Thursday, May 28

UCLA should encourage student camaraderie with more social events

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of students at UCLA. Mixers and meet-and-greets might seem frivolous, but university-sponsored events that help students meet others – and maybe even develop lasting friendships – can go a long way in helping students get the most from UCLA. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Now that the week zero festivities have settled down, and all that’s left are the flyers littering Bruin Walk, Bruins will need to find a way to keep themselves busy.

UCLA pulls out all the stops during zero week for its True Bruin Welcome, which consists of a week’s worth of social activities, brightly advertised and usually involving local businesses. But beyond that, such events are few and far between, with a noticeable lack of small-scale, university-organized gatherings for students to get to know one another.

It can be hard meeting people and singling out friends when you are at a new university, especially one of UCLA’s magnitude. Students are exposed to so many others in passing that connections are often fleeting. And going out of your way to make a new friend is easier said than done without a common platform or venue to do so.

It’s not that students don’t want to interact with one another – they do. But when there is a lack of UCLA-hosted social events, younger Bruins have to go out of their way to find things to do and companions to bring along, it makes sense that they opt for a night of Netflix instead.

UCLA can address this by putting on more social programs throughout the year that allow students to mingle with each other, and better informing them of such gatherings. Events that attract students of all years and majors can be the most inviting and give Bruins the camaraderie associated with a college campus.

Clubs are one way for students to bond. But even choosing which club to join out of the thousands available can be overwhelming without a starting point, said Haroon Rasheed, a fourth-year bioengineering student.

Students who have just set foot on campus do not always know which clubs they want to commit to. And the Enormous Activities Fair is more chaotic than it is informative. Ultimately, the first-year student looking for a cool new club to join might walk away with a lot of flyers and no new friends.

Of course, approaching people in class is a tried and true way of meeting others, but this is less likely to produce lasting friendships.

“It’s scary making friends because I came from such a small school and my graduating class was 60 kids, so coming into this school it’s a huge culture shock,” said Lauren Han, a first-year political science student.

As veterans of the quarter system know, a friend made in class is usually just a friend for ten weeks.

Jewel Saad, a fourth-year psychobiology student, said experiencing events such as the Westwood block party or new student mixers would be conducive to stronger friendships.

“I know we do a good job with sports events, but if anything just having more accessible events would be good,” Saad said. “And a lot of times people don’t want to pay for sports events.”

Investing in mixer events might seem frivolous, but it can have an impact on campus climate. Apart from the social benefits, socializing can be imperative to students’ mental health. According to the American Freshman Survey conducted annually by UCLA, students in 1987 reported socializing three times as much as those in 2014. In fact, Kevin Eagan, an assistant professor of Education and Information Studies at UCLA who was quoted in the survey, said spending less time socializing potentially contributes to students feeling overwhelmed or depressed in college.

It’s hard enough stepping out of your comfort zone to find new friends. The least UCLA can do is provide the setting to do the socializing in, so that all students have to do is put themselves out there – which many have expressed a willingness to do. This can be as easy as UCLA’s Residential Life holding more events for students to meet each other in a casual setting on the Hill, with block parties and mixers instead of just movie nights or dorm-specific programs. And on campus UCLA can build on existing student-run events, like the annual Stress Less Week, to create opportunities for students to mingle in a substantial way.

Certainly, some might worry about the cost of such endeavors. But the events need not be extravagant. What brings students together is the idea of shared experience under one roof. After all, what else compels masses of students to run around campus in their underwear together during finals week?

Whether it’s live music, movies, dancing, a haunted house or a bonfire, students just want to be together. Clearly the high attendance at such events indicates Bruins value their social experience at UCLA.

In many cases, students are willing to put in the effort to show up to events, but aren’t always able to socialize in a meaningful and lasting way. And when the initiative is there, but the events aren’t, there isn’t much students can do.

UCLA needs to keep its own True Bruin values in mind and give students more opportunities to come together. While the university certainly doesn’t need to coddle Bruins to interact with one another, it shouldn’t be content with them being cooped up in their rooms playing Fortnite either.

Opinion columnist

Kia is an Opinion columnist.


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