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Credit: Joy Lee

The club culture at Penn can lead students to feel rejected and discouraged, particularly freshmen who may not be accustomed to the level of competition.

The Undergraduate Assembly and Student Activities Council have partnered to make club recruitment a less stressful and more fair process.

“We wanted to critically examine the pre-professional culture that was happening at Penn and try to see the root of where a lot of students’ stress was coming from,” UA Treasurer and College junior Michelle Xu said. “We found a lot of clubs on campus perpetuate this stress and were practicing certain recruitment policies that weren’t very good.”

Some of these policies included requiring freshmen to submit official resumes, rigorous interview processes with four or five rounds and students not even being informed if they did not make it into the club.

“There’s currently nothing in place deciding how clubs pick their new members,” SAC Chair and College and Wharton junior Edward Jing said. “[We’re working towards] some form of general guidelines that clubs should be following in the upcoming year.”

SAC's Executive Board deliberated and passed six new guidelines. These guidelines include a “no-resume rule” for freshmen, personalized rejections, no more than two interviews or auditions for general membership, a more transparent interview process with sample questions, no brain teasers to determine membership and communication with SAC over their processes.

The guidelines are not finalized, and the board has not decided yet on exact enforcement of the guidelines. 

These guidelines come after Wharton Council recently changed its club recruitment process this fall to make it less stressful.

SAC is exploring the possibility of enforcing these rules in the upcoming semester by restricting access to the Fall Activities Fair, which are organized by SAC, if clubs do not follow the guidelines.

The guidelines come after the UA sent out a survey on Feb. 13 asking students to answer questions about how their recruitment process went. The survey revealed that a lot of students were unhappy with the process and felt it was unfair.

Jing said SAC hopes these initiatives will lead to more changes for club recruitment.

“[SAC is] not just here to exclusively fund groups,” Jing said. “We want to improve the quality of student life.”

Xu also said she hopes these “baby steps” will help the mental health of students looking to get involved in clubs.

“These are tangible steps to actually addressing health and prioritize mental wellness on campus,” Xu said. “I think we should be focusing that we’re all here, we’re a community, and be good community members. Club recruitment is something we do to ourselves and I really think it’s something we can change on a peer-to-peer level.”

UA Secretary and College sophomore Jay Shah also said he hopes these guidelines will address the “stressful environment” surrounding Penn clubs.

“If there’s a debate club that’s really competitive, there should be another club that offers students a chance to learn,” Shah said. “If you’re requiring students to have previous background experience, whether in debate or playing an instrument, you’re really inhibiting students from exploring the mission and values of Penn.”

He said he hopes that in the future clubs will have a tiers of membership for students who don’t have a background in a field but still want to get involved.

“Rejection is something that a lot of students may not be familiar with,” Shah said. “This is calling for cultural change, and cultural change cannot be forced upon, it must be a group effort from every group involved.”

Correction: A previous version of this article said that the six new guidelines would be enforced by restricting access to the Fall Activities Fair for certain groups. This was not accurate. SAC is exploring this as a potential method of enforcement, but it is not final.