Tuesday’s Dwight Hall spring bazaar drew about one-fifth the number of students as the fall iteration of the event.
The event was hosted by 25 Dwight Hall-affiliated groups focused on service, social justice and social innovation opportunities at Yale. Last semester, the bazaar attracted roughly 500 students and 60 groups. Attendees attributed the decline in participation of both Yale students and group representatives not only to the fact that many freshmen have already settled into campus activities, but also to an unexpected snowstorm and a general apathy toward community service at Yale.
“Typically the spring bazaar is smaller than the fall bazaar because fewer groups need volunteers in the spring and fewer students don’t have extracurriculars in the spring,” said Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18, Dwight Hall cabinet coordinator. “A lot of groups transition leadership in the middle of the year and for those groups in particular, structurally, it’s just important to recruit later in the year.”
Still, bazaar attendee Jessica Ainooson ’20 said she was disappointed by the turnout. She added that she went to the bazaar to sign up for an AIDS walk organization, but while there found that the group had chosen not to participate in the event.
Ainooson said that many Yale students seem uninterested in community service. She added that she had hoped more students would attend to see the multiplicity of forms that public service can take.
“A lot of people feel like this isn’t really one of the big things you can join to show interest or go to law school,” Ainooson said.
However, the event proved critical for some student groups searching for new members, particularly student volunteers. Aman Kabeer ’19, a representative of an organization called KITAB, said that the organization, which promotes literacy and delivers books to under-served communities, needs a significant number of volunteers to engage with New Haven productively. He also said that there is often “no consistency” with volunteers, as students often seem hesitant to commit to long-term service obligations and therefore contribute to high turnover.
“There’s this whole idea that it is a one-time thing,” Ainooson said. “Maybe you help out in a soup kitchen one day and that’s your community service, but it really is more than that.”
Though the bazaar had been planned months in advance, organizers said that Tuesday’s Winter Weather Advisory Warning likely contributed to the diminished turnout.
D’Ambrosio, who said he expected turnout to be lower than that of previous years due to the weather and poor travel conditions, pointed out that a few community partners had to cancel their participation at the last minute.
Student group leaders, including New Haven Reach representatives Esther Issever ’19 and Lily Mirfakhraie ’19, noted the paucity of student organizations that hosted booths at the event. Mirfakhraie said that she was skeptical of hosting a bazaar in the middle of the week, when students tend to have other obligations.
Nonetheless, groups like New Haven Reach, which advises students at New Haven public schools applying to college, chose to advertise in the spring when new mentorship positions become available.
“We’re looking for a specific group of students to help us with a very specific task we have in the spring, which is outreach in the New Haven schools,” Mirfakhrae said. “A lot of our mentors finish their process with their mentees during the fall, so we’re looking for some new students who would be looking to get started in the spring.”
Students, too, were affected by the weather.
Fearing the cold, Maria Goretti, a post-doc at Yale and an Alpha Achievement Program representative, said she “forced [herself] to come.” Nonetheless, Goretti underscored that attending the event was worthwhile if more people signed up for her organization, an academic and character development program for young girls.
“At the end of the day, if this is something people are passionate about, the weather is not going to stop them from coming and showing up,” Brandon Marks ’18 explained.
D’Ambrosio said that he expected turnout to be lower than that of previous years due to the weather and poor travel conditions. A few community partners had to cancel their participation at the last minute, he added.
Other students, such as Sal Rao ’20, felt that service opportunities at Yale can be better advertised.
“[It’s] harder to learn about service at Yale because it’s at the extracurricular bazaar, but otherwise it’s really spread out everywhere,” Rao said. “It’s really great to go to a physical location and be able to see all the different options.”
Dwight Hall was founded in 1886.