Monday, November 24, 2014
Last updated: 10 mins ago

Katic: UBC’s response to the “get involved” problem

Geoff Lister/The Ubyssey

I work in a rather peculiar place called the Centre for Student Involvement (more commonly known by its unfortunate acronym, the “CSI”).

It’s not peculiar for what it is — a place to find some inspiring students, a tremendous cast of supportive staff, and important supplies for campus clubs and initiatives — but for what it’s not.

You might know a lot of “involved” students, like those in the Greek system, CiTR, UBC REC, the Ski and Board Club, the Chinese Varsity Club, or any number of the 300 or so AMS clubs. But to most of them, uttering the words CSI will elicit only one sort of reaction: “It’s derivative. David Caruso is undoubtedly cool, but aren’t we over procedural crime dramas?”

If you are not involved with one of UBC’s house brand initiatives — the Student Leadership Conference, Imagine Day, Orientations, the Terry Project (where I work), etc. — when was the last time you set foot in this centre? Granted, it was never meant to be the Centre of Student Involvement, but neither was it meant to be an obscure periphery.

Everyone says they would like to make a vibrant campus of this quiet commuter school, and the Centre for Student Involvement is UBC’s million-dollar effort at doing just that. Therein lies the peculiarity of it; how could such a resource be so under-utilized?

Perhaps the easier way to answer this question is to ask another: What do students actually need if they are to be involved in their campus community?

They need to learn a lot in a short four years. I needed to learn how to work collaboratively with a team, how to chair a meeting, how to speak in public and to media, how to transition to an incoming executive and how to promote events on campus. Additionally, I needed a patient friend to walk me through what the AMS actually does, and a wise one that could tell me how to get faculty, staff and students to support my initiatives.

After four years, I have learned these things, but now I’m graduating. Fortunately, the Centre for Student Involvement will still be here. It should focus more on providing this sort of support and guidance, using its expertise to teach incoming students what it took me so long to learn.

There are signs that they are moving in this direction. Staff are looking at building workshops and online resources (“chairing an effective meeting”, “how to obtain sponsorship” and “how to transition,” are all subjects being floated around). Most encouragingly, they are partnering with the AMS and seeking out campus clubs to lead this workshop program. When clubs were surveyed, a vast majority responded “yes” or “maybe” when asked if they would participate (less than 10 per cent said they would not).

This is a welcoming step towards broadening the reach of the Centre for Student Involvement and providing student initiatives the support they need. We should demand nothing less from a university that so routinely implores us to “get involved.”