This Sunday at the Council of Advisory Boards Fair, as clubs set up on Georgetown’s front lawn and try to recruit new members, it is difficult not to be optimistic. As students walk through cramped aisles of tables adorned with promotional flyers and Bluetooth speakers, they can consider what possibilities lie ahead for them on the Hilltop. For one afternoon each semester, opportunity seems ample and tangibly within reach.
Georgetown’s clubs and the students who comprise them are among the most brilliant aspects of this university. Yet there is another side of Georgetown’s club culture — a darker side — that is too often ignored. Though we rarely allow ourselves to acknowledge it, the Georgetown student body is in crisis. Student leaders, club leaders and organizational leaders have failed the Georgetown community. We have failed our peers.
As members of the Executive Board of the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, we recognize it is clubs like ours that have promoted a culture of rejection and exclusivity through a cycle of mass recruitment and limited acceptance of students who are passionate about being involved in our groups, even if unintentionally.
This crisis is not shocking or unfamiliar. We have all been rejected from not just one club but several — or at least know someone who has. At some point in Georgetown’s history, mass rejection was normalized. There are an uncomfortable number of online chat rooms and public forums where prospective students — concerned about their futures on the Hilltop — seek solace in the stories of students who have come before them.
“To be honest,” one student wrote, “it was the club thing that really turned me off on Georgetown.”
Given our role in Lecture Fund leadership, we are among the most culpable in this crisis. In recent years, as our application numbers have drastically swelled, the population of our organization has not. We have fueled this toxic and systemic cycle that isolates, separates and rejects our student body.
We have not done enough to support our classmates, nor to include and embrace them. Through the structure of our application process and our limited offering of involvement opportunities, we have helped solidify the myth that rejection is simply an inevitability of life at Georgetown.
It is important to note that dozens of clubs on campus do not require applications, interviews, resumes or applicant cuts. At the same time, however, we know that the Lecture Fund is not alone in reckoning with exclusivity. It is the responsibility of every selective club and organization on campus to seriously consider the effects of their cultures.
In recognizing and acknowledging the crisis of club selectivity, we can begin to address it.
The Lecture Fund is proud to announce that we are launching a new facet of our organization this semester: the General Body. This board will be responsible for planning lectures, discussing free speech issues and bringing speakers to campus. The General Body will accept any student who wishes to join it.
Though we will still maintain our Associate Board, the General Body is a crucial first step in our process to steer the Lecture Fund toward a future that is less restrictive and more accessible. We can accurately and honestly say that the General Body is the future of our organization and that we will do everything in our power to foster its success.
Though we hope that all those who are interested will join the General Body, we recognize that this is not a silver bullet that will solve our campus’s crisis of mass rejection. This alone is not enough.
As an organization, we will continue inquiring, debating and searching for new and more effective ways to include the Georgetown community in our mission to promote dialogue and discussion on campus. We hope our experience will encourage all of Georgetown’s clubs and organizations to search for ways to make themselves more accessible to interested students.
We believe the future of clubs at Georgetown will be an inclusive one, and we look forward to the day when every student is able to get involved in the organizations that intrigue and inspire them. Georgetown’s extracurricular organizations have a powerful role in our campus culture, but neither our clubs nor the students within them can reach their full potential if the current state of exclusivity persists.
Aiden Johnson is a junior in the College and is chair of Lecture Fund. Abigail Glasgow and Sarah Smith are seniors in the College and are vice chairs of Lecture Fund.