The Invisible Student Group

There are these little red paper rectangles scattered around campus. They’re pinned to bulletin boards and sitting comfortably on public tables. They are inscribed with the word “LIFE,” nothing more. There’s no contact information on the front nor the back.

These would be easily dismissible except that earlier this week people were walking around campus with identical red rectangles, made of duct tape, covering their mouths. They, too, said “LIFE”; the shirts these people wore also said some other stuff, but the protesters were probably moving so fast you couldn’t read what was written on them or notice what group they belonged to.

I figured I could get an article out of the whole thing. First things first, I had to identify these guys, as vague a task as that was. A contact in another organization told me this protest was ostensibly the work of Students for Life, a pro-life student group on campus. I decided I would go to their group meeting, held on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in SUB 232, according to the student organizations directory on MSU’s website. There, I found a Christian organization that had no clue as to what Students for Life was.

My bad, sorry, I said, and proceeded to ask that inviolable compendium of knowledge, the AskUs Desk, where I might be able to locate the group. No dice. I recorded a message on the president’s cell phone and, after a good twenty minutes of roaming hallways, left for home.

This tendency for student groups to be inaccessible is troubling. It’s not just Students for Life; the penchant, I suspect, for students to remain insular in their activities can be applied to a broad range of groups. Take a look at the list of student groups at MSU and there will probably be more than one pleasant surprise based on subject matter, simply because there is little self-promotion of clubs in the MSU community. More than one group has outdated meeting or contact information posted online, but the problem runs deeper than simply poor promotion.

Many groups have as their mission statement that they are to promote awareness or understanding of some issue or another. Ask a pool of random students about the Baha’i faith, though, or about local food problems, or about tribal issues, and you’ll receive more than a couple blank stares. The very purpose of most of our student groups has been drastically unfulfilled. Groups with a hold on massive funding, such as QSA and EWB, are certainly exploiting awareness methods to their utmost, but the aloof pockets of students focused on dissemination of arcane knowledge seem to be uninterested in engaging the campus as a whole.

This attitude is disheartening, to say the least. Should groups be a springboard for nebulous, short-lived activities, visible only in bursts, such as at Catapalooza? Should we adhere to a traditional view of groups, or should we just be all right with the preponderance of our groups having little normative purpose? The general campus atmosphere depends on the interaction among clubs, and so the flavor of our school depends absolutely on the level of motivation clubs deign themselves to embrace.