The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.
If Involvement Fest on Monday did its job, hundreds of incoming freshmen and transfer students are deciding which of the many clubs on campus they are going to call home for the rest of their college career. They’re probably already thinking of ways they can reform the organization to make it more efficient, more professional, more popular. After all, they have four whole years! Anything’s possible!
Spoiler alert: it’s not.
There are two major fallacies with this type of thinking. The first is the belief that your four years in college will be enough to do anything impactful at all. In fact, it will take the first couple years just to come up with the ideas, to rise to a position on your club’s executive board and to devise a plan to make things happen the way you want them to. By the time you’re finally running the organization the way you’ve always dreamed it would be run, there’s another bright-eyed, bushy-tailed freshman who’s already conceptualizing their own regime. Chances are your reforms won’t survive a single semester after you graduate.
The second is that clubs need to be efficient, professional and popular to be worth your time and effort. Sure, it’s nice to pretend your amateur theatre troupe has the potential to rival a professional company if someone would only step up, put their foot down and make real change happen. But in reality, the very nature of a student organization opposes this. Student organizations exist to teach us skills, to introduce us to new friends, to give us something to put in the “leadership” portions of our resumes. In a perfect world, the best we can hope to gain from them is knowledge that we can later apply in our professional lives. When you try to draw more out of them than they have to give, they’re destined to wither and die.
But, you say, what’s the harm in trying to make my club better? Even if it’s destined to fail, can’t I at least try? You can. That’s also the nature of student organizations — college students nationwide are bound into a Sisyphean cycle of trying and failing to revamp their organizations with each new generation unaware of the sins of those who came before them. But be aware that doing so comes at a cost. There will be fights. Friendships will end. Beloved projects will be shattered mid-development, or — perhaps worse— forgotten and left to die unceremoniously. You may even end up bitterly leaving a club you once loved.
Let me stress that doing this — wanting to go to great lengths to improve and promote your student organization — is not an inherently negative thing. It shows great perseverance, loyalty and passion. And it can happen to anyone; I’m writing this article, at least in some part, to remind myself that my primary goal in my own clubs this semester should not be perfection.
But the fact of the matter is clubs on this campus (and most college campuses) face enough hardships and opposition from administration and student government. It’s hard enough to stay afloat. Even when the water is clear, in-fighting is a sure-fire way to sink. So instead of ruining what could be life-long friendships in favor of putting on a slightly better production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” instead of fighting to usurp a club’s executive board as if you were planning a coup on a tyrannical dictatorship, instead of getting worked up over things that are, in the long run, completely inconsequential, first stop and think — does this really matter? Will this be worth all the drama, stress and strain that it’s going to cause?
Of course it’s not. So stay calm, be kind and set your standards a little lower. When you start treating your club like a club, rather than a job, you’ll find that student organizations can actually be a respite from the pressure of work and class, rather than an additional stressor.