The independent news organization of Duke University

Full participation in all we do

On Tuesday, an article published by the Chronicle highlighted Duke Student Government’s many issues with attendance policies yet again. Although the article did suggest that as a whole the organization has somewhat improved upon its past problems with poor attendance, it nonetheless struggles with this chronic issue under Ganguly’s tenure, evidenced by judicial proceedings against a number of DSG senators with unexcused absences. The problems faced by DSG are in no way unique. Whether it be an intramural sports team or a student-led activist group, many clubs and organizations at Duke have most likely dealt with poor attendance issues among a high-achieving student body. At an elite university with so many accomplished students involved in a wide-variety of campus pursuits, it is worth exploring why exactly certain organizations like DSG are currently dealing with poor attendance issues.

Most Duke students come to the Gothic Wonderland with accomplishments spanning a large number of extracurricular and co-curricular activities from their high school years. Many of us, in the hopes of being admitted to universities like Duke, decorated our Common Application with a packed resume of different awards and leadership positions: captain of the track team, first-chair violinist in the school orchestra and state debate champion, just to name a few. When launching ourselves head-first into the Duke experience, it can be tempting to replicate the incessant cycle of balancing so many different activities at once along with an oftentimes intimidating academic workload. Nonetheless, many Duke students, especially first-years, do end up becoming involved in too many activities on campus, which can arguably result in poor attendance issues in many student-led organizations.

There arguably also exists a certain tendency to treat campus activities and leadership positions within organizations as resume boosters designed to impress future employers, graduate school admissions officers and internship firms. Rather than treating the responsibilities of extremely enriching activities like writing for the Chronicle or representing the student body as a DSG senator with a genuine interest, this ulterior motive of superficial self-gain can undoubtedly undermine the organizations in which one participates. Skipping executive board meetings for academic organizations or incessantly foregoing rehearsals for dance teams and other musical groups sends a demoralizing message to other peers who do approach the same organizations with the utmost level of commitment. More often than not, the impetus is on those who do actually show up consistently to pick up the slack of those who do not, and thus work twice as hard to keep the organization afloat—undoubtedly contributing even more stress to the group.

Consequently, instead of pursuing so many different campus activities at once, or treating one’s pursuits strictly in terms of professional development, Duke students should approach said ventures with a much more genuine, distilled focus. Rather than pursuing memberships in a wide variety of organization and failing to become meaningfully contributors to any one of them, students should aim to be involved in a few core activities during their Duke experience and dedicate themselves fully as members and leaders. The University’s mission statement emphasizes the need for Duke students to pursue “full participation as leaders in their communities.” We should aim to do exactly that, especially if we hope to make an impact on our beloved school during our four short years here.


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