get finished. That is just a fact of life, and if we want more engagement, we should figure out how to reach these people. Additional financial assistance programs for commuters would be a start.
Finally, I also believe it’s the tone of the people telling us to get involved that is off-putting. Picture yourself as an uninvolved student. Everywhere you look, you see posters, videos, Snapchats of people telling you the same two things:
1) Diversity is what makes us great (ironically enough, said by the same small group of people who seem to star in all of these sort of things).
2) Get involved to make yourself great.
This gets really old.
Could it be that people who are “uninvolved” might see the “involved” people as an exclusive clique that comes across as superficial and aloof? They (the involved) need to remember that they are UTA students, as well. Take off the uniform, stop making cheesy videos and go out and talk to people as students. Share your story and listen to theirs. That’s how we grow our community. That’s how we make UTA a home for us all.