This spring has been exhilarating for Mansfield University's fledgling YAL chapter. Our informal establishment at the end of October with five people got five hearts racing for what we could do for the movement. This week, we are spending the entire week working the table and the clipboard around Mansfield University campus. It has been bitter cold all week, but our hearts are warm and we are driven. Our first day, which will be the topic of this post, showed us a few useful things, and raised our morale to new heights.
Monday, February 13th, 2017 started like many other days thus far this winter. The wind was whipping. Snow lingered from a weekend nor'easter. The Eastern Hill, as campus is affectionately called in Mansfield University's alma mater, lay locked in ice, void of life. The sun weakly scrambled to shine long rays across campus through heavy clouds.
Our small chapter assembled at 12:30 in a heavily-trafficked building - the dining hall - where organizations often set up tables and promote their groups. We set to work dismantling the recruitment supply kit we received from YAL, affixed our buttons, and prepared the table before us. Four of us started the day, but soon the signups would outnumber our small chapter.
We handily wrote our own information on the sheet, as our novice marketing experience taught us that consumers are more likely to add to a sheet that others have added to previously. It seemed to work fairly quickly. We had barely settled our affairs into arrangement, and there came a curious onlooker.
"What are you selling? Are you from a bank?" she asked. With a chuckle, my VP and I tried to stumble through an explanation, but soon realized that in our fumbling we had not properly adjusted the volume of our speech. This realization came in the form of another question that interrupted our ramblings. "Which bank are you from?"
At this point, the lot of us erupted in laughter, and this sufficiently cut through the tension to allow a relaxed and succinct explanation of what we were up to. Our first prospective member looked over our table, and her eye quickly caught hold of the "Do You Believe in Liberty?" quiz. Upon completion, she wisely decided our organization was worthwhile and added her information to the list. Success. We learned from her fairly soon afterward that she was involved with the History Club on campus. Perfect! She sat near us and made some phone calls. The word was spreading.
Our next signup strolled through and wheeled around on a dime when he saw our "How to talk to Police" cards. We went through the rounds of explaining our goals and what we believe to him, and he returned a quiz score of 190/200. I laughed and said, "You're perfect. If you're interested in our organization just put your information here and we'll keep you in the loop about our follow-up meeting." He happily obliged, we gave him a Pocket Constitution and the other materials we had prepared, and he continued on his way. A few more came upon us that way, and we effortlessly brought them into our loop.
Midway through our Monday quest, I decided it was time to try the humorous approach. People walking past our table were greeted boisterously and loudly with, "Would you like some free liberty this afternoon?!?" It seemed a solid approach, and we caught a few more signups in this manner. Our first day was going solidly.
Josh, our Vice President, decided it was time to brave the cold around 2 o'clock in the afternoon. With some materials, the trusty clipboard, and a pen, off he went in twenty degree weather and heavy winds. The academic buildings on the other side of campus had a class period ending around 2:15 and 2:30. Josh stood bravely on the walkway above them and handed out all the materials he took with him, as well as collecting a couple signups. He returned to the table at 2:45 with a smile, a runny nose, numb hands, and rosy cheeks.
We broke for an hour to get a bite to eat, and then continued our quest at around 5:30 in the afternoon. The evening class crowd came through the dining hall at that time, so the table was once more met with throngs of passers-by. The evening shift greeted us with a few more curious travelers, and a couple invited to check out our table by our secretary, Kayla, and our other undergrad member, Erin, both of whom spent most of the day helping at the table as well.
Our spirits soared when we started counting signups. Our first day yielded our inexperienced recruitment force nine possible members. With satisfaction, we finally tore down our setup at 8:00. We congratulated each other on a job well done for one day, and went where we were headed for the night.
Day one taught us that there are multiple approaches to promoting our message. We learned the value of a smile, and we witnessed the power of humor in recruitment. We also got to experience how respectful our fellow students are. The concerns we entered with, about conflict, public argument, about whether we would be ready to debate, were, at least for one day, erased. Those who didn't want to be part of our movement simply looked the other way. If there's one thing that speaks for, it's that Mansfield University is a friendly place to be for four (or five, or six) years.