September 27, 2022

CHASEN | Inclusive Clubs in an Exclusive University

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As we approach the end of September, most Cornellians have experienced the club recruiting process in some way, shape or form. Around campus and on social media, signs promoting clubs and professional organizations are ubiquitous. It can sometimes seem a little overwhelming when you consider the miniscule acceptance rates of many of these organizations, and wonder if you’ll ever have the chance to find the club or community that is right for you.

Regardless of our major or grade level, it is essential that we do not allow ourselves to become consumed by this recruiting process. When I was preparing to speak as part of a student panel for Dyson freshmen last week, I took a look at my emails to see which exclusive clubs I had applied to when I was a freshman. I remembered how painful it was to be rejected time after time by business clubs and political groups alike. It felt like I was putting myself out there without seeing any benefits professionally or socially.

But I also remembered that while these organizations promised certain skills and job opportunities, there are so many other avenues on campus through which I was able to gain access to the same opportunities. Shortly after receiving many of those rejection emails, I joined the Cornell International Affairs Society, Cornell’s Model United Nations club. Though I had never participated in Model U.N. in high school, I was able to help run their collegiate conference, where hundreds of college students come to Ithaca for a dynamic, fun weekend of MUN. I gained skills in budgeting and finance, as well as in public relations and people management. These are things I have drawn from in interviews, and abilities that have helped me gain access to numerous job opportunities over the last few years. 

Yet more importantly, over the last three years CIAS has provided me with a much-needed break from the exclusivity of Cornell club recruitment. In order to get these experiences, and meet many of my best friends, all I had to do was show up to regular general body meetings on Wednesdays. That’s it. No rounds of interviews, or long Google forms to fill out. Just show up and make friends, without any form of judgment whatsoever.

This inclusivity is so refreshing, given the state of our student organizations today. It’s why I believe it’s so important to continue shouting from the rooftops that clubs should strive to be more accepting and create space for as many people as possible, not the other way around. Cornell is an incredible place that is already astonishingly difficult to get into, without even considering the clubs whose acceptance rates are even lower than the wider university’s.

Now I’m not trying to discourage anyone from applying for these exclusive clubs. Many people will say they were able to access so many resources and opportunities as a result of joining these organizations, and ultimately were able to have an impact on Cornell. But I would also caution that there are so many others that overpromise and underdeliver, and promote exclusivity for exclusivity’s sake. I hope that incoming Cornell students will learn to tell the difference. 

As a result, as I enter my last year here at Cornell, I hope to convey that there are so many ways to gain skills and experience, as well as make an impact. Whether you are interested in engineering, business, law, medicine, policy or any of the other amazing career paths Cornell offers, there are clubs everywhere that seek to include, rather than exclude.

So as you’re looking for organizations to join, I hope you’ll take this advice: look for a community rather than a club. Try something new, and look for groups where you’re not just developing skills, but friendships and connections as well. If you’re in a group where you’re committed to attending the meetings and making friends, the skills will follow. If you’re part of a community you are happy to dedicate yourself to, you will ultimately get a lot out of your extracurricular experience.

Isaac Chasen (he/him) is a senior in the Dyson School. He can be reached at [email protected]. Cut to the Chase runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.