Student Involvement Fund: Who really needs this money?


by Julia Ford

American University’s Student Government released a mass email on Monday to the student body advertising a contest that awards $500 to 20 students. 

To win this money, you have to prove that you are heavily involved in extracurricular activities on campus. The contest is being promoted by American University Club Council, American University Student Government, and American University Student Media. In total, the amount of $10,000 dollars will be awarded.

Before this contest, the push for being involved on campus was already an extremely toxic narrative.  To be involved in multiple extracurricular events on campus, you have to have a lot of free time to attend meetings and events. These clubs do not pay students for their work; they are are largely run on a volunteer-basis. For example, a student who is involved in three to four clubs would have difficulty working a job on top of those commitments.

For campus involvement, students usually participate in clubs or greek life. The types of clubs on campus are very diverse, but they all share a common denominator— they almost never pay students, and they take up a lot of time. As far as Greek life goes on campus, every single organization requires due payments from its members,so not only are students not getting paid for the work that they do, they are actually paying these organizations to be a member. 

Now, with this new contest, students are encouraged to compete against each other for who is involved in the most things. This contest is pushing students to burn out through over-involvement in organizations for a chance at winning $500. Involvement on campus is a privilege, and no student should feel guilty for choosing to have a job rather than put their work into a non-paying organization. 

At four-year universities nationwide, it is estimated that 20%-33% of students experience food insecurity.  14% of students at four-year universities experience homelessness, and 48% experience difficulties with housing such as trouble paying rent. These issues are very present on our campus, yet it goes unnoticed by most. 

At American University, it is not uncommon to hear of a student that works multiple jobs while also taking a full class load. With the rate of tuition rising and the living costs in D.C., a student holding multiple jobs is most likely still unable to make ends meet in terms of their bills. It is common to see students skip meals to save money in order to continue going to school and to keep a roof over their head. According to American University’s finance page, the minimum cost that a full-time student is paying to attend school is $49,479.50. Please note that this does not include the cost of food, housing, textbooks, and supplies for classes. Tuition was raised for this school year, and with the way the school spends money, costs are most likely going to keep rising.

So, for the most prominent organizations at AU to be providing $500 to students that most likely do not have to worry about juggling work and school is pretty tone-deaf. Students should not have to skip meals to be able to pay for their own education. Of course, this is not an issue specific to AU, but this university is part of the problem, and policies like these only deepen the issue. The culture that has been curated at this school is one that forces people to overload themselves with activities in order to be deemed successful. Here, if you are not working an unpaid internship, while participating in a fraternity and three other clubs, you are an outsider. There are countless cases of students skipping out on sleeping and eating in order to fit everything into their schedule. 

The culture on our campus is encouraging, and now rewarding, students burning themselves out. Yes, it is absolutely something to be proud of if you are a student that goes to school, works, and is still involved on campus. But that is not a reality for everyone, nor should it be. Students should not feel less than if they are unable to handle so many things at once— they should be encouraged to be comfortable and to get involved as much as they please to. This school needs to focus on protecting students and ensuring food and shelter for people before arbitrarily rewarding people for being able to pay dues for the multiple groups they are a part of.

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