The issue of over-involvement

We’ve all heard the saying “over-involved Cobbers.” Most of us are one! I know I am. This year alone, I’ve tried my absolute best to balance a butt-load of activities: Campus Events Commission, Residence life, The Concordian, The Concordia Choir, Cabaret, Campus Lights and working the front desk of Hoyum. Oh, and of course a 17-credit course load, while also attempting to graduate a year early. It’s fine. I’m fine. But we’re all “fine,” aren’t we?

Of course not. You’re lying to yourself if you believe the idea of over-involvement is relaxing or stress-free. It’s not fine. It’s filled with endless nights of sleep-deprivation, tears, hair-pulling and an overwhelming amount of Domino’s pizza orders past 1:00 a.m.

Before we get any further, I want to clarify something. By no means do I think being involved is a problem. I think involvement and engagement are essential components of living and thriving on a college campus. I highly encourage everyone to be involved in something! Extracurriculars help build our personal skill set, look good on a resume and help improve our general ability to be a better human. Often times, it also gives us the chance to improve or celebrate our talents. Basically, I am a big fan of being involved. However, I do think the over-involvement culture at Concordia is damaging to our student’s mental health and academic ability.

On campus, there is an immense amount of social pressure to be involved in a wide array of activities. Over one-third of our student body is in a music ensemble. Almost 750 of our students participate in athletics. Between theatre, music, sports and various other organizations, there is so much you can do–and that’s great! But why does Concordia promote a culture that expects you to be in all of these activities? Or better yet, where does this social pressure come from?

My best guess would be orientation. Orientation was my first experience at Concordia. I never toured, never stayed overnight in the dorms  and never had even been to Fargo-Moorhead before. Orientation was my first glimpse into what a collegiate lifestyle is like. While I know orientation is a hot topic (coming soon), it was really the only chance I had to explore what clubs I would be interested in, and how many clubs I was supposed to be a part of. To clarify, I don’t think orientation is the sole cause of Concordia’s over-involvement culture. However, it is important to acknowledge that most of the Orientation Leaders (and Residence Assistants) are some of our most over-committed students. Because of this, and their relationship with first year students, the cycle of over-involvement continues. Let me explain.

I am currently an RA. I am in a smorgasbord of activities. Everyday I live with, mentor(ish) and interact with 29 first-year students on my floor. For some of them, I am a role model. At least for the beginning of the semester, I am the designated person in place to look up to (whether or not I am the person for that role is up to each individual, but it’s my job, so, here we are). Therefore, I am demonstrating to my residents the culture of over-commitment. I am one of the people who is creating this culture. But I’m not the only one.

So where do we go from here? Do we only hire OLs and RAs who are involved solely in their academics? Do we limit how many clubs first year students can sign up for during Cobber Expo? Do we start shunning the overachievers like we do those who are strictly focused on their academics? If I’m being entirely honest, these all sound like terrible ideas, but I’m at a loss. All I know is that this culture of over-involved Cobbers is too much. Even if we can’t tangibly do anything, we should open the conversation about work and life boundaries and balance. I know I would benefit from it.

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