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Members of the Club

A curious article in The D today by Emily Albrecht ‘16: her contention is that Dartmouth students are not actively participating in the College’s many clubs. Curious. I thought that everyone wanted a full roster of extracurriculars on the ol’ law/med/b-school application. What do you make of this?

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.

What are students doing with their time? Everyone is always busy, busy, though it’s not as if they are doing all their reading for class. I’m mystified.

Addendum: An recently minted alumnus writes in:

I like that you pointed out Emily Albrecht’s article on low attendance in student organizations entitled: “Breaking the Loop”. What I find most interesting about the article is that it perpetuates a loop of an entirely different order.

Ms. Albrecht ultimately uses her article to call for the creation of an online calendar. Your more seasoned readers may remember that such a calendar system was in fact called for by previous Student Assembly president, Travis Green ‘08, on May 4, 2007:

“A centralized calendar and information resource — “The Green” — will provide announcements and advertisements for social events, programs, workshops, concerts, and service projects. Student Assembly has already been developing this idea. We will harness next year’s freshmen to fill it with information.”

Such a calendar was eventually created after considerable effort by Jason Laster ‘11. However the program proved to be unpopular and no one used it. Now “Our Green” inhabits the same digital graveyard as MySpace and Friendster.

A wise professor, who was himself a Dartmouth alumnus, once told me that the Dartmouth student body has no institutional memory after six years. Combined with fly-by-night administrators, this leads to a perpetual loop in social policies and campus issues.


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