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Students and club leaders gather at the SAC Activities Fair in 2018. The event has been held online over the last two semesters.

Credit: Yolanda Chen

Student Activities Council groups successfully used Penn Clubs' website during club recruitment this academic year, but struggled to build a sense of community online.

During the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, all clubs overseen by the Student Activities Council used Penn Clubs for virtual recruitment. The website consolidates club information in one place, allowing users to search, filter, and save clubs of interest. Students found the tool helpful during recruitment, but did not find much use for it during the semester.

The Daily Pennsylvanian Analytics Staff conducted an analysis of club activities over the 2020-2021 academic year using data from Penn Labs and the Penn Clubs website. The website categorizes each club by type and reveals data about the number of registered members, planned events, and the application process to join the club. 

Clubs can have multiple tags and events can be labeled as either SAC fair, recruitment, general body meeting, speaker, or other events, and can be listed weeks in advance.

On Penn Clubs, organizations can indicate what steps students need to take to gain club membership. Clubs may have open membership or require auditions, tryouts, applications, or an application and interview to join. 

Of the 51 categories of clubs analyzed, 44 included a majority of clubs that required applications or interviews. Religious clubs, club sports, and recreational groups had the highest proportion of open membership clubs, while consulting, entrepreneurship, and business groups had the highest proportion of clubs that require an application or interview. 

Engineering sophomore Leslie Lytle, a member of Penn Electric Racing, a student group that works on building race cars, said the club received a similar number of applications in the fall and spring compared to previous in-person semesters. 

Although there have been some drawbacks to virtual recruitment, such as the inability to showcase their car at the SAC fair, Lytle said the group has still been able to connect with interested students virtually.

Since September 2020, the vast majority of events on the website have been related to the SAC fair, with large increases in listed events during the months of September and January, when the fall and spring semester SAC fairs took place. The number of non-SAC fair events, such as general body meetings and speakers, has increased at a much slower rate. 

Academic, pre-professional, and business clubs hosted the most recruitment and speaker events, while community service, cultural, and social clubs hosted the most general body meetings.

Programming clubs tend to have the most members per club, while community service is the most popular club type, with 152 organizations listed on the Penn Clubs website. 

Wharton sophomore Lynne Andre — an officer for Wharton Cohort Shekel, a team leader for Black Wharton Consulting, and an advising fellow for Matriculate — said the online format has compromised the traditional club experience. 

Andre said that the transition has been particularly difficult for clubs like Wharton Cohorts, which are centered around in-person events such as socials with free food.

“While [Shekel has] tried to transition into similar programming online, it’s just really not the same,” Andre said. “Students don’t want to be on Zoom 24/7.” 

Wharton senior and Penn Glee Club President Jake Milner said that, while the virtual setting has prevented the group from performing together in person, the group has found new ways to build community that may not have been possible before the pandemic. 

Although the group has had fewer in-person rehearsal opportunities, Milner said it has held more general body meetings, which have allowed members to get to know each other better. 

“The virtual SAC fair has gone well. It enabled us to meet people and enabled people to drop in and meet us,” Milner said.