Brandeis loves to promote how active and engaged the student community is, by pointing out how many different clubs are active and how many students decide to pursue more than one major. It is something that leaves a strong impression on both prospective students and potential employers, and is a great selling point. One of the reasons I decided to come to Brandeis was how involved the student body was, and that was something I wanted to be a part of. I couldn’t imagine if Brandeis students were simply focused on one academic path or part of a single club. This aspect of the university makes the community feel more small and intimate than it is as a result, with people getting to know a wide array of classmates in different clubs and classes.
Even though the commitment of Brandeis students is one of our greatest attributes, it is also a detriment to the quality of our work. By having so many different obligations during the semester, students are often spread too thin, and tend to have to place most of their focus on only a few of their obligations, which ends up leaving other clubs underserved. The overall operation of these clubs that are left behind then suffers, and they don’t make the impact they could have.
I’m a big part of this problem. Some activities I really try to focus on, while others I only periodically participate in. I see some of the shortfalls in the club’s operations, but I simply don’t have the drive or desire to do much about it. Instead, I focus my efforts on classes or other clubs. For most clubs, there are a few dedicated members, who usually are on the elected board, and help the club operate smoothly. Other clubs don’t exactly have such a dedicated following and wind up not keeping up. If this lack of interest lasts long enough, the club is in danger of ceasing to exist.
An easy fix for this problem would be forcing students to limit themselves to only a few clubs and extracurriculars, but that’s a very Orwellian policy. No one wants to be told what to do, and students who want to explore other interests and learn something new should be encouraged to do so.
Instead of trying to keep students confined to one or two clubs, the Department of Student Activities should find more resources to aid students in running their clubs. There are already some resources available, such as the department itself and the workshops they run that cover club treasuries and planning events. But more consultants could be hired to help with the actual running of the clubs, consultants who have experience with the purpose of the clubs. Those consultants would understand some of the intricacies of running a group and thus be able to make sure important things don’t get overlooked or forgotten about.
Imagine the literature that the Office of Admissions could publish, stating that not only are students actively engaged in multiple clubs on campus, but that these clubs are overseen by professionals. Additionally, it would provide students who are involved in the club an important contact when it comes time to look for jobs, if they decide to pursue a career in the same field as one of their clubs. A professional with experience in the field would most likely have connections in that field and be able to share their professional wisdom. The club sports teams have coaches that they hire to oversee practices and train the members of the team, so the precedent of using professionals for club activities has already been established.
Yet this would probably never be implemented because of the costs associated with hiring enough professionals to oversee more than 200 clubs. Still, Student Activities should try to address the issue of students spreading themselves too thin across so many clubs, or at least encourage students to stay committed to only a few activities instead of joining as many clubs as possible.