the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Wills Erda ’24
Clubs at Westminster struggle to function properly. At a very basic and fundamental level, Westminster's school life and schedules are incompatible with how clubs operate. There are only two types of clubs that succeed: clubs that meet infrequently and require little to no outside efforts on the part of members (Clubs like Global Forum and Biblophiles), and organizations that are quite simply too big and important to fail, often propped up by heavy faculty support (Clubs like MUN, John Hay, this publication, and SAC). While these clubs are wonderful, it is a shame that Westminster cannot offer students more opportunities to pursue their interests and expand their hobbies. In this article, I want to lay out why it is so hard for clubs to exist on Williams Hill and also some of the steps that can be taken to make clubs more accessible.
The first major issue preventing clubs is that most Westminster students barely have any free time. Between full class days, hours of sports practices and games, heavy homework loads, studying, and a myriad of other draws on our time, few students have hours that they can commit to a club. Even the free time that students do have is inconsistent. With sports games and practice times often varying from day to day, and the constant additions of outside programming (such as Friday night readings or committee meetings). The start of the stickball season only exacerbates this problem with games four times a week. It is not uncommon for a student to be fully booked from 8:00 in the morning to 10:00 at night. Both the limited nature and variability of free time make scheduling meetings a near nightmare as often only a small portion of a club's members can meet at any particular time. One solution here is to make permanent space in the schedule for clubs. One piece of advice here to fellow club leaders is that from 2:30 to 3:30 on Tuesdays and Fridays are often free, and that Sunday afternoons are untouchable by the school's ever-menacing schedule. My most successful "club" has been the dnd Sessions I run every Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00.
The second large issue is students' lack of effort and the vast number of illegitimate clubs. Now that is a strong word, so let me explain my meaning of illegitimate clubs. First are the "there's-no-reason-for-that-to-be-a-club" clubs. These include smaller activities that could easily be held on a more ad-hoc basis. Examples here include the cards and games club and the aforementioned Dnd Campaign that I run. Second, and by far the more egregious of the illegitimate clubs are the "I-want-to-make-a-club-to-put-on-my-college-application" clubs. I distinctly remember at the beginning of the year being excited to join the newly formed [unnamed] club, only to find it was a shell created to help a college application. Other examples of these carcasses of clubs are littered throughout the school, making it hard for kids legitimately interested in certain topics to find and engage in active clubs. The solution here is to make creating clubs a more formal process. Many students do not even know the current process that involves Dean approval and a faculty advisor. Cracking down on clubs and potentially even requiring some sort of governing bylaws of a club could help stabilize the currently transient nature of clubs.
Of course, students also have to care about a club for it to succeed, and with only 400 students, sometimes it can be hard to find people of similar interests. If you are interested in sports commentating and other people aren't, don't create a club for it. Instead, do what Ryan Jainchill did: just go do it. We would all love it if there were 60 flourishing clubs on campus, but for a school, our size is just unrealistic. Instead, whether by specifically making time for them or setting them up for success with more stringent creation guidelines, both students and administrators should focus their efforts on a more selective group of clubs to provide a rich and rewarding experience to students who participate in them.