At UF, extracurricular organizations are kind of like living languages.
When I was younger, I believed the handful of languages I was familiar with were all there were. As long as those were the only languages that existed, I had no issue with the fact that I was only fluent in one. But now that I know over 7,000 living languages currently exist, not being multilingual holds a slightly different meaning.
While they aren’t exactly foreign languages, the nearly 1,000 UF clubs have felt difficult to navigate for a similar reason: You don’t realize how many of them exist until you discover the ones you don’t participate in. Once this realization is made, it can be easy to devalue your own involvement.
Such a large presence of extracurricular opportunities has fostered a similarly big involvement culture the university — one that indirectly leads students to join as many organizations as possible to avoid falling behind their peers.
How involvement is presented at UF
Contrary to popular belief, the problem with UF’s involvement culture doesn’t stem from the sheer number of clubs and organizations on campus. It wouldn’t be logical to blame the student body’s wide variety of interests and the clubs that have been created for them for making student involvement what it is, today.
In reality, the issue lies in the way extracurricular activities are promoted at UF.
Members of the campus community often view extracurricular activities through a quantitative lens, discussing student involvement in terms of numbers. Clubs are given numerical labels, with their actual mission statements and overall purposes taking a backseat to how many of them students are a part of.
The result of this viewpoint? It becomes impossible to be satisfied with your own extracurricular efforts.
The effects of student involvement at UF
Such a complex culture of involvement shapes the way that we view our own endeavors. When looking at my participation in the Freshman Leadership Council, African Student Union and The Independent Florida Alligator, it’s difficult not to assign those organizations numbers.
Each one possesses unique goals, members and essences. When viewed in the context of the many, many clubs that UF has to offer, they become a mere three in 1,000. To those struggling with the culture of involvement on campus, it may not seem like enough.
When we quantify the organizations, clubs and activities that we’re part of, it can be easy to diminish the efforts that we put into them. Or the time that we contribute to them. Or most importantly, the fulfillment we get from being involved in them.
So, what’s the solution?
The only way we can repair the culture of student involvement at UF is to change the way we look at it.
We need to start viewing campus organizations through a qualitative lens — focusing on the qualities that differentiate them from each other as opposed to how many of them exist and how many we are or aren’t part of.
It’s easy to join a club just to say that you’re in it. It’s easier to join even more clubs to avoid feeling behind your peers. What’s truly difficult is realizing not every single club is meant for you to conquer, and that this realization doesn’t make you under-involved.
A friend of mine told me that if you have no time left in a given day to do something you genuinely enjoy like watching an episode of your favorite show or eating your favorite meal, you’re handling your extracurricular activities all wrong.
The truth is, student involvement isn’t a race that must be completed as timely as possible. Use your time at UF to get comfortable with that fact, and have fun with whatever it is that you’re involved in — without numerical labels.
Halima Attah is the Opinion Editor at The Alligator.
Halima Attah is a first-year journalism student at UF and the opinion editor for The Alligator. You can find some of her other work on her podcast, “A Little Perspective,” on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.