Clubs should generate genuine interest, not become mindless exercises

November 6, 2023 — by Jessica Li and Sasha Prasad
Graphic by Jessica Li
As the number of newly established clubs on campus increases, actual participation seems to decrease.

Infectious energy filled the quad as club officers set up tables and poster boards, preparing for the shortly awaited annual Club Rush event on Oct. 7 and 8 this year. Students hopped from table to table, speedily snapping pictures of club membership QR codes and jotting down emails on clipboards as they scavenged for clubs aligned with their personal interests. The frenzy to join as many clubs as possible is characteristic of Club Rush, where students are presented with a plethora of options (a whopping 57 clubs this year!).

However, the common reality of many club meetings is a stark contrast to the buzz of Club Rush. Too often they are bleak, low-energy events taking place in mostly empty classrooms. Many students ambitiously sign up for an abundance of clubs without realistically considering the time and effort needed to put toward club commitments. In many cases, the initial number of club sign-ups is substantially greater than the actual number of people who end up attending and committing to the activity. Club meetings are often held during lunch, which tends to be a difficult endeavor for students to cut from their sacred lunchtime and put it towards an activity that demands active concentration.

For example, leaders of the Environmental Action club noted they received 25 form responses at Club Day, yet only around 10 students showed up to their first meeting. Similar scenarios have been seen with once-popular clubs such as Science and Computer Science clubs. This is extremely unfair to genuinely passionate officers, as it gives them a false sense of club membership and may disrupt original club plans.

However, officers can’t be held completely blameless — often they share the same motives as dormant members. In many cases, club officers overestimate their club plans, resulting in members decommitting from the club. It is the officer’s full responsibility to advertise and sustain the hype surrounding their clubs.

Under the right circumstances, clubs can bring a wide range of exciting pursuits to the campus. The Economics club, a current well-functioning club, garners a full classroom of enthusiastic students who display passion and actual participation during lunch meetings. However, this wasn’t made possible out of thin air: Econ club officers put tremendous effort into making thought-out presentations for each meeting. 

They make sure to involve active member participation throughout each meeting, in an effort to not bore members with endless lecturing. Officers incorporate practice or review problems in between concepts as a way to engage members. The methods this club employs creates a riveting environment that promotes learning and fun within the classroom, letting members feel that their valuable lunchtime has been used meaningfully, which is something that other clubs should aim to follow. 

A large sum of students who choose to involve themselves in club-related activities sign up mainly to pad their college résumé, not in interest of their true passion for the club. Students often view clubs as “résumé fillers,” supported by the misconception that joining an overwhelming number of clubs in hopes of gaining leadership positions will increase their chances of admission to so-called prestigious universities. The same notion applies to arbitrarily creating clubs — students often create clubs for the sole purpose of boosting their “leadership” on college applications. 

As of late October, a total of 87 active clubs have been approved on campus, with an additional 35 seeking ASB recognition. This reality adds to dysfunctional club dynamics: The large number of clubs seems to depress actual participation in them. 

This all speaks toward a larger issue — the résumé-obsessed competitive culture prevalent in our student body. We have become so concentrated on filling up our extracurriculars list in time for college applications, we often overlook the valuable knowledge, skills and moral values clubs can instill in us when we pursue them with genuine interest and effort. It’s tragically rare for students to experience the raw, rewarding feeling of learning something new from our activities, whether that be from a club, extracurricular or competition, simply because we’re so hyper-fixated on the labels and numbers attached to our achievements.

We have no magic solutions to all of these issues with clubs, but we do have a plea: If you have a genuine interest in topics that clubs cover, go ahead and sign up. However, if you have other motives for joining, don’t bother wasting time sitting aimlessly in a classroom while your mind is preoccupied with other matters. 

When it comes to extracurriculars, it’s better to be invested in one or two clubs and make a true impact rather than spread yourself thin across numerous half-hearted resumé fillers.

Clubs should serve as a fun and engaging space to further your passions, acquire new skills and find common ground among people with the same interests, not a place to eat lunch and catch up on homework while fueling the activity section on your college applications.

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