When GW’s student organizations held a recruitment fair in the Marvin Center Tuesday night, they reached out to hundreds of freshmen to join their groups.
Organization leaders realized, however, that a large number of the prospective members they were trying to attract would attend a couple of meetings and move on to their next big interest.
Every fall, student organizations face the same problem: while their first general body meeting may be the largest of the year, many freshmen who have signed up for multiple organizations ultimately choose not to continue with the majority of the groups they initially signed up to join.
Two summers ago at Colonial Inauguration, the Generic Theater Company had 140 prospective freshmen sign up for the organization. Only five remain active participants.
“Usually within the first month we lose about half (of them),” said junior Cara Chute, public relations director for the Generic Theater Company.
“When they don’t get called back and don’t get cast, they get frustrated and decide it’s not worth their time,” Chute added. “It’s a problem when we’re counting on them to get involved, and they are not responsive or receptive to anything that’s going on.”
Student Association President Audai Shakour has vowed to not only get as many freshmen on campus involved as possible, but to keep them involved as well. Shakour’s House of Freshmen initiative recruited members of the class of 2009 at Colonial Inauguration for the SA and will teach prospective members how to become involved on campus.
“When they take on leadership positions, they will be fully equipped to navigate the system better than most GW students,” Shakour said.
Shakour said he can relate to freshmen that lose interest in organizations during their freshman year.
“I signed up for like 10 organizations, I only went to two, and I continued one,” Shakour said.
Freshman Shameek Patel said he was excited to attend the student organization fair at this summer’s Colonial Inauguration, and signed up with multiple student organizations.
“I put my name down on the mailing list for about 10 to 15 student organizations,” Patel said. “I’m going to attend the meetings for as many of those that I can and see if I’m interested.”
Patel said he realizes he will not continue working with every organization he signed up with, but he still wants to sign up with all the groups that interest him.
“Joining a whole bunch of clubs is a good way of meeting people,” Patel said.
Some other freshmen said they will attempt to budget their time and only commit to organizations they feel strongly about.
“I’m trying to limit it to a few ones, so that I’m not overbooked with classes,” said freshman Molly Curtis, who signed up for multiple student organizations but plans on only staying active in Voices for Choices and the College Democrats.
Student leaders have come to expect that the large influx of freshmen does not equate to active involvement in the organization throughout the year.
“It’s inevitable and it is natural,” said Stacey Garfinkle, president of the College Democrats. “They are excited, there is so much to do; I think they are trying to get a feel for what it is they want.”
By fostering greater cooperation among various groups on campus, Garfinkle said that students who are members of one organization are more likely to remain involved with other like-minded organizations.
College Republicans President Jeff Holth said his organization is making a concerted effort to retain freshman participation throughout the year, especially from students who run for leadership positions but do not win.
“Those (students) that run and aren’t elected, we don’t see as often,” Holth said. “By maintaining strong grassroots programming, people will always have the chance to actively participate.”
Holth said the group’s kickoff event gathers between 300 and 400 students, at least half being freshmen.