By Irina Rusanova
Saint Vincent’s club fair was bustling with students in the fall of 2019, curious freshmen and upperclassmen milling about colorful stands in the search for the right place to pursue their interests. This semester, however, large gatherings, so the club fair was transferred onto Flipgrid.
Club presidents and officers alike made videos to promote their clubs, submitting them to the new graduate coordinator of student activities, Veronica Philip. Freshmen were then given access to the Flipgrid page where the videos were uploaded so that they could choose which clubs to join.
The current president of Reading Club, Caitlin Machuta, who also serves as an officer for multiple other clubs, expressed her concerns regarding the number of interested freshman this year as compared to years prior. Machuta, a junior physics and mathematics major, said that in the current semester, Reading Club received 4 new freshman members. Last year, 10 freshmen signed up.
The president of Aquarium Club and Fencing Club, and vice president of Equestrian Club, Alyssa Baker, senior biology major, faced similar issues with numbers.
“There were much fewer people who signed up for all clubs,” she said. “We usually get 60 to 80 signups for just one club, but this year only 43 people signed up for any clubs at all. I averaged at about 4 sign-ups per club.”
“Most [freshmen] did not know there was a club fair (because no one looks at the bulletin boards or knows how to navigate the portal),” Machuta explained. “People may also be hesitant with joining clubs due to COVID.”
She added that students could not access the virtual sign-up form after it expired, which further decreased numbers.
“I feel like the idea was good, but that a link being sent out via mass email or even a single info booth for the club fair where sign-ups could happen would have been more effective,” Baker stated. “I expect upcoming meetings and events will boost member counts due to people informing their friends via word of mouth.”
Club presidents were instructed to hold their formal freshman greeting meetings on Monday, Sept. 7 at 9:30 p.m. They found out about the requirement during the Council of Presidents meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 1, and received names and emails of interested freshmen on Saturday, Sept. 5.
Machuta conveyed multiple worries prior to the Monday meeting.
“I don’t think the freshmen, just like the rest of the club presidents and officers, are going to be happy having it so late at night on Monday with so little time knowing and planning for it,” she said. “It was very rushed.”
Machuta also mentioned scheduling issues students were likely to experience when planning to attend the clubs’ freshman greeting meeting.
“Having all the clubs have the same meeting at the same time [will] deter the freshmen from joining more than one club and [they] won’t be able to ask questions since they basically have to pick one [club] for that night,” she stated.
Following the meeting, Machuta reported that none of the four interested freshmen were able to attend, and the full consequences of the virtual club fair remain to be seen. According to the Office of Campus Life’s Club Manual, last updated fall 2019, clubs must retain 15 active members in order to receive funding. For clubs that rely on freshmen to have enough active members, their very existence may be in jeopardy.