Not just something to show

The CCR isn’t likely to fix our low student engagement problem


Somehow I’ve never felt very invested in the co-curricular record. Just last Thursday, a party was thrown for it, complete with a flash mob, after its official launch on the 10th, and alumni talked about all the ways they’d gotten involved during their time here. Their testimonies were quite impressive. But for some reason, I can’t clearly envision the CCR next to my transcript.

That’s not to say I’m not a fan of extracurricular (isn’t that what we used to call them?) activities. I’ve worked at the Medium for four years now, and over the course of two years I was a member and then an executive of the UTM Debating Club. I’m not the most involved student, but I know the value of being engaged in student life.

What’s less apparent to me is the value of a record. Even the (impressive) research on our official “Why have a CCR?” page is exclusively on the benefit of the engagement itself. Presumably the purpose is to facilitate and encourage such engagement.

But the explanation that jumps to mind is the motivation of “something to show for it”. It reminds me of the FSG training module for building a portfolio of your FSG work. There’s nothing wrong with making a portfolio, as long as it remains a proportionally small reason to run an FSG at all. At the Medium, we’re acquainted with “something to show for it” being a writer’s main motivation; some of them drop off the map forever the instant they earn a title, and “your name in print” is our usual call for volunteers. And we need these participants, of course. So do student clubs. We’re all woefully understaffed.

That leads to a major question that has been asked about the CCR: who can sign off on an activity? There’s a certain balance to be struck between exclusivity and credibility, and in my opinion, the latter currently needs a bit of boosting. The issue is intimately tied up in the value of what’s shown on the record. In a Varsity article from Sept. 23, Walied Khogali, the executive director of UTMSU, expressed vague concern about limited signing authority. But for my part, I believe there are good reasons to limit it.

Anyone who’s been a part of the average club at UTM—I don’t mean the well-funded, well-publicized ones—can tell you that executives are hard to come by. Filling the positions often means a couple of engaged members asking friends if they’ll collect signatures and run unopposed to fill a role whose duties haven’t been made clear to them. Sometimes this can even go very wrong; in my first year in the Debating Club, the execs told us how in the previous year, an exec had run off with the tournament budget she’d been entrusted with. Now, there are certainly people who care much more and who work hard in these clubs— the president of UTMDBC in my year was one of them—and I don’t mean to disparage them whatsoever. But given the possibility of apathy and mismanagement, the restriction of signing authority to university staff is probably called for.

And unfortunately, I don’t think the CCR will entice many more of the ones who care—they’ve been involved all along. And the benefit is not what they have to show for it; it’s what they personally gained. The CCR has a skills lookup to match us with activities flagged as fostering particular skills, and—even though I find such assignments somewhat arbitrary when job-hunting—this could prove the most useful feature of all.

Or maybe I’m just bitter because it’s not retroactive. You never know.