I have been wanting to write this for a long time. This is my take on participating in extra curricular activities while being a student at a university.
From my involvement with university wide organizations, I believe that getting your foot in the door, so to speak, is a lot easier in engineering. By nature most campus clubs and groups are campus wide, but there are many that have a strong focus in engineering. Groups like Bluesky Solar Car, Engineering First Responders, or Engineering Photography Club target almost strictly at engineering students. Others such as Engineers Without Borders, or Women in Science and Engineering have 50% of their members in engineering, and there is the Engineering Society, and the discipline clubs which governs the whole engineering student body and discipline student bodies respectively. This categorization is not exhaustive, or inclusive but it gives a general layout of the different kind of clubs there are.
Why do students want to do these things anyway? What is the point?
I think we need to prove that things need to be done, and these clubs and groups exist for a reason. These reasons may not be easy to quantify, but they are there to improve students’ lives. Many of them are fun. They may be there to take the load off official channels that are better suited for students. In particular, every clubs and groups have their own visions and missions, and goals they are trying to achieve. Then there are organizations like the cannon guards and the mascot, Ye Olde Mighty Skule Cannon. The purpose of the mascot is even harder to quantify, yet it indirectly contribute to students’ tuition. Before you start thinking i am a cannon basher, I can ensure you that every single engineering student at UofT loves and respects the cannon, and they most definitely think that every penny spent on maintaining the cannon and its guards is well spent.
Level of participations define students involvement as well.
Several reasons can contribute to that.
- People are a lot friendlier
- People have a much more aligned goal to start with, there is not as much of a diversification
- Groups are physically a lot closer to each other, giving students easier access
- The range of activities are a lot larger, and more diversified
What is in it for students to get involved?
There are a huge array of reasons, some may sound better than others but one can pretty much identify.
- To benefit others by utilizing their talent and skills
- To benefit others by investing time and dedication
- To satisfy personal ego
- To be popular or cool
- To feel superior
- To fill the extra-curricular quota on resume
- To help with a cause they believe in
- To perform orders
- To make money
This list is obviously not exhaustive, but one can see that many of these sound bad and I would agree. We often don’t do things for the right reasons because the temptation to be selfish is always there. Some jobs are more labour intensive than others, some jobs are rewardless on the surface. It may be because the society’s definition of reward is inherently wrong, but I digress. Further, one may even be discouraged to do the morally right thing, such a person may be considered as a uncertainty because they don’t quite fit the bill.
Once one has identified why they want to be involved in extra-curricular activities, they can start picking which activities they want to participate in. The selection pool is huge, it is not an easy job.
Engsoc is an easy and tempting choice but it may also be the least righteous one. After all, drinking a beer filled hardhat may earn you some cool points and make you feel like you are doing something. It may be the least rewarding one, for it supports groups who benefit others. It involves politics, elections, and endless discussions on some of the most trivial matters. Going to a council meeting is like a going to a frat house, there is not a sense of professionalism or care. No I am not saying engsoc is an isolated case, on the contrary, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Canadian Parliament is much the same thing. I may be seen as a bitter person just bashing on engsoc. That impression may even be partly right, for engsoc seems like a bunch of people just rotating positions every so often and doing an okay job or a crappy one every time. No one gets punished, but everyone gets some awards. Is there a net gain? sure. Is the gain per capita large? Heck no.
All that being said, I have been an engsoc director for … two years now and helped out with many many engsoc projects. I guess my conclusion is, it is not worth it.
Everyone has a passion for engsoc, but rarely does anyone have a passion for achieving engsoc’s missions, which is to benefit all engineering students.