As students navigated through the flyers, banners and sign-up sheets at the biannual Council of Advisory Boards Fair last Sunday, they were invited to sample the diverse range of student organizations at Georgetown. Yet for many the enthusiasm of CAB Fair fades to disappointment as they discover the acceptance rates at certain clubs rival, or are lower than, those of the university itself.
Last semester saw record-breaking hiring seasons for Students of Georgetown, Inc. and the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, which together received over 750 applications for the fall semester. In 2015, The Corp accepted just 18 percent of its 460 applicants in the fall semester.
In the fall, GUASFCU and the Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society admitted 7.6 and 10 percent respectively from roughly 300 applicants each. By comparison, in December, Georgetown University admitted 11.9 percent of its Class of 2021 early action applicants, the lowest acceptance rate in the university’s history.
The exclusivity of clubs has prompted student organizations to evaluate their commitment to diversity and launch initiatives to expand their membership. In a letter to the Georgetown community posted on the front page of its website this semester, The Corp acknowledged an internal climate survey revealed a lack of diversity within the organization and affirmed its intent of “hitting reset, and recommitting to building and fostering a multicultural community that truly reflects both Georgetown and our generation more accurately.”
To meet this goal, The Corp pledged three major changes in its hiring process: revising its application and interview questions, creating a more inclusive interview environment and collecting anonymous demographic information from applicants at each stage of the application process.
GUASFCU similarly created a new diversity and inclusion auxiliary committee last semester in an effort to increase the variety in its applicant pool.
While we commend these organizations for broadening their access to under-represented and minority students, we believe student clubs must address another, often overlooked form of bias in the application process: the marked preference for new freshman and sophomore members.
Currently, the Lecture Fund bars non-transfer juniors and seniors from applying to the organization, and Blue and Gray did not extend its invitation to apply to the Class of 2017. GUASFCU is the most exclusive of all, hiring only freshmen in the spring semester.
This restriction prevents many segments of the student body from fully experiencing the opportunities at Georgetown. Consider a student-athlete who stops playing their sport as an upperclassman, either through their own volition or because of injury and wants to pursue new interests with their free time, or a student who enrolls in a class or goes on a trip that fundamentally alters their worldview.
Undergraduates — from freshmen to seniors — have interests that they develop, grow and shed at all points of their academic careers. It is unfair to bar students from integrating themselves into organizations they care about because they, for whatever reason, did not have the opportunity to apply to clubs earlier in their Georgetown career.
We recognize the benefit to most clubs in admitting younger students, who are better able to rise through the leadership ranks in the organization. But just as students are able to switch their majors well into their junior or senior year, they should be permitted to pursue new interests through clubs.
The rigidity of the current club environment at Georgetown closes itself off to potentially qualified applicants and restricts the ability of students to explore their interests. While including voices from different backgrounds should take precedent in clubs’ diversity reforms, these organizations should also recognize that diversity includes age and experience.