On Participitation in the Campus Community

A Look at the Symptoms of the Disease of Low Involvement

By Jéan-Claude Quintyne

It has been a common understanding for some time that motivation and willingness to be fully involved on campus is quite low. It’s an understanding at CSI that one doesn’t have to comment on to discover or learn about, because it can be felt in the atmosphere and can be seen in the demeanor of many.

It has a contagious characteristic that consists of bleak and passive-aggressive attitudes which do nothing but spit in the face of what a true, productive, and satisfying college experience is.And this atmosphere is poisonous, which, because of how infectious it is, has consequences that not only affect the college experience but the post-college experience.

Too many times have I witnessed during a lecture the hesitation on a student’s part because of a false notion that “this isn’t the big leagues, so I won’t go all out.” I ask, “Why wouldn’t you?” Why would a student not want to sharpen her skills now, when it is alright to be wrong or when it is fine to not have as fleshed out an idea as the situation demands?

At this point in our lives, in this experience, we as college students have the opportunity to make mistakes that don’t have serious consequences. We can screw up in a draft of a final paper because the professor is there to guide our thoughts. Some of us can sacrifice an hour or three of our time to go over that scientific equation that’s bugged us for a week. And we can raise our hand or speak out in class when we don’t quite agree that Kierkegaard believes that truth is subjective.

It is wild to think that you won’t break out until you’ve “made it.” We have an opportunity to find our voice and our rhythm so that once we do begin to pursue our goals after we graduate, our confidence will be strong. But campus culture as it is now stifles the potential to tap into this confidence and as long as they remain stifled, the future won’t be as bright as it can be.

One, if not the most, difficult aspect of involvement is committment. Joining a club, publication, or organization on campus will always be a great idea, but being consistent at every level may be an obstacle. It is an aspect that isn’t always the fault of the student, and said fault is unique to CSI.

Involvement here is low because this is a large campus that is in an isolated place. As serene and beautiful as it is, it can be a pain to get here. CSI is a commuter school. In spite of the fact that a number of students live on Staten Island and there are dormitories, a majority of the student body travels to campus from other boroughs.

The time it takes to get here is enough to kill motivation, and the many factors that contribute to that amplify them There’s a feeling of not wanting to work as intensely as was initially intended upon arriving to campus.So much time passes after taking a train, bus, and ferry that one’s plans can get thrown off.

There’s the thought of having to travel back home, which affects the approach that commuters have to the work they need to do on campus.

On their minds is the time the Ferry Shuttle departs, which dictates how much time is spent studying in the library or learning about the different clubs on campus.There’s this got-to-rush attitude that runs rampant and it costs campus culture dearly. Students seem to want to get in, attend their class, and get out

Regarding publications, students are the pieces that keep them alive. But when there aren’t enough staff members to get issues published consistently and on time, the magazine will go under.

I’ve seen classmates, potential colleagues enter the office, excited to join and become a part of the culture of the newspaper, attend a few meetings, and completely disappear.

When I run into them on campus after a while, I’m briefed that they either became overwhelmed with work or can’t stay on campus long enough to dedicate enough time to be an active member. While transportation is a major factor in the question of campus participation, the culture of the classroom is where a symptom of this lack of participation is explicit.

Many of us have been in a lecture where the professor asks a question which is responded to with silence. Sometimes the professor would say “good morning” to that same silence–a professor repeated herself twice one occasion.

Nobody wants to be wrong, and that’s understandable, but with regards to learning in the classroom, it is a bad way to go about developing and sharpening critical skills.The classroom is set up so that anyone who has questions–and everybody should–has them discussed. It is a wonderful platform to improve ways to think about things and gain access to a world that not many know exists.

Professors encourage this to the utmost. Everyone has been a part of a lecture where the professor goes on a rant about how important it is to develop the mind. Professors do not exist to make students feel insecure about their knowledge and abilites, they want to hone them. When our professors speak to us, beg us to visit during their office hours, and frequently open the floor during class for discussion, they are inviting us to express our thoughts.

And, contrary to popular belief, nobody will be yelled at for asking the wrong questions or stating the wrong answers. Everybody sees things in different ways, and it only boosts the learning experience to get those perspectives out in the open. As much as it is a professor’s responsibility to make learning satisfying, it also falls on the student’s shoulders to make that happen, to be consistent with it, and to have that yearning to improve.

Progress doesn’t happen when students think it’s not “cool to be smart” or it’s a waste of time to provide feedback.

Students shouldn’t be intimidated to fill out end of the semester teacher evaluation forms–nor should they think it a chore, too. Students shouldn’t toss out the surveys from Academic Advisement simply because they were already there for an hour and a half.There isn’t an excuse for complaining about sub-par service when there are opportunities to fix things, opportunities that provide the student the ability to change things with her own hands.

Often, it’s easier to not be the student that takes the initiative and sets the example for everyone else. People find it awful to be singled out and would rather hide behind the veil of that blank stare at the professor.Why would anyone want to hide with everyone else? It is only a damage to yourself to not stand out and tap into the potential that makes you unique.

The approach and that mindset should be the complete opposite. It makes for a much more comfortable and less intimidating mindset to want to share knowledge in the classroom. That drive, that desire to want and do more is what begins the process to involvement.

As long as that hesitation remains, as long as those inquiries remain in the shadows, and as long as that insecurity maintains its status as a crutch, we can expect to continue to be victims of campus’ low-morale atmosphere.


Categories: Opinion

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