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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Does the activities fair format need reform?

Published: September 13, 2013
Section: Opinions

It’s true: Whether you’re a first-year or a transfer student, starting college is overwhelming for anyone. Making friends, picking classes, finding your way around the campus—it’s a lot! So why does something that’s supposed to assist students in this transition, the activities fair, add to the already heightened stress level of these incoming students?

In concept, the activities fair is a great idea—an illustration of what this campus has to offer and how students can get involved. In practice, it’s a crowded ballroom (or in previous years, lawn) jam-packed with people screaming at you to come to their table, take their flyer or sign up for their listserv. Now, I’m not going to lie, I’m a major fan of the free stuff–laundry bags, water bottles and of course, the infamous WBRS T-shirts. But as far as actual content goes, the activities fair does very little for me.

Obviously, Brandeis can’t control the weather, but this year’s activities fair was hot, sweaty and overcrowded. Nothing says welcome to college like a smelly, claustrophobic ballroom where you can’t even hear yourself think. For those of you who missed it, you spared yourself a massive headache and getting drenched in sweat. Outside, the activities fair is already a zoo, with everyone on campus in the same place at the same time, but inside it’s bound to get hot and sweaty—and fast. The heat this year was just one element of the uncomfortable situation that is the activities fair, and accompanying the heat issue was the fact that there was literally nowhere to move or breathe in the room.

The activities fair did not only pose problems for the first-years and transfers, but also returning club members and upperclassmen, too. I can say for myself at least, walking around flyering and manning tables at this year’s activities fair was a miserable experience. Aside from the heat, it was very clear to me that few attendees of the fair actually cared to listen to what I had to say or read what I was giving them. I’m sure if one were to have measured the amount of paper that was thrown out and recycled on the day of the activities fair and compared it with an average day at Brandeis, they would see that the amount of paper tripled, at least. I’m all for welcoming first-years and meeting new people, but the current format of the activities fair seems to me to be inefficient for all parties involved.

So how can we solve these problems? Maybe, if there were separate fairs or events for each category of club/activity like religious organizations, academic groups, service groups, sports, etc., this event could be a lot less sweaty and a great deal more manageable. I’m no activities fair expert, but this certainly would have made my entry in the activities scene a lot less overwhelming. Furthermore, it would give returning members of clubs the opportunity to check out other groups on campus whom they would have missed had they been forced to man a booth or distribute flyers throughout the fair, as is current common practice.

So, first-years (and transfers), now that you’ve gotten all your free stuff, seriously remove yourselves from the listservs about which you actually couldn’t care less. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. Nothing is worse than spending an entire day going through emails (if you’re like me and write your email address down for everything, this happens).

As we move onto the next activities fair, I hope the mess that was this year’s fair becomes a thing of the past. Speaking as someone who flyered and manned a table, I can say that I would definitely appreciate it.