This past Monday was the infamous Rutgers Involvement Fair on the College Avenue campus, which largely sets the tone for the fall semester. The question is, what kind of impression did it leave on new students?
While the involvement fair intends to showcase the energizing hustle and bustle of what is possible at Rutgers, it also can come off as intimidating and even prove to be an unproductive way for students to get involved on campus, primarily for first-year and transfer students.
For one, there are so many Scarlet Knights crammed onto College Avenue that you are constantly bumping into people, and you can barely see the different student organization tables over the crowd. Even if you manage to make your way to a table of interest, you can barely hear your conversation with a club member over the noise.
Ultimately, the involvement fair is supposed to excite students about all the opportunities they have access to at a big state school but also help them find their place. Large universities tend to have a bad reputation when it comes to making students feel seen and heard.
Professors will not even bother to learn your name in large lectures, students will push and shove you in an attempt to catch the first bus available and familiar faces are a rare sight as you make your way between classes. People will say that you will feel lost.
Often, the solution to this problem can be to join student organizations in order to find your circle of friends and, consequently, your support system in college.
But this overwhelming atmosphere of a college involvement fair is not just unique to a large university like Rutgers. A column published in The Daily Northwestern described how its involvement fair also felt unproductive and suggested a couple of alternatives to how it was organized, including spreading the event over a few days.
While this is not a bad idea, Rutgers has a unique opportunity to utilize all of its campuses, not just a few streets, parking lots and College Avenue.
For example, fraternities, sororities and cultural organizations could stay on the College Avenue campus, while intramural and club sports could utilize the fields on Busch campus. Those interested in sports could kick around a soccer ball, share a laugh and have a much more interactive experience with existing club members.
Additionally, political organizations could be on the Cook and Douglass campuses, perhaps in front of Eagleton Institute, and we cannot discount the huge grass field that could be used on Livingston campus for a number of organizations.
Spreading the involvement fair on different campuses would make sure the event is not too crowded. Students would have a clearer view of the different organizations available and have the opportunity to have an actual conversation that is not overpowered by background noise.
This would also push new students to explore Rutgers' five campuses as a whole and what's available to them before starting classes. They would be more acclimated to using the buses while spreading out the traffic so the College Avenue campus is not overwhelmed by them. Everyone knows that it is a complete nightmare trying to catch a bus to leave the College Avenue campus after the Rutgers Involvement Fair ends.
If Rutgers decides to spread out the involvement fair onto every campus, it should extend the 3-hour time period for the event and make it a half-day affair, perhaps from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This would ensure that new students do not feel rushed when trying to find organizations that interest them and will have the time to explore all the campuses.
The goal of a campus-wide involvement fair would be to simulate the experience of something like Rutgers Day, which is a wholesome and complete celebration of Rutgers and its community, not just a few sardine-packed hours on College Avenue.
If you are a new student and had a less-than-ideal experience with the involvement fair, there are online resources that you should check out — including getINVOLVED, to find a comprehensive list of all organization types on campus and Engagement Hub, which focuses on matching undergraduates with specifically leadership roles on campus.
While these online platforms are undoubtedly helpful, having effective and in-person interactions during the involvement fair is uniquely personable. It is nerve-racking to take a leap of faith and attend a General Interest Meeting without meeting the organization members beforehand.
But on the other hand, it may feel like we are "babying" students and the involvement fair is effective enough, so to say — or it would be too much work to spread the event across all different campuses.
The least Rutgers could do is improve the involvement fair experience on the College Avenue campus. Instead of solely relying on closed roads and parking lots, open some classrooms so that students can have a break from the heat and enjoy the air conditioning. This would also prevent the event from feeling too crammed and perhaps provide a better platform for some organizations to showcase what they have to offer.
For example, clubs that are focused on video games, like the RU Rhythm Games Club, could use the projectors in classrooms to show the video games they enjoy playing and even have some interested members try some of the games out themselves!
Lastly, Rutgers should provide some sort of survey for students to rate their experience during the involvement fair, as well as a poll that asks students if they would prefer to keep the event on College Avenue, stretch the event over a couple of days or utilize multiple campuses. Based on that feedback, Rutgers can decide to do what will help its students feel most at home.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 155th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.