Student participation in clubs rises

Bea Moyers

Student participation in clubs this semester has increased as many groups are reviving in-person activities, a Record survey of Registered Student Organization (RSO) leaders found.

The survey was sent last week to all 134 RSO leaders and garnered 37 responses for a response rate of 28 percent. Sixty-two percent of respondents said more people joined their club than last year, and 75 percent said more students joined their club than they had expected.

Aidan Lloyd-Tucker ’22, who runs Williams Students Online (WSO), said that 15 people signed up for WSO this year, while only two signed up last year. “A lot more people are putting themselves out there and joining clubs and just doing activities run by those clubs as well,” he said.

Lloyd-Tucker, a current member and former vice president of the Williams Outing Club (WOC), added that more people have been attending the weekly sunrise hikes than in previous years. “Generally a trend we’re seeing [at WOC] is record attendance at everything,” he said.

Mohammad Faizaan ’23, co-chair of the Muslim Students Union (MSU), noted similar increases in participation. “In general with events, Class of ’25 has been more consistent, showing up in more consistent numbers,” Faizaan said.

Some club leaders attributed the increased number of sign-ups to student excitement surrounding the return of in-person activities. “I would hypothesize that frosh and sophomores are maybe just generally more excited to get involved because they either graduated with COVID, or their first year was just so restricted,” said Kenzie Stoker ’22, a leader of Get Baked, a baking club.

Elizabeth Hughes ’22, president of EphVotes, a club focused on promoting civic engagement, also suggested that students were eager for more face-to-face interaction. More than double the number of students signed up for her club this year compared to last year, when EphVotes events were all hosted virtually. “[There’s a lot of] freshmen and sophomores this year who haven’t really had that chance to be as involved with in-person things as they would have been able to pre-COVID,” Hughes said.

Multiple students said that they thought the in-person Purple Key Fair led to more sign-ups. “This year, a lot more people could come in, and you see your friends and you would see friends of friends, and you’re able to sign up that way,” Faizaan said.

Since last year’s Purple Key Fair occurred online, some current sophomores said they have felt more inclined to join clubs this year.

“Just being able to meet other students who are really passionate about what they’re doing in their clubs is such an invigorating experience,” Tucker Catlin ’24 said. “I wanted to sign up for everything.”

The lack of in-person programming may have particularly affected performance groups last year. Keshini Cardozo ’24, a new member of CoDa, the College’s contemporary dance ensemble, said that uncertainty about the logistics of performances last year caused her to wait until this year to apply.

Some club leaders have had to make adjustments in order to accommodate increased participation. Faizaan said that this year, he has filled certain MSU board positions with two students, though they used to be one-person positions.

Emery Zahner ’22.5, president of the fishing club, said that it has been difficult to get enough gear to accommodate increased interest. He also has not been able to go fishing with all of the new club members. “With the scale of our membership, it’s kind of impossible,” he said.

Hughes expressed regret that she could not accept all the students who applied for the EphVotes board. “You don’t want to turn anyone away, and you want to keep everybody as engaged as possible,” she said.

However, some club leaders said that increased club sign-ups have not always led to increased attendance. Gates Tenerowicz ’23.5, who co-leads the Berkshire Doula Project, a reproductive rights advocacy group, said that even though more people signed up for her club, fewer people attended this year’s doula training. “It’s really exciting that we can do things again, but I don’t necessarily know if that interest translates to doing,” she said.

Russell Blakey ’23, who co-leads Williams Secular, also said that fewer people are attending club meetings this year, even though more people signed up at the Purple Key Fair. “I think there was a sense, when we were getting back into the swing of things, that people wanted to take advantage of time they missed last year, and get involved with more stuff that they weren’t able to,” he said. “I think the reality is, though, … you don’t have that much more time than you did before.”

Ollie Saleh ’24, who co-leads both the Southwest Asia North Africa club (SWANA), and the squash club, said he received many more sign-ups for the squash club than he expected, but fewer sign-ups for SWANA than expected. “I’ve noticed that there might be a higher level of interest in club sports,” he said.

Despite these caveats, it is clear that student interest in certain activities is swelling. “[With] COVID, we weren’t able to do so many things for so long,” Tenerowicz said. “It’s really exciting that we can do things again.”