As club selectivity continues to concern students and plague clubs across campus, it is time to recognize that the ultra-exclusivity of many of Georgetown University’s clubs is rooted in the fact that they blur their purported functions with their roles as social organizations.
To end club exclusivity, the most selective clubs at Georgetown must take steps to combat their current on-campus images, which often focus more on their social functions than their core missions.
As spring recruitment season approaches, clubs can achieve this goal by ensuring that their recruitment and application processes are focused on finding the most highly qualified candidates rather than those who would contribute to the club’s social scene. Yet, our community must also alter the way in which we introduce club culture to new students.
The Student Activities Commission has already initiated these conversations. The group hosted a Student Leaders Summit on Nov. 15 to discuss “the state of student organizations, inclusivity/exclusivity in our groups, and how to tackle the issue of ‘club culture’ on campus” as well as an open forum on club culture Nov. 30.
Following SAC’s example, we should keep the issue of club exclusivity in mind. Georgetown’s clubs, and the culture surrounding them, are often accused of being overly exclusive and woefully homogenous.
In the fall 2016 application cycle, the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union had a meager 7.6 percent acceptance rate. Blue and Gray had a slightly higher acceptance rate at 10 percent that semester.
Students of Georgetown, Inc., which did not provide numbers for that semester, had an acceptance rate of 18 percent in fall 2015, according to The Hoya.
This editorial board has also previously noted the absence of diversity in many major clubs, and continues to encourage clubs to enhance their outreach to minority students.
Such outreach efforts alone are insufficient to remedy either selectivity or a lack of diversity, both deeply-rooted systemic issues. These efforts, though they may boost diversity, do nothing for the low acceptance rates many clubs still struggle with, as they increase the size of applicant pools.
Moreover, constraints on resources — whether in space, budget or training — mean that not every club is able to accept an increasing number of members as application pools grow. Last fall, the Corp and GUASFCU together received a record-breaking 750 applicants, up from the roughly 600 applications they received in fall 2015, according to The Hoya.
The root cause of club selectivity is Georgetown’s cultural notion that clubs are the most important part of our campus social fabric. This leads clubs to often market themselves as social organizations to attract swarms of new applicants, perpetuating a cycle that drives down acceptance rates and blurs clubs’ functions with their social roles.
Clubs and other extracurricular activities will always be an invaluable source of social connections. The problem arises, then, when a club’s reputation as a social hub overshadows its stated mission.
The endeavors that Georgetown’s clubs take on — giving tours, running businesses, investing endowment funds, reporting the news — are important, fascinating enterprises that can attract talented and interesting people on their own merits. These enterprises should be the focus of clubs’ outreach and recruitment efforts.
By refocusing their on-campus roles to their original functions, clubs can distill their applicant pools to those truly interested in furthering the groups’ missions and, with these smaller applicant pools, can dismantle reputations of social exclusivity.
In recruitment processes, clubs should ensure that their emphasis is truly on finding the most talented and qualified candidates.
On a larger scale, however, our campus must change how we market club culture as a whole — particularly to the newest members of our community. By selling clubs to new students as the virtual substitute for sororities and fraternities at Georgetown — a comparison often made to incoming first-years — we only perpetuate the erroneous focus of these groups.
To combat Georgetown’s perpetual problem of club exclusivity, we must all change how we talk about club culture. If not, we risk another slew of application cycles with low acceptance rates and low morale. Our clubs, and our students, deserve better.