Point/Counterpoint | Should UI students participate in student organizations?
Opinions columnist Chris Klepch and Yasmina Sahir on student organizations.
April 11, 2023
Student organizations are an important part of social and emotional development of young adults. Engagement in student organizations and activities can further develop self-awareness, self-management, and foster empathetic connections with others.
I recognize a few downsides to the number of student organizations on UI campus, especially in how resume building opportunities appear to drive these numbers more often than personal desire to assist in community development.
But that doesn’t outweigh the positive impact organizational memberships can have on socioemotional development for college students.
Campus organizations are spaces where students are encouraged to be themselves, make potential mistakes, miss deadlines, and use their experiences to grow in a supportive environment.
Some of my peers have mentioned the issue of over committing when they’re pressured to be involved. When classroom work increases and time feels like it’s running out, it may feel like there is no other option than to drop a commitment or two.
In my experience, many student organizations welcome conversations about needing some time. In spaces run by others who may be struggling with work-life balance, I have never had an organization tell me that stepping back isn’t an option or that there won’t be space for me when I feel ready to return.
From sports and wellness focused organizations to cultural, religious, or political groups, there is space for everyone in an organization on UI campus if students choose to seek out those opportunities.
Student organizations don’t foster a community. They divide the student base through institutionalization.
While student organizations can bring a sense of community to students, oftentimes this creates a problem for students with social anxiety to feel that they can fit in. When there are a lot of different student cliques, it can become overwhelming to attempt to fit in with the rest of the crowd.
Many student organizations also require funding in some part from students, or at least, investment from students to fully participate in their group, which becomes a logistic that may leave those who join the organizations left out.
Some student organizations promote themselves as good job experience for the real world. But resources to help students succeed in life should be available to students from the outside. Additionally, student organizations require a time investment to reach these opportunities.
This allows for the attitude of earning one’s way to an advantageous position in society when it all comes down to knowing the right person. Thus, the problem of alienation goes beyond how many people someone can know around campus. Shouldn’t success be valued on the effort someone makes, and not on the luck of knowing the name of a different person of repute?
If you want to assist the community, seek ways to increase the benefit toward those outside of your set social circle to see how many people the campus community really has that can benefit from your resources — both formal and informal.