Challenges of Post-Pandemic Campus Involvement

Sydney McKay, Copy Editor, Contributing Writer

The return of students to campus marks a major milestone in the return to normalcy. While in-person events are being held, student involvement has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. Campus organizations face a number of challenges in attracting new members this semester.

Brandon S. Mathieu, Associate Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life, offered some insightful reasons as to why this might be.

“We actually have a number of organizations that currently have low membership. The reason(s) for this vary by organization. For example, some organizations cycled out/graduated a large Senior class this past May which leaves the organization returning to campus this semester with low membership.”

Both Greek Life and other student-run clubs have taken a hit in membership due to last year’s graduation. The expectation has always been that the incoming wave of new students would boost those numbers right back up, especially with in-person events returning. Although it is still early in the year, organizations have not seen a spike in membership that comes with a new semester.

Mathieu remarked that with Greek Life specifically, brand recognition can be a challenge for them during recruitment. Since local organizations are so, “Specific to their host institution [they] wouldn’t necessarily have that same networking experience because, again, they only exist at their host institution.” says Mathieu.

Greek Life recently hosted Circle of Greeks, an event used to help fraternities and sororities promote their ‘brand’. The Campus Involvement Fair held earlier in the month was meant to do the same for clubs. So why hasn’t involvement gone up?

The lingering effects of COVID-19 may be blamed for that.

“Of course, the impacts of COVID-19 over the last year and a half also played a role in organizations struggling to recruit new members as there were just limited opportunities for in-person activities/events/programs, and a lot of people were Zoom fatigued so virtual events/activities/programs weren’t as interesting/desirable,” Mathieu adds.

COVID-19 has left many students unsure of how to navigate this modified in-person environment. The idea of participating in more Zoom events is too exhausting to contemplate. Yet the threat to personal safety may still be too great for some people to feel comfortable attending large events.

Another, perhaps less obvious reason that student involvement is still down, is the social anxiety associated with being out in public. Per CDC guidelines, individuals have been told to limit social interactions for the last year and a half. Due to this uncertainty, in-person events can feel intimidating for all students.