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As club recruitment for spring 2024 starts, students discuss business organizations at Cornell and their benefits and potential pitfalls.

February 7, 2024

Students in Cornell Business Club Scene Reveal Misconduct, Intensive Recruitment Process

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Tanvi Bhave ’27, a computer science major interested in exploring business, said that she planned to apply to Delta Sigma Pi until her friend informed her of the organization’s academic hazing misconduct from last spring.

DSP is one of Cornell’s more than two dozen business-related clubs and professional fraternities. While many are aware of the club scene’s exclusivity, little is known about what it actually takes to become a member of these organizations.      

As spring recruitment season roars on, The Sun spoke to business club applicants, members and leaders for an exclusive look at the inner workings of this semester’s recruitment process, revealing reports of alleged misconduct and engineered exclusivity. 

Alleged Misconduct in the Recruitment Process

One student speaking to The Sun on the condition of anonymity went through the interview process for Cornell Undergraduate Asia Business Society — which, according to its website, values “leadership, family and excellence” in its impact on Cornell and the greater business community. 

CUABS’ first interview round was broken into three rooms — a casing room, a game room and a “shock room,” according to the source. Applicants assigned to the “shock room” waited silently in a line before being given the number of a room. At first, the students thought they mistakenly went to the wrong room when they were directed to what they described as a “pitch-black classroom.”

“There’s no … room number [on the door], so you kind of second-guess yourself, but I had no other choice but to go in,” the student said.

Through the door was a dark, empty lecture hall with two CUABS members sitting in the back row. Potential new members were instructed to stand on a red “X” at the front of the room, where a projector blared directly into their eyes. They were then asked a series of questions, the student said.

Club leaders first asked potential new members about their interest in CUABS, but would repeatedly ask them to speak up throughout their response, to the point where potential new members had to yell. Additional prompts included telling club leaders a joke and identifying their interviewers despite still being in the dark. 

“The point of it is to have that unexpected shock, because it’s not the professional or the stereotypical thing that you would expect when you go into an interview like that,” the student said.

Two other students who also went through the recruitment process in fall 2023 confirmed similar experiences in an interview with The Sun.

Cornell’s hazing policy bars organizations from facilitating an activity that “causes, encourages or compels another person to engage in any activity that could reasonably be perceived as likely to create a risk of mental, physical or emotional distress or harm” as an “explicit or implicit condition of recruitment, admission, initiation into, affiliation with or new or continued membership status.”

This includes activities that “abuse, humiliate, degrade or taunt another person or persons.”

CUABS declined to comment. 

This report comes after DSP’s suspension until spring 2023 for hazing new members. New members were reported to have spent up to 80 hours a week on conducting case studies, completing brotherhood interviews and sending detailed thank-you letters.

“When I’ve talked to people from business fraternities and asked them about their process, they said they cannot disclose information about their rush [process],” Bhave said.

DSP did not respond to a request for comment.

Engineered Exclusivity

Within the two-week pre-recruitment period, business clubs and professional fraternities generally hold between three and nine recruitment events. Some of these are held in conjunction with other clubs, while others are hosted individually.

Celina Chen ’27, a freshman in the Nolan School of Hotel Administration school, is one of hundreds of prospective applicants this spring. This semester marks Chen’s second time applying to student business organizations, having done so previously in the fall.

She made it to the second round of interviews for Cornell Alternative Investments before being dropped. For all the other clubs Chen applied to, she was unable to make it past the first round. Chen attributes these struggles to the high value of demonstrated interest in the various organizations she was interested in.

For the first few days of the two-week pre-recruitment window last semester, Chen fell sick and she was unable to attend networking events or information sessions. By the time she recovered, she felt that she was at a disadvantage. 

“[Being sick] really impacted the first round of the application process because you have to demonstrate really, really high interest in order to get into at least the first round,” Chen said.

Business organizations’ recruitment events sometimes overlap.

Many business clubs and fraternities also do not disclose complete timelines of recruitment events on their websites. While dates are listed, specific times and locations are omitted. Instead, applicants must look on Instagram or sign up for mailing lists which are often only updated days and sometimes hours before the event. 

For example, on Jan. 31, Cornell Finance Club listed their presence at the “Navigating Finance Clubs” event held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in conjunction with three other clubs. Not listed on their website was another event held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. conducted with DSP and Social Business Consulting in a separate location. That event was listed on only the DSP website. 

Yash Moitra ’27, Dyson School of Business representative and business club applicant, contends that business organizations purposely overlap events.

“They [overlap events] to weaponize the power they have, which doesn’t work for people’s schedules,” Moitra said. 

Moitra described it as a tactic to weed out people who are not interested enough. He stressed that clubs should do better to synchronize their schedules, especially given how they already organize a handful of inter-club events, but stated that as it stands there is zero coordination of schedules.

However, Veronica Lewis ’25, president of Cornell Finance Club, said that business organizations’ hectic recruitment schedules are not made with malicious intent. 

“We have so many events not because we’re trying to overwhelm people or keep them from doing our classes,” Lewis said. “What we want is to be as accessible as possible.”

However, many applicants feel that they have to attend a majority of a club’s events to be considered competitive candidates due to low acceptance rates and demonstrated interest being weighted in their applications.

For example, Cornell Consulting Group has a two percent member acceptance rate, with approximately four of 200 applicants accepted every semester, according to Jonah Wang ’26, CCG director of member development.

Similar organizations such as Cornell Consulting said that they could not disclose their application numbers. However, Andrew Zhang ’25, vice president of membership for CC, noted that their organization does not have a quota limiting the number of membership spots.  

“To be candid, of course, we are a competitive organization,” Zhang said.

Given this competition, prospective applicants often apply to multiple clubs to increase their chances.

For many applicants, the incentive to apply lies in the various career possibilities each club provides. At events, clubs and fraternities advertise the companies where alumni have received jobs and promote exclusive opportunities their members will have. Still, the strict barriers to entering Cornell’s business club and fraternity scene stand tall. 

“I truly do believe that a lot of people behind these organizations are wonderful people and they really, really want you to succeed,” Moitra said. “It’s just that their practices are set in stone.”

Benjamin Leynse ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

Correction, Feb. 12, 7:13 p.m.: A previous version of this article included incorrect information about the amount of time one student spent working on club applications. The Sun regrets this error, and the sentence has since been removed from the article.