To combat competitive club culture, Penn Labs is working with student government to launch a new website that will list club selectivity and consolidate club information.
The website, called “Penn Clubs,” will launch at the beginning of the fall semester and will be ready for use at the Student Activities Fair on Aug. 29. Students will be able to filter clubs by type of application, such as whether they require interviews or are open to all who wish to join, said Engineering junior Arun Kirubarajan, who leads the Penn Labs team designing the website. Club descriptions on the website will also include qualitative information on the number of applicants.
The website will also feature a comprehensive listing of all groups recognized by the Student Activities Council, as well as details about each club and tools for searching, filtering, and saving clubs of interest.
Members of the Undergraduate Assembly hope the website will help democratize an often-competitive club application process. Wharton junior and UA Wharton representative John Casey, who first envisioned the project, said he was motivated to increase transparency in club recruitment because of his own experiences as a freshman.
“There’s no comprehensive catalog that you can get basic information about a club, or know how to get involved, besides the SAC fair, which I think can be overwhelming,” Casey said. “We want to really provide people with the ability to know all their options, and also to see what differentiates what club from another.”
Casey was joined by College senior and SAC Vice Chair Elena Hoffman, who convinced SAC to send out a mandatory survey to all university clubs to collect information for the website's database.
“[SAC is] committed to making the student organization experience as enjoyable and non-stressful as possible, and we think a database like this will be helpful to students who are overwhelmed,” Hoffman explained. “We can use our funding abilities to ensure that [the clubs] follow along with what this [Penn Clubs] project is trying to accomplish.”
Penn Clubs is an ongoing project from Penn Labs, the student-run organization that has created products like Penn Mobile and Penn Course Review.
“Something that’s very important to us is just trying to make information about the various clubs very easily accessible for students,” Penn Labs team member and Engineering sophomore Armaan Tobaccowalla said. “When you’re interested in 234 clubs, then you’re constantly running around all over the place. And it’s very easy to miss out on things.”
Kirubarajan said the initial version of Penn Clubs will let students access information about clubs, save clubs they are interested in to a personal list, and filter the database by type, size, level of competitiveness, and time commitment. Penn Labs plans to continue updating the website with new club information and is planning a full product launch for later this semester.
In future versions, they hope to launch a "common application" that will allow students to apply to multiple clubs through a single application.
“I’m hoping that this would ease the stress of writing a lot of essays and doing a bunch of interviews for a lot of different clubs,” Penn Labs team member and Engineering junior Eva Killenberg said.
Currently, the only comprehensive listing of student organizations is Groups Online at Penn. Engineering sophomore Chelsea Cao said the Groups Online website is not up to date and "doesn’t seem to be very good" or useful.
“There isn’t much information out there about clubs that you’re not already a part of,” Cao said. “I think [Penn Clubs] is going to be really useful, especially as there are so many organizations on campus, there isn’t really one unified way to organize them all.”
Kirubarajan said Penn Labs, the UA, and student organizations themselves plan to advertise Penn Clubs to students. Their goal is to get each new student to visit the site at least once.
“[We] want to democratize access to clubs, and specifically [allow] for people who aren’t already in the club scene to get information about clubs that they might be interested in,” Kirubarajan said. "The aim of this is just to reduce the toxic mess that comes with recruiting for competitive clubs.”
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