Low club attendance: empty involvement or extracurricular involvement?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece are not a reflection of the views of Paw Prints as a whole. They are the sole views of the author. Paw Prints Weekly celebrates a diverse audience and staff, and it supports the declaration of duties and rights of a Journalist per the U.S. Constitution.

Club reactivation is around the corner once again along with the reality of low attendance and empty involvement.

As admission offices at prestigious universities continue to reject star applicants with near-perfect GPAs and impressive academic achievements, the only way students can stand out from thousands of applicants is with their extracurricular achievements, often in the form of club involvement, one of the most accessible extracurricular activities available to students. However, these seemingly well-rounded, elaborate resumés are only filling Glen A. Wilson clubs with more empty involvement, or overcommitted students who are joining more clubs than what they can handle—just for the sake of boosting their resumé.

Most college-driven students are high achievers, whose numerous extracurricular responsibilities are accompanied by even heavier academic course loads. Thus, missing a club meeting or two is understandable. But the rising phenomenon in GAWHS clubs is far more extreme: some registered club members are consistently absent from meetings and events, making no contribution to the club, leaving an empty name on the roster and an empty club name on their own resume.

Canon Pham (12), founder and co-president of club Right2Write, testifies to her club’s experience with decreasing club attendance.

“Right2Write has unfortunately experienced the impact of low meeting attendance,” Pham said. “For example, we had our meeting attendance drop from about 20 [people] to a consistent seven to eight [people] by the end of last school year.”

And as a senior in the middle of the college application process, Pham sees overcommitment and resumé-filling as the major contributor to low club attendance.

“I have definitely seen an increasing phenomenon of club activities becoming empty college application fillers,” Pham explains. “I have heard about several students who already have many commitments but wish to take on [more] positions anyway to build their resumé.”

Building a resumé by using a long list of clubs that you never truly contributed to, much less showed up to is deceptive and unfair to students who are actually actively committed to their club. Furthermore, low attendance also subtracts from school clubs’ purpose: to encourage student engagement and contribute to campus culture. Thus, more and more clubs are in favor of enforcing a minimum attendance policy. 

An anonymous cabinet member of a competitive club (11) provides her thoughts on enforcing a minimum attendance policy.

“Low and inconsistent rates took a toll on the club’s overall performance,” the student remarked. “I think a minimum attendance rate should be enforced to ensure quality involvement.”

In addition to enforcing a minimum attendance policy on registered members, some incoming clubs address the root of low attendance and over-commitment by using attendance rates as a qualifying factor in cabinet position eligibility.

Jessica Stanek (11), representative of an incoming crochet club Tangled Yarn, shares more insights into her club’s attendance policy.

“We understand the responsibilities that come with holding a cabinet position,” Stanek said. “So we have created requirements that cabinet members must meet to keep their positions, including maintaining a good attendance record.”

Cabinet members are leading examples of club expectations – younger and newer members’ level of interest and contribution is set by the leadership. So for clubs that would like to be more accommodating to their members’ schedules, the effective alternative can be maintaining a dedicated and active cabinet through attendance discipline.

To sum up, just like a part-time job or sport, extracurriculars come with responsibility, and signing up for a school club is no exception. With new clubs presenting themselves at Club Rush in a few weeks, it is a sad reality to see that a minimum attendance policy must be put in place to fight irresponsible absences. So let this be a reminder: Empty involvement does not equal extracurricular involvement.

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