A new year of school has begun, and with it comes a new wave of chaos for students and administration alike. With a sea of fresh faces cruising through the concrete and glass halls of UNBC comes the intense anticipations and expectations for school to be the best – or the worst – experience of one’s entire life. For some, this means passing classes and surviving exam season. For others, the university is an opportune place to become part of a community that works together to create something beautiful. This has always been one of the goals at the University of Northern British Columbia, whose motto is “En Cha Huna,” or “They also live respecting all forms of life.” This year, however, the ideals of a community working together for the good of all are hard sought. Our student body still reels from the “apathy accusations” of spring 2018, and it shows in many ways.
UNBC’s first event of the year, “Volley into September and Backyard Barbeque,” one that has been running for over a decade, welcomes students new and old with music, food, and this year, a day of volleyball. The Northern Undergraduate Student Society (NUGSS) had slated a day of outdoor sports from 10 am to 5 pm, followed by the concert and barbeque at 7 pm. A popular staple of UNBC spirit, this year’s Facebook event boasted nearly 450 potential attendees and countless others commenting, liking, and interacting with the event page. Thus, it was with great disappointment that students, at 7:15 pm on the day of the event, were notified that it had been completely rained out and would not go forward as planned. The backlash was tremendous, with students commenting on the Facebook page that this was an event that some had prepared to attend for days. While many were very understanding of the situation, others were not.
“Another great NUGSS event,” commented one Facebook user.
“It rains every year,” another said, “Why is it cancelled?”
This type of reaction is to be expected for an event so large, and it is interesting to note that this disgruntled reaction comes closely on the heels of another important event: the Cafeteria Workers Rally at UNBC on September 12, held that afternoon in the central courtyard of campus. This rally was the second iteration of a long-term public protest by UNBC’s food service employees against the poor wages and lackluster benefits of their employer, Chartwells. While this rally denotes an important move preceding a potential strike by Chartwells employees, the reaction of students new to the university has been particularly negative. One anonymous student of Humanities at UNBC states:
“I know that it has been a long struggle between Chartwells and its employees, but I’m also really confused about what is happening here. Isn’t the Chartwells contract supposed to be over? I thought there would be a new company catering to the school by now. What is the university doing to help these workers?”
While the actual intervention of the university in this matter seems neither here nor there, it is fair to assume that some students are still witnessing the results of unresolved disputes within the school and are unhappy because of it. This also stands true in the case of the cancelled Backyard Barbeque; it does not seem to matter whether the event was cancelled or not, only that our student body seems to have fallen victim to a pessimistic atmosphere. Whether this has anything to do with a negative ambience within the school, or is just a blinding example of seasonal student depression, one light shone above the rest as UNBC geared up for its annual SLO (Student Led Organizations) Days or “Clubs Days.” Approximately thirty clubs tabled at the two-day event, hoping to bolster their student support and develop a connection in the UNBC community, and many noticed a very interesting change as the hours passed.
Clubs such as the Instrumental Music Club, the Musical Production Club, and the Drama Club noticed an enormous influx of student interest at their booths this year.
“We have had quadruple the amount of people sign up to join this year than we did last year,” says UNBC Drama Club President, Teresa Coe. “But I think we felt successful for a number of reasons. I spent a lot of time this Clubs Days’ visiting the other clubs and trying to make connections. I think it went really well!”
She was not the only one who felt this way. Chan Tran of the Instrumental Music Club noted that they had also experienced a higher than normal amount of people signing up, which was a huge relief. “It’s hard every year as people graduate,” she mentions. “You always hope that people will join to keep the club going. I think we have a great group this year and can’t wait to see what happens next!”
The Instrumental Music Club and UNBC Drama Club are two organizations spearheading the upcoming UNBC Community Jubilee – a new annual event that hopes to outstretch UNBC’s sense of community to the rest of Prince George through a night of talent and celebration. They are also two of the many clubs participating in the September 27 Art Clubs Mixer, which introduces the numerous art-related clubs around the school to each other and welcomes new students to attend, join, or simply learn about UNBC’s artistic community. These events and opportunities are not limited to Humanities students, however, as mixers and socials of this type are being held in every college of study at the university, acting as beacons of welcome in a daunting atmosphere.
It is always difficult to gauge how the year is going to go in the first month of class. You might pass, you might fail, and you might drop the class and cherish the useless textbooks you forgot to return for the rest of your life, but it’s fair to worry about what direction you’re going to take. This year has started with a bang for UNBC, and while some might still feel concerned about an aura of student apathy, others are ready to move forward to create the communities that we all want to be a part of.