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Student involvement declines on campus

Josh McCormack
Arts and Features Writer
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Photo by: Josh McCormack                                KG Brake working on scheduling upcoming student events from the ACE office in Highsmith Student Union

UNC Asheville ’s program supervisors strive each new school year to provide inclusive and diverse programming, even as student involvement drops.
UNCA student and Programming Supervisor of Leadership Development Alexandra Schneider said the lack of involvement challenges student workers in positions such as hers. 
“Campus engagement has definitely fallen over the past few years,” Schneider admitted. “It seems that a lot of students at UNC Asheville just really aren’t interested or they just aren’t really sure what is going on and so they just seem to completely ignore every opportunity that I present to them.”
According to the student data website Presence, Highsmith Student Union’s Weeks of Welcome, a usually high point in attendance for most student programming boards on campus, wound up having its lowest attendance since 2016. 
KG Brake, president of Asheville Campus Entertainment, said a large contributor to this lack of participation are streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
“I’d say the current state of involvement for students at UNCA is a bit sad, because they’re very apathetic towards campus events,” Brake said. “We’re now competing with Netflix and Hulu, which is disappointing because I personally find that going out with people and being involved on campus is more satisfying than binge watching Stranger Things for a third time by yourself.”
Junior Keavy Mackenzie said while streaming services and social media platforms play a big part in the lack of student’s engagement, it is up to the programming supervisors to find more inclusive programming if they want more people to attend.
“The things we take interest in nowadays are just more diverse than before,” Mackenzie said. “I think it’s the responsibility of people in charge of putting on student events to take that into account, especially as our campus grows more diverse.”
Brake said trying to know what a multitude of students with different interests want presents no easy task, but feels up to the challenge of trying to meet the needs of a more diverse campus.
“As a programming supervisor, it’s up to myself and people in my position to be more active in finding a solution,” Brake said. “This includes reaching out to people and getting ideas from the student body and trying to make events that are both exciting and accessible.”
Mackenzie said diverse and accessible programming exists as a starting point, saying most events that interest her and her friend group are ones wherein she can get something out of it rather than just pass the time.
“Bingo nights, the study abroad fair or being able to see my favorite movie on the big screen, these are events where I feel like I leave coming out with more than I walked in with,” Mackenzie stated. “I’m actually going to study abroad later this school year and events like the study abroad fair really made a difference and pushed me to make a large, enriching experience like that. I don’t feel there are enough events like those on the UNCA campus.”
According to information from Presence, events such as Grocery Store Bingo or the Study Abroad Fair do tend to have higher attendance rates than the average on campus events.
“I like to be informed and I like free stuff,” Mackenzie admitted. “And I know a lot of my friends and fellow students feel the same way.”
Another issue Schneider finds troubling is trying to find ways in which to promote to the average UNCA student who might not be in touch with what exactly is going on around campus.
Advertising across multiple platforms presents a major part in getting students involved,  according to Schneider. She said it’s something people in the position of programming for UNCA get better every year.
“If more students are more content to be on their phone or looking at social media than at the physical advertisements around them, then we can actually use that to our advantage,” Schneider explained. “I try to advertise for events across many different platforms to try and catch their attention. I think Facebook, Instagram and other sites like that scared programming supervisors on campuses, but I think over the past four to five years we’ve really used it to our advantage and it’s actually become an integral part of what we do.”
Mackenzie said she really respects all the hard work that programming supervisors put into their day to day job of trying to find different outlets for students to find entertainment, but she fears that one simple factor is the reason a high percentage of UNCA students do not attend campus events.
“We’re just lazy,” Mackenzie said. “Maybe at the beginning of the semester people are more willing to go out and try and meet people, but as the year goes by they become more like a member of their own social groups and they sadly have less reasons to attend campus programs.”

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