For years, club culture at Penn has been criticized for being too competitive, adding to the stress of students on campus. In particular, finance and consulting clubs have earned a reputation for being overly selective, with some clubs admitting as few as 8 percent of applicants.
Now, students are hoping to give their peers a way to assess the 450 student-run clubs on campus to change this "hyper-competitive" culture.
Wharton freshman John Casey, an associate member of the Undergraduate Assembly and its Student Life Committee, has launched a new initiative called Penn Club Review, which he envisions as a guide to the club application process formatted similarly to Penn Course Review. Casey said that they plan on working with Penn Labs and that the site would be completed at the beginning of fall 2018 at the earliest.
The initiative comes on the heels of other efforts to reform club recruitment. Last year, the Wharton Council enacted new reforms that all Wharton-recognized clubs are required to follow.
The Student Activities Council and the UA have previously passed guidelines for club recruitment, including a “no-resume rule” for freshmen as well as personalized rejections. However, they have yet to finalize the directions for how these guidelines should be enforced.
SAC Chair Edward Jing, a College and Wharton senior, said his organization recently surveyed freshmen and sophomores about their experiences in club recruitment this fall, and these results will shape the final guidelines. Jing, who recently penned an op-ed in The Daily Pennsylvanian calling for reform to the club application process, also said that SAC will require groups to submit detailed descriptions of their application processes in order to get a table at the SAC activities fair in the spring.
Jing said he hopes to make these descriptions available in a guide on the SAC website, ideally before the activities fair.
Casey said he is currently reaching out to the recruitment and membership chairs of SAC-recognized clubs about their willingness to attach a form to their application where students could provide feedback on their experiences. After students go through club recruitment, they would have to complete the form before seeing their application decisions, Casey said.
Some categories he wants to include are interview experience, written application intensity, decision response time, and the quality of the information session.
Casey said his efforts were influenced by Harvard University’s Q Guide, a resource Harvard’s Undergraduate Council launched this fall to make club recruitment less stressful. The guide provides general information, contacts, reviews, and comments about the application process and club overall.
Una Corbett, a sophomore at Harvard, said she thinks the Q Guide can be a “good resource” for students who don't know many upperclassmen.
“If you don’t know people coming in or don’t happen to stop at the right activity fair table it can be difficult to figure out what the way to go is,” she said.
Harvard freshman Nkazi Nchinda found the Q Guide for courses incredibly useful, but said it had “almost no data on it.” “I was expecting a really cool robust system like the class one, but a bunch of clubs don’t even have information,” he said. However, he thinks it will “definitely” be useful in the future after more reviews are added.
Casey’s plans are currently tentative, as the UA Student Life Committee hasn’t yet presented it to the UA general body. However, College junior Samara Wyant, the director of the committee and DP circulation manager, is "hopeful” that clubs on campus and the UA general body will respond positively to this project.
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