Bowie State is a University
By Bekah Oester
This year, Bowie State University launched "The Bowie State Experience," a social networking website exclusively for first-year BSU students. The site features articles, resources, and message boards, but the main feature used to draw students in was a trivia contest in which the winning student received $250 in American Express gift cards. First year students include both freshmen and transfers, but currently only 72 members are on the site. Considering that Bowie State is home to more than 5,400 students, the 72 members barely represent a fraction of first-year students. Worse, less than 20 students participated at any time in the contest, which asked students questions for 12 weeks about the BSU campus. Less than five people, including myself, participated in the contest from beginning to end, and I practically was given the $250 prize.
This scenario is one of many that reflects a problem within the BSU community: the lack of student participation. BSU and BSU organizations consistently plan events and activities for students, but few bother to attend or participate. Not only does this reflect a low sense of school pride, it looks bad to new and prospective students who are looking to get connected. I read in an earlier issue of The Spectrum that BSU students tend to treat the school like a community college, and now that my first year at BSU (after transferring from a community college) is coming to an end, I have to say that I agree. Many students - whether resident or commuter - simply attend their classes and then go about their own business for the rest of the time. While this is normal and almost expected in many community colleges, the opposite is true of four-year college campuses.
So, why the lack of participation? The excuse has been made in the past that BSU is a commuter school and not a typical university. OK, but if this is so, then why has the demand for student housing become so great that residence life has had to change to a lottery system for future semesters? BSU has a commuter organization and column in The Spectrum and The Spectrum Online so that commuter students can stay connected to the community if they choose to do so, but what about the 1,400 students who reside on campus? All 1,400 available beds are full and more students are waiting, so we should be seeing active participation from at least this many students.
I frequently hear students complaining about a lack of activities as well. This is another issue that I find hard to believe since every day that I go to the elevator in Christa McAuliffe Residential Community, there is a new flier advertising an activity that one organization or the other is putting on. BSU has athletic teams, 12 fraternities and sororities within the Greek system, and multiple other clubs, honor societies, and organizations. Most majors and interests will be represented in at least one of them. In addition, the Student Government Association, along with each class, sponsors student activities. Even the BSU dining hall occasionally offers theme nights for student enjoyment. Walls and bulletin boards all over campus are almost always covered in fliers advertising upcoming events including time and location; all you have to do is go.
If none of the events put on by BSU suit your tastes, perhaps you should get involved with an association that plans events, or at the very least, vote for a candidate who represents your interests. On April 8, student elections were held for 2008-2009 positions. Even though Bowie State has more than 5,400 students, only about 600 votes were cast. Polls were open in the Wiseman Center all day until 8 p.m. This was an easy opportunity for students to make their voices heard, but few took advantage of it.
Some may be reading and thinking "I never know what's going on!" It's not too late to get involved, especially with a new academic year starting in just a few months. Here are a couple of ways to get and stay connected with what is happening on campus:
Student e-mail. This gets overlooked a lot, but BSU frequently sends e-mails about activities, meetings, ceremonies, and even scholarship opportunities. If you don't want to have to check multiple e-mail accounts, log in to your BSU e-mail just one time and have it set up to forward e-mails to your preferred account. Student e-mail was how I found out about the Bowie State Experience and won that $250!
BEES. This isn't as much about activities as it is overall safety and operating issues. You can sign up online for this service that will inform you via text messages and/or e-mails to your preferred account when BSU closes or has a delay due to weather. If there are safety issues (such as gunshots that were fired this year during homecoming), you will be alerted as soon as possible.
The Wiseman Center. If all else fails, you can always check in at the Wiseman Student Center to ask about upcoming events. The SGA office and office of Greek Life are also there if you want information about joining any of those organizations.
BSU offers plenty of options for students of all backgrounds, so why not find one and make your educational experience an enjoyable one? In addition to having fun, these activities and organizations allow you to network with others and develop friendships. The more you participate, the more you can make your voice heard about the future of BSU activities. Regardless of what your goals are at BSU, getting connected to your campus through involvement is a great way to start working towards them. In addition, it encourages other students to follow suit, and gives observing prospective students another reason to choose BSU.