In September, as my managing editor and I read through The Heckler applications one final time, two things occurred to me. First, this school is funny. So funny, in fact, that you would not guess how good-looking everyone is. Second, we need to rethink how we handle club admissions as a university. Club applications at Georgetown can be just as arbitrary as the Sorting Hat from Hogwarts. Yet somehow, they are even more determinative of one’s social life.
The Heckler is only 13 years old — just an angsty club beaming with brand new smells and wondering what it is going to look like on the other side of its growth spurt. As such, we need writers who are committed to ushering it into the proud, unwavering stature of a 14 year old. But how can someone possibly show this commitment on a written application alone? By writing, “I am committed”? Or, perhaps more convincingly, “I AM COMMITTED”? I would be skeptical.
How many clubs on campus told Applicant #143 she could not do what she wanted to do because they already heard all they needed to hear 142 times? And what if Applicant #143 has a blazing, to-the-core passion for activity “A” that would have made her the president of the Georgetown A Club (GAC)? And what if that were to springboard her long and fruitful career as a professional A-er? And what if she were to marry another professional A-er from a different A firm, whom she met at a regional A conference in Carson City? If none of this happens, then who, I ask, will teach Applicant #143’s five starry-eyed grandkids about how people used to get paid to do activity A?
My limited creativity with analogies aside, I am truly frightened by how many Applicant #143’s I might have let slip by during recruitment for The Heckler last September. Luckily, we are taking steps to correct this. With the exception of our core staff writers, The Heckler is now crowd-sourcing its material from anyone on campus with an idea. Students who want to get onto our core staff will have to do so by contributing regularly, by demonstrating the drive and willingness to improve. However, students who just thought of a good idea on the treadmill are more than welcome to chip in as well.
Recruitment is the one area where our Olson Okay’d® clubs can learn something from our Greek organizations and the multi-week acclimation period known as “rush”. This is not to stop Innovo Solutions from only admitting the chillest prospective management consultants. Rather, despite its superficial, beer-bellied reputation, rush will at least give the organization time to measure the commitment of an aspiring member, who in turn will have time to figure out if the club is the right fit for him.
I can only think of upsides to applying this way of thinking about admissions to non-Greek clubs. New members who make their way onto a club roster through their own persistence during a trial period, rather than through something resembling a lottery, would get a sense that they truly “bought into” the organization, even if this trial period follows a preliminary application. A stronger sense of belonging and a greater appreciation for applicants’ demonstrated work ethic will help ensure that new members will continue to put their best foot forward throughout the rest of their time in the club.
Arbitrary club admissions is a problem that we should all look to address as soon as possible. I have already spoken to several talented, hard-working freshmen that claimed to have simply “done nothing” last semester because the “apply-to-as-many-clubs-as-possible-and-hope-one-of-them-sticks” method did not work out for them. Obviously, the diversity of the extracurricular scene prevents me, or anyone, from offering a specific model that would work for everyone. Performance groups will always need auditions. Pre-professional groups will always require a baseline level of technical knowledge.
Still, at the very least, I encourage all other club leaders to re-evaluate their admissions format and to move toward a model that can gain from the benefits of a lengthier process. Do what you can to make sure you being as fair to aspiring members as possible. Take the time to see who is a right fit for your group, to separate those who are passionate from those who might see your organization as a backup plan. Everyone wins — your club, those who most would want to be in it and Applicant #143’s grandkids.
Craig Levites is a junior in the College.
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.