“The decline in interest in extracurricular activities is not an irrational response,” Lewis writes. “It is actually more of a restoration of the old ideal that what you learn in college can be the difference between achievement and just getting by in later life.”
Rolling With the Punches
Student leaders, meanwhile, have redoubled their efforts to attract first-years. Some, like WHRB, have succeeded, while others have pressed forward with fewer human resources.
“After we saw that enough first-years weren’t signing up, we held more introductory meetings, put up posters and sent out e-mails to various lists,” says Roberta A. Camacho ’05, co-comp director at WHRB. “Now we have a similar number of first-year participants as last year.”
Powell says that despite the drop in students auditioning for the Veritones, the group was able to choose from a strong, if smaller, pool of talent.
“People who try out for the sake of it, those are the ones that have gone down,” Powell says. “Eventually our final picks were as good as those of previous years because the people who sing well and are really interested will come anyway.”
Some groups within PBHA continue to reel from the shock of a huge drop in volunteers.
“The same number of people came for our open house this year as opposed to previous years,” Clancy says. “But very few of them actually signed up for the e-mail lists.”
PBHA leaders say they try and recruit first-years the most because they tend to stay on for four years and form long-term relationships with community members with whom they work. But this year, the interest just was not there.
“Most first-years seem to have a vague interest in public service, but few want to commit,” Clancy says. “Public service has been relegated to second spot, and that isn’t fair.”
Leaders of programs like FASE, Mission Hill Afterschool and Cambridge One-to-One say they will try to keep their programs running with their limited personnel this semester.
FASE has only 50 volunteers this year, a decline of almost 50 percent.
“We’re just about staying afloat right now,” Garcia says.
—Staff writer Ravi P. Agrawal can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.