The average Georgetown student is racing toward middle-aged life. You know the type: in a suit Monday through Friday, half of their net worth is tied up in investments at 19, treats their latest internship like it’s their identity, can’t wait to work for a mega-bank, loves committee structure and flow-charts.
Youthful exuberance has been replaced by learned, hardened pragmatism on Georgetown’s campus. Instead of using college as a time to practice needless rebellion and make questionable decisions, the applicants the admissions office accepts use Georgetown as a yuppie finishing school. And every aspect of student life has been affected.
Georgetown markets itself as a place where people can go to figure out what they want to do with their lives and decide how they want to change themselves and the world. You know, Jesuit ideals and stuff. Many students are naive enough to believe the whole spiel.
When those students get here, they see that their peers are filling out stacks of applications for student groups and stalking recruiters from Goldman Sachs within two weeks of arriving. In this culture, every second you wait is another second that your peers gain relative to you. So your only choice is to apply for every last group you’re marginally interested in joining, in the hope that you can do something for at least one of them.
The end result is making it harder and harder for students to get involved. Now, a majority of organizations require students to apply. Even first-semester freshmen have to apply to join most clubs. No one else seems to think that’s a crazy idea. These students have just arrived. These students were already among the 16 percent of the students that the admissions office decided to let in. Only minute differences exist between them. But even given the high number of interested students, these groups engage in marketing tactics to get mores students to apply. The goal becomes exclusivity instead of inclusivity.
And with each year, each club becomes more exclusive, which, in turn, inflates club leaders’ egos. I’ve heard more than a few other student leaders boast about how the admissions rate for their club is lower than Georgetown’s overall admit rate. This attitude carries the negative effect of encouraging more snobbery and elitism.
Yet the conversation about improving on-campus life revolves around club space and funding. Georgetown’s corporate student culture is ignored as a problem altogether. Such an outlook ignores the largest obstacle to enjoying student life—having to compete just to get involved.
Sure, certain organizations require specialized experience and a certain predisposition for the activity to operate at a high level. Groups like the International Relations Club and Mock Trial come to mind. But there are almost certainly ways to get more people involved while still competing at a high level. For example, instead of having just one team, you could have two. And the second one could be instructed by a smaller group of senior members—another way to increase participation.
If students have to already be qualified before they try to join a club, how are they supposed to explore new interests? Such a requirement runs contrary to Georgetown’s mission of educating the whole person.
The editorial side of the Voice has long eschewed requiring an application to join the paper. Instead of demanding that recruits already be qualified, we request that they show up to meetings and turn in their small assignments before moving on to bigger assignments. Inevitably, our meetings are packed at the beginning of the year, but we figure out something for each person to do—at least for those who want to do something. As the weeks pass, people stop showing up and we’re left with those who really want to be there, not the people who want to join because it’s hard to get in.
If we start to change the culture of Georgetown’s student groups to make them more inclusive, other aspects of student life will begin to improve as well. With fewer students applying for positions they only want because it’s prestigious, more students who actually care will be able to join. Without so much competition in the realm of extracurricular groups, students’ stress loads will diminish. Maybe, after that, fewer people will feel the need to act like 40-year-olds-in-training.
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