Albrecht: Breaking the Loop
By Emily Albrecht, Contributing Columnist
Published on Tuesday, January 22, 2013
A Google calendar pop-up is behind this document, flashing, nagging. There’s a club meeting going on right now and the pop-up is saying that I should really be there, right now. I am one of the hundreds of students here who want to be involved and plan to be involved, but somehow always miss, intentionally or not, that one new club I wanted to try.
It is commonly cited by administrators and advertisers that Dartmouth is home to over 200 student organizations. However, ignoring Greek life and athletics (which both are admittedly huge time commitments), it seems that few non-performance clubs can get more than half a dozen members at each meeting — if even that.
When attendance is habitually low, it seriously diminishes the club’s effectiveness. The people who attend feel awkward, the creators and officers dejected. Nothing much can get done with only a few people there, so the meeting is, more often than not, short and stilted. It ends with plans to meet again next week.
This general lack of attendance and enthusiasm disincentivizes people from becoming active in the club. The ambience of disregard lends itself to a sense of pointlessness. No one wants to walk out in the cold only to find themselves sitting around in a quiet room for 15 minutes.
It is a vicious cycle — if no one shows up, nothing can get done, the effort will seem pointless and the club unproductive. Thus, at the next meeting, no one shows up. Once somebody makes the decision to skip a meeting, they join the campus-wide negative cycle that grips non-athletic, non-Greek extracurricular clubs.
There are various reasons that cause this. Students are constantly overwhelmed with classes, on- and off-campus jobs and may just not be interested in what these clubs have to offer. However, there are many other reasons for this lack of involvement that regrettably cannot all fit into a single opinion column. An overall lack of enthusiasm is a problem that needs to be addressed within each individual. The decision to get out of Baker-Berry Library and go to a meeting is theirs and theirs alone.
The distribution and organization of clubs, however, can be collectively addressed. Blitzes are easily ignored, forgotten and thrown away. Emails regarding clubs are definitely no exception. While Blitz is currently the best system we have to distribute information, it clearly is not doing a wholly adequate job. An online campus-wide schedule of clubs would better inform the student body of the overall organization of clubs on campus, thus encouraging involvement.
Creating a cohesive, adaptable online schedule of weekly club meetings and events would help students see at a glance which groups are meeting and when. This would unilaterally increase students’ exposure to relevant information without inundating inboxes. Such a schedule would enable those interested to reconcile club meeting times with their personal schedule weeks in advance. Facilitating cross-club cohesion with a streamlined schedule would increase attendance through its accessibility.
Many clubs’ lack of accessibility is also apparent through the divide between those leading the club and those merely attending the meeting. Long-established clubs on campus can sometimes feel insular to new members, intentionally or not. There have been clubs from which I have walked away because the executives did absolutely everything and shared very little, leaving the non-officer members feeling unneeded and, again, pointless.
Individual clubs should work to avoid such insularity and find unique ways to further promote attendance. Each club should find what works best for their target audience and use it. A blitz alone is not a hook, nor is a flyer or even the aforementioned online schedule. With the current situation on campus, clubs need to focus on bringing in and, more importantly, retaining members.
A single campus-wide schedule, open to all clubs, would greatly aid in collective accessibility and student organization. Club openness and reformation, through whatever means they find best, would likewise aid in individual accessibility. Put together, these two changes could encourage new members to attend club meetings and events, finally breaking this vicious cycle.
Club attendance may seem hopeless right now, and useless to try to change. But, as a collective campus and as individuals, with a little effort, the negative cycle that we are currently stuck in can be spun into one that is both positive and powerful.