Step one: Walk fast and don’t stop. Step two: Keep your earbuds in. Step three: The most important rule, do not, by any means, make eye contact. These mental notes might be all too familiar with students at Cal Poly Pomona during noon hours on weekdays.
Solicitors, petitioners and other campus annoyances of the like set up camp nearly every week, usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays around the library and university quad, to fill out their quotas. Students jokingly call these solicitors “NPCs,” or “non-player characters” based off traditional role-playing video games, due to their regurgitated scripted dialogue, behavior toward students and their seemingly unnecessary presence on campus. Having an unlucky or unpleasant encounter with these characters is almost an integral part of the CPP college experience.
While these solicitors usually represent well-meaning charities, organizations or social causes, their consistent rude and forward behavior toward students who refuse their approaches has gained them notoriety as people to avoid. The ill-mannered ways to grab students’ attention, such as name-calling, or blocking the path and sticking their arms out is enough to amaze from the lack of respect, if not offend.
These solicitors constantly hound students walking to and from classes and clubs for donations or requests – and sometimes demands – to sign their petitions. If avoidant tactics don’t work and the solicitors persist, refusals and quick excuses are common rejections among the student body. A quick, “Sorry, I’m late to class,” plus some extra speed in my step usually works in a pinch to prevent any further actions from the other party.
My first time encountering a solicitor was during my first year in college. As a fairly new player in the game, I had not yet unlocked the “blunt refusal” ability. I held eye contact for half a second too long because I was wondering why they were staring back and calling me over. I timidly refused by saying I had no cash to donate, which prompted a quick gesture to the entrance of the Bronco Student Center: “There’s an ATM over there.”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a story about rude solicitors, I would have enough money to afford a semester parking permit. Although they are not a major invasion of student privacy, they still are a pretty distracting inconvenience for anyone who is just trying to get to their destination peacefully.
CPP is a public university, so those petitioners are allowed to practice their First Amendment rights on campus without getting kicked out as long as they follow university policy on tabling. While typical rudeness might not get any solicitors kicked out, be prepared to record any obtrusive actions or harassment.
Donating to the charities or organizations is not a bad thing, but just remember that there’s no need to feel guilty about rejecting a solicitor’s advances. These solicitors won’t be leaving campus anytime soon, so for now, if you aren’t looking to donate, walk fast, keep your earbuds in and do not by any means make eye contact if you’re not interested.
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