Last week a dear friend of mine, Jay Shah, wrote an outstanding piece regarding the unnecessary competitiveness within joining clubs on campus. As vice president of the student body, he affirmed the truth that our club culture here at Penn has unfortunately lead students to feel rejected and discouraged, especially for freshmen who are not accustomed to the level of competition of getting into clubs.

Nonetheless, even as the Undergraduate Assembly and Student Activities Council have recently partnered to make club recruitment a less stressful and more fair process, clubs here at Penn still may require applicants to submit official resumes, sit through rigorous interview processes with four or five rounds and not receive prompt notifications when they are rejected.

It’s safe to say that this norm has somehow become a part of with the experience of every student who has taken initiative in joining a student-run organization. From a cappella groups to political organizations, we must re-evaluate and change the hyper-competitiveness of club recruitment as it has proven to negatively influence our behavior once we are in such clubs.

When I was a freshman, I remember rushing out of track practice to show face to club recruitment events so that when I applied they’d recognize my name. There was even a moment in time when I had more papers regarding club recruitment than syllabi from my classes. 

However, it was after I had the odd “privilege” of joining these clubs that I spent my sophomore year somehow caught up in an odd threshold of club culture of Penn that goes unnoticed: its overly bureaucratic and hyper-professional semblance that contributes to each and every one of our college experiences.  

Whether it be eight-hour-long election cycles for board turnovers, two-hour meetings every other day simply for free puppy events or even inner board applications that mirror the hyper-competitiveness of on-campus recruitment, we all know something needs to change. Aspects of club bureaucracy such as election cycles are something that a lot of club leaders realize need to fix, yet push to the side due to the overbooking goals they wish to accomplish during the school year. As these factors have a cost, the steps to lowering them are so simple.

Even so, just last year, sitting International Affairs Association Vice President and College senior Marc Petrine said the group had “been taking steps to expedite elections by sending out candidates’ statements beforehand rather than having them delivered on election day” in order to “lessen the burden of elections on students who are already struggling with packed schedules.” This is a great example of a necessary step that club leaders can take in order to alleviate the pressures of club bureaucracy and competitiveness. 

But whether the Undergraduate Assembly, Student Activities Council, administration or even clubs themselves take initiative towards this issue, this aspect of club culture at Penn is something no student organization can fix simply through policy, but rather through a shift in mentality.

What is just as important as exploring your passions with your club and its members is making sure such passions are being explored in a healthy way that isn’t overbearingly managed by those at the top. If not true, the bureaucracy of Penn clubs would prove to divide us just as much as it has contributed to our success on campus, which is a dangerous path with which we are too often flirting.

Granted, one may argue that the values of club bureaucracy have had a huge role in providing Penn students with a preview of how the real world works. I mean sure, at a firm you will have to go through a hard application process, long weeks of meetings and years of bureaucracy in working your way up. However, we can prepare ourselves in a healthy way that doesn’t define our academic ambitions, mental health and self worth. Because after all, the job that you will have one day shouldn’t define those either. 

Just as we were all freshmen once, at some point in time we all were new to the clubs we are currently a part of. It is about time that we utilize that truth to redefine the student club experience here at Penn beyond funding, Facebook invites to events and long meetings. It is about time that we work against the social current that normalizes toxicity in our club culture rather than conform to it. 

CALVARY ROGERS is a College junior from Rochester, N.Y., studying political science. His email address is calvary@sas.upenn.edu. “Cal’s Corner” usually appears every Wednesday.

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