Student involvement suffers at UW-River Falls
October 14, 2022
As UW-River Falls gets back into the swing of things, student involvement is still low. UWRF has struggled for the last few years with student involvement, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for students to actively participate in clubs, however, feels the same this year as the last.
Hopes were high for the 2022-2023 academic year as all gathering restrictions and mask regulations were lifted from the university. Many students have had a summer without masking and maybe even a spring semester if they were comfortable enough at the time. Many thought this time would allow students to adjust and make it easier to be active around campus.
The university currently has 4,729 undergraduate and graduate students in attendance, according to faculty senate data. This is a drastic decline compared to the 5,862 graduate and undergraduate students in the fall of 2020. Despite those numbers, the university has experienced an increase in new student enrollment, according to the UWRF newsroom.
UWRF has over 200 student organizations for current or incoming students to join, so there is no shortage of opportunity or variety. The Student Involvement Office also has its annual “pick one” campaign that takes place throughout the beginning of the year. The campaign focuses on the idea that students should “pick one” student organization to join at the beginning of the year in order for them to “find their fit.” They also frequently do student organization highlights on their Instagram story, allowing students to ask questions and repost the meeting times and dates for the various organizations.
According to the UWRF website, the university also takes $35.55 from each student per year in segregated fees that goes directly to supporting all student organizations on campus. With all of this information being available to students, we at the Student Voice think that the university’s effort in marketing student organizations is ample and not the reason student involvement is low, or at least not the main reason.
We believe that much of the issue lies within each club itself and the lasting effects of the pandemic. UWRF has more incoming students than returning students, which has caused a large gap in leadership for these clubs. Many clubs had strong, knowledgeable leaders, and because of that, many people actively participated in student organizations before the pandemic hit.
Those who had been in the club for many years had become leaders and then graduated, leaving about a two-year gap and less experienced leaders. Many organizations themselves were not running at full capacity or had taken a break altogether when COVID happened, which could lead to a lack of knowledge about the organization for incoming students.
Another reason could be that the pandemic changed students' personalities. According to an news story titled “Did the Pandemic Change Our Personalities,” by CBS Minnesota, a personality survey that sought to measure the change in people’s ability to connect with others and trust others, came to the conclusion that young people are the ones most affected by the pandemic.
The pandemic created a situation where student organizations are left with less knowledgeable leadership and students whose personalities could have easily changed over the course of two years and become less social. UWRF has lots of potential with the number of incoming students but its marketing strategy might have to change to show to students why being involved is worth their time.