Where Are the Students?

Violets Office

Ever since its inception in 1903, the University of Maine of Presque Isle’s staff has always tried to make the campus feel like a second home to its students. But with just over 1,400 students enrolled, it can be difficult to make everyone feel at home. The  staff members attempt to set up events all across campus to gather all of the students.  But, unfortunately, that sometimes does not work out as planned. Violet Washburn, the coordinator of campus engagement of the university for the past two years, has noticed this.

“To my understanding, it’s been a trend since last year. I’ve been asking students to see why they haven’t been going. And I found that it’s for multiple reasons. I’ve been told that it’s normally due to the weather.  Or maybe some of the students’ friends don’t plan on going, so they end up not going either.  And some students are just simply lazy,” she said.

The weather is always a consideration in northern Maine. Maine’s winter temperature highs, on average, only go up into the 20s. So, it’s no surprise to see people planning on huddling inside instead of going out.

Regardless of how little the participation may be, it hasn’t discouraged Violet’s efforts. She still plans up to an average of 20 events a month. It’s an impressive number, especially knowing that she has one set budget for the entire academic year. She has to split the budget in half per semester. Not to mention setting up for these events aren’t as simple as throwing the concept to the wind, either.  It takes time. “It’s a process: there’s a lot to prepare in setting up these events. I’ll have to first approve the idea. If it gets approved, you’ll then have to find the space for it.

Marketing the event.  Staffing for the event.  Then, of course, there’s setting up for it. And if you don’t properly plan these aspects out, you’re out of luck,” Violet said.

Out of the 18 events that have been held since the start of the 2019 spring semester, only five of these events had fewer than 10 people.  Three events had between 10 and 20 students attend.   Six events had more than 20 students.  And one event had more than one hundred students attend, this being the Snowball dance that happened in January. It also makes sense with students being too distracted in their own lives. Between the wide availability of the internet and young adult hijinks, there are many more distractions going on than ever before.

These numbers may sound high to us, but it’s not the goal numbers Violet wants. “There are over 200 students in the residence halls. And for small events, it’s hard to get 20 or more there. For the bigger events, I always want over 100!” she said.

It’s not just the campus-wide events either that are having difficulties getting higher attendance numbers.  It’s also the events in the residence halls that are struggling. First year residence assistants Margaret Dickinson and Jordan Hanscom noticed. “We’re supposed to set up two specialized events a month. But not a lot of us set up events last month, so there are a lot more guidelines to follow now,” Margaret said. Jordan set up five events last semester, while Margaret set up seven.

But unlike Violet’s events, RA events can be at risk of cancelation “If we get less than five students to attend, then we would have to cancel our event ideas. And I do know a lot of RAs end up having to cancel or reschedule events because students would just not show up,” Margaret said. Margaret has only canceled one event this year in Merriman Hall.  Jordan had to cancel three events. “It’s more difficult over in Emerson.  The upperclassmen just don’t want to do anything,” Jordan added.

Violet has no direct involvement with the RA events other than approving the ideas for the events. So the challenge to keep the events known to the campus is up to the RAs themselves, and it can be a challenge for them. “It depends on what kind of RA you are. I make fliers for each event.  I set fliers for my events. It’s all up to the RAs to make sure that your event is known among students.”

It’s important that students should, at the very least, consider going to any future events. The only way to have a good time and make some memories is to go out and actually participate.  Most students only get to experience college once, so it is important to make it as positively memorable as possible.