Is involvement fair?

Jonas DoerrOpinions Writer

There was a lot on the table Tuesday evening. Or maybe I should say, there was a lot on the tables. An overwhelming amount on the tables. Organizations covered dozens of tables in front of the campus center with their various poster boards and stockpiles of candy, trying to persuade new and old Gusties to pick up a new activity.

It was, perhaps, an overwhelming occasion. One could hardly enjoy a leisurely stroll down the sidewalk without being treated to a recruiting pitch worthy of a D1 football coach. Of course, mild-mannered Gusties for the most part had a hard time saying no, so they either gave away their email like a hacker with your password or they gave the age-old rebuttal, “Maybe later!”

Is it really right to allow this sort of pressure on innocent extracurricular participants? Maybe the massive email lists aren’t a huge problem, aside from the miniscule environmental impact, but should Gusties be peer-pressured into giving away their precious free time? For the sake of such unimportant things as making fresh friends and trying new activities?

It certainly is difficult to turn down an ardent recruiter. I myself had quite a few close calls. Without naming any booths, I will admit it was difficult to avoid the tempting siren calls of, “We have candy…” Was it really worth a Kit-Kat to give away my email?


Maybe it should be considered as more of a business transaction; I have something the org wants, and the org has candy that I want. In that case, it’s less of selling my soul and more just selling my personal information, which plenty of people online have anyways.

In that case, is it entirely permissible to allow this pressure on people to join organizations? In some instances, it is definitely good to be able to join more groups than one can possibly hope to attend.

Many attendees of the Involvement Fair gave their email addresses away to at least ten organizations. Is it plausible to go to that many events, excluding the possibility of having robot clones that can go in your place? I don’t have clones (yet), so it’s not possible for me.

However, that large batch of “involvement” comes with some perks. First of all, my inbox is constantly populated by all the org leaders that obviously love me a lot, to send me so many emails. I feel supported by all the mail I get.

Secondly, I get lots of choices of which organizations I can go to. It would probably be rude to leave the organizations entirely hanging in the middle of the year, but at the start of the semester having lots of options means one can arrange their schedule to fit together like socks in a sock drawer.

Being in lots of organizations is fantastic. It gives Gusties opportunities to meet new people who could turn into lifelong friends or important business connections to extort – ahem, I mean network with – for success in the future.

Also, that participation allows folks to try new things and get out of their dorm rooms. It’s easy to stay in one’s comfort zone, but adventuring with new activities is a great way to grow (mentally, of course – I can’t help you vertically).

However, there are lurking dangers behind the glowing appeal of involvement. It’s very easy to overcommit. An activity or class that takes up an hour on the schedule might in reality become two or three hours of commitment when unexpected assignments appear.

A glorious Google calendar might seem like a canvas to paint full of the colors of involvement, but it’s important to leave more than a few empty spots. Random things like meals or checking all those emails you’re getting now start to fill in the gaps, and you could be left with almost no time for friends, family, or relaxing. Add in work shifts, and it might be too much.

While busyness might look best on a resume, those activities aren’t always the most meaningful. The times you will remember will often be unplanned silliness or sporadic explorations. Think about what you’ll forget about in a year, and ask yourself whether you have a good reason to keep that in your schedule.

Involvement on campus is clearly not a question of just fair or unfair. It’s a complex web of personal schedules, habits, and needs. One can easily have far too much, but one could almost as easily have too little. It would be fair to say that the Involvement Fair is fairly good for all involved, and its intent is pure – to help Gustavus students fare well. 

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