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Many freshmen don't get involved in clubs

By Vanessa Francis
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 19, 2000
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Despite strong efforts by UA organizations to provide avenues for freshmen to become involved on campus, some students say heavy class loads and intimidation cause some to shy away from joining campus groups.

Officials from three of the most recognized University of Arizona organizations - ASUA, Residence Life and Greek Life - said they actively look for freshmen as new members.

However, intimidation and lack of information keep many freshmen from joining clubs.

"It's easy to find clubs, but it's also intimidating," said undeclared freshmen Libby Schubeut. "I didn't join anything, (because) I was one of the intimidated people."

For other freshmen, simple lack of interest keeps them away from campus groups.

"I didn't really see anything that interested me," said computer science freshmen Aaron Ballow. "I don't know where to find out about clubs."

For those freshmen who wish to travel past their front door for involvement, Associated Students sponsors between 300 and 400 recognized clubs at the UA.

Scott Lavit, ASUA club advocate, said involvement in clubs has increased this year.

ASUA hosts a club fair every fall and spring which showcases all clubs and organizations on campus, Lavit said.

"It's great for incoming freshmen so they can see what clubs have to offer... clubs have been happy with them," he added.

Even though some students said they think it is easy to find a club, they still decide not to join.

"Yes, it's easy (to get involved), they are always out soliciting their stuff," said undeclared freshmen Mike Gidaly. "I am however, not in any."

Along with the fairs, ASUA also hosts Bear Down Camp every summer, where incoming freshmen can become oriented with the campus and learn leadership skills.

Undeclared freshmen Jessica Palmer has not involved herself in any extracurricular activity, thus far.

"It's hard, everyone seems to know everyone who is already involved, and they seem to be mostly juniors and seniors," she said.

About 5,000 students live in the UA's 20 residence halls, and 75 percent of residents are freshmen.

"Living in the dorms is great for freshmen, because they know they can get active in hall government," said Pam Obando, associate director of Residence Life. "Each hall has lots of activities, both social and educational."

Activities in the halls include holiday parties, group outings, and numerous leadership opportunities within the hall, she said.

"First year students who live on campus statistically have better GPA's and have a higher retention/return rate, and a higher rate of graduation," Obando said.

Gary Zabel, assistant director of Residence Life, said living on campus can provide students a myriad of options for activities outside class.

"Students who live on campus can get involved in every organization on campus," Zabel said. "They are inundated with possibilities."

Second- and third-year students who return to live in the residence halls often continue their involvement with hall government, Zabel said.

"They have a connection and a sense of community, so they are more likely to stay active," he added.

Greek membership is also an option for freshmen. Bob Gordon, Greek Life program coordinator, said 12 percent of UA men and 16 percent of women are involved in the greek system.

"That's a relatively normal amount for this size of school," Gordon said

UA has 40 greek houses with focuses on social interaction, business affiliation or philanthropy.

Gordon added that 62 percent of current students active in greek life are also active in at least one other association.

"Greek Life provides a home away from home and an immediate group to affiliate themselves with," Gordon said.

But some students say Greek Life comes with a price.

"I didn't rush," said Judaic Studies freshmen Eileen Taubman, who added that her busy class schedule keeps her from getting involved in campus clubs. "It's five grand to have friends ... I can get them for free."

Gordon recognizes that some students do not return as members after their freshmen and sophomore year, but refers to the turnover rate as minimal.

"You are initiated for life in a sorority and a fraternity," he said.

Mechanical engineering freshmen Michael Jose also said he has not gotten involved in UA campus life.

"It is tough because everyone is pretty much involved and with their cliques," he said. "I didn't rush, it's not my style. They all wear baseball caps and khakis, it's like a uniform."

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