By Amanda Wright
During an SGA meeting last fall, I remembered listening to some of the recent Senior Survey results. While a few of us were surprised by the results, I wondered if there was another way to look at them, what do they really mean, and what solutions may present themselves.
The number and the category that stood out from the rest of the survey were the “Cliquish vs. Not Cliquish” rating. Seventy-seven percent of the seniors surveyed reported a ranking of either one or two on a scale of one (cliquish) to seven (not cliquish). What factors are contributing to this score? Here is where the idea of affinity groups may determine the overall feelings of the students on campus.
Students have varying interests and are attending Roanoke College for particular reasons. Many students who play seasonal sports have a tendency to stick with their team for the duration of the season. This is not a far-fetched concept. Those who work together stay together. Group affinity does not only occur in athletics. It can also happen in Greek Life, Academics, and various campus clubs and organizations.
Group affinity may never truly go away on our campus, but there are a few ideas we can try to reduce the overall effects. The first is awareness of the problem. I am writing this in hopes that the student body is more aware of the cliquish feeling. I am challenging each club and student to open their borders and expand their horizons. Talk to other students, invite them to your meetings, and sell the benefits your organization.
Don’t judge anyone within seconds of meeting. During the Activities Fair at the beginning of the semester, I walked around the tables. What some people did not know is that I was gathering information about the way each group interacts with potential prospects. I will not name organizations, but I do remember the ones that noticeably turned their backs or averted their eyes. This could be a simple fix for organizations that have low membership and low attendance. Be welcoming and always be positive.
Friendships are weird, you pick a person and you do stuff with them. I am also challenging the students to put their phone or laptop away more often and have real conversations with people you don’t normally speak to, attend more events, or lend a hand to service projects. These ideas are not only about spreading awareness they are also about spreading connections, growing a network, and building a greater safety net for your self during hardships.
Breaking the boundaries of group affinity will boost two other categories with far less effort. One of the scores Roanoke College fell flat on was school spirit. Seventy-eight percent of the seniors surveyed agreed or agreed strongly that they expected a high degree of school spirit. Over the course of four years, sixty-three percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that there was a high degree of school spirit. The cliquish rating may be hurting this category indirectly. What remains to be seen is if the cliquish score heads in the direction of the not cliquish, will the school spirit numbers trend towards the agree response?
The other category left to discuss is the sense of community on campus. The expectations were ninety-three percent favorable versus seven percent unfavorable. By the end of four years, the category dropped to sixty-four percent favorable versus thirty-five percent unfavorable. The numbers are not extremely dramatic in this category as our views change throughout the course of our college career.
In review, the results point to the scores in the Cliquish category as part of the perception of interactions within the campus community. While the survey cannot answer to the question about the type of student that perceives these interactions, it does give the student body an account of where the problem areas exist. No single organization or person can fix this problem. We must work together to create an inviting atmosphere for the entirety of the campus.
I would like to thank Dean Fetrow for meeting with me to discuss the survey and Dr. Steehler for sharing the results of the Senior Survey.