A Critique on the Consequences of Club Inflation

As soon as Ms. Hyson released this year’s club list, I checked the document.

As soon as Ms. Hyson released this year’s club list, I checked the document. I read the descriptions of the “Philanthropic Clubs,” then scrolled. And scrolled. And scrolled. The document itself was 11 pages long. There are so many clubs that Club Night itself had to be split into multiple sections. It was obvious that there are simply too many clubs on campus. Indeed, club leaders, both current and prospective, are creating a saturated campus atmosphere, devaluing participation in co-curricular activities. This club overinflation has to be addressed with revaluing our co-curriculars by retaining fewer and expanding more clubs.

A recurring theme at Lawrenceville is the presence of multiple clubs with a similar area of focus. Many of these clubs are often identical to one another but simply coin a different name; consequently, they devalue one another’s worth because more than two clubs are alike. A prime example of this problem are three of the business clubs on campus: Big Red Investment, Lime, most recently, the Lawrenceville Business Enterprise Club (LBEC), all of which utilize investment competitions and lectures as their focal point. To be fair, members of each club enter different competitions with varying levels of commitment required throughout the year. However, with more competitions also comes less competition as students do nothave to dedicate as much effort in earning a position that would be otherwise difficult to get if only one club of the kind existed. Another example focuses on art publications on campus: The Abstract, a new club; The Negative; and one of the oldest clubs on campus, The Lit. The Abstract focuses on visual art, The Lit includes visual art, photography, and poetry, and The Negative is solely photography. Each of these art publications take to their content style in different manners. Thus, each has their own image and written content editors. However, by increasing editorial opportunities, we decrease the value of working for these art publications because these positions are more accessible and more or less similar. An overinflation in goods (editorial work) means a decrease in cost (value of working in an editorial position).

Recognizing the origin of club overinflation is necessary to reorganizing our campus’s co-curricular atmosphere at Lawrenceville. There are approximately 832 students at Lawrenceville this year. 177 clubs are active, and a total of 380 leadership positions are available, which means that close to 46 percent of students are club leaders. Of the roughly 820 students, there are 245 unique club leaders, with 135 of those being leaders of multiple clubs. Two students on campus are leaders of an astonishing seven clubs. There is an overabundance of club leaders—and, by extension clubs.

The issue is that the overabundance of clubs leads to too many club leaders. Students seeking to fill and create roles of leadership are the cause of club overinflation. Typically, club leadership constitutes years of commitment and high performance to rise through the ranks, exemplified by The Lawrence, The First Amendment, L10, and other well-established clubs on campus—in these clubs, there’s a great deal of training involved. With publications, it’s necessary to learn each step of the publication cycle. Tasks on publications require drafting topics, managing writers, editing articles, using InDesign to put the articles into printing format, pagination for printing, and distribution of content. The learning process for these tasks takes time, meaning it is not feasible to create a new publication without experience in the field. This is an excellent organizational model for other clubs—we should be building up these training and leadership structures in other clubs as well.

The devaluation of Lawrenceville’s clubs has to be countered with consolidations of similar clubs. A merger of multiple clubs that overinflate their field of focus would yield one administrative branch that mediates the entirety of the club’s function, and subsidiary branches that perform duties within their respective field. The administrative branch and subsidiary branches would comprise this newly formed entity. Some potential mergers include TFA and The Lawrence or the audiovisual clubs: L10, SNLVille, Experimental Film Club, and Lawrenceville Radio Club (WLSR). Not only would this consolidation reduce the number of leadership positions, but it would increase the overall presence and resources available for the newly-consolidated club. In essence, a consolidation of clubs in the same area of focus with the two-part structure of an administrative branch and subsidiary branches will allow the benefit of funds, value, and counteract club overinflation.

Club leaders, prospective and current, have to rethink their current predicament. Prospective leaders should ensure that no other club runs a similar operation to the club they propose. The problem right now is that with every new but similar club Lawrentians create, the value of board positions decrease. Instead, we students should consider consolidating clubs, which will not only increase the importance of our leadership positions and allow them to become more than just a title, but also improve the quality of our experiences within the club, as consolidating would yield more funding. Club overinflation is corrupting the campus; co-curriculars need to regain their value.


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