From Club Supermarket to Club Co-op

At the Bronx High School of Science, there’s only one book club. Could Stuyvesant benefit from being less ambitious?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

After clicking the “Student Clubs” tab on the Brooklyn Technical High School website, one finds, embedded on the webpage, a shocking array of rows and columns on a Google Sheets. Every club and advisor is typed out along with a string of neatly categorized information, including how often clubs meet—“biweekly” is the most common choice, which means Brooklyn Tech students learn quickly which definition of biweekly to swear by. At the bottom of this widget is the unceremonious disclaimer: “Updated automatically every 5 minutes.” One could not get any further from StuyActivities than this list. Upon further interscholastic sleuthing, the conclusion becomes clear: for the high schools comparable to Stuyvesant, the communication of club information to students is indistinguishable across the board—from Staten Island Tech’s spreadsheet to Bronx Science’s, there’s no discernible difference—except for one school’s quietly funny “Permanent Disbandment” archive, which includes the Taylor Swift Society and, more devastatingly, the DoSomething Club.

What’s dismaying about these schools’ seemingly collective decision to forgo the bells and whistles of a website like StuyActivities in favor of a numbered list is what replaces those features. Indeed, one list requires the naming of club secretaries for every club, which means even the Dungeons and Dragons club has a listed scribe. What’s more, information about what a club actually partakes in is completely absent from these lists, which only works in favor of clubs named like the cryptic but inviting “Raccoon Artists” club at Brooklyn Tech.

With that said, do we close the tab on these other lists and pat ourselves on the back for our creativity and sheer brilliance? No. Because one difference sticks out like a sore thumb, and it is undeniable— Stuyvesant has too many clubs.

I hear you cry out in indignation: more is always better! Why should we ever put limits on the creation of a new community—something so noble and honorable as wanting to create a shared space for connection? The reason is that scrolling down the archive of StuyActivities’s club listings from last school year puts the user at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome in a near futile race to the end, and moreover discourages any curious visitor from further investigating one of the over 360 clubs. Although clubs at Stuyvesant, by nature of being student run, are meant to be about building networks to reach out to others with the same passions as you, the effect of having so many clubs lends the whole process a more capitalistic feel— one can’t escape the subconscious feeling that visiting the StuyActivities “catalog” is engaging in the act of shopping for a club or an activity that will give the most value—college-application-boosting or otherwise. 

Writing out a club charter is a painstaking process—the Clubs and Pubs Department could figure that out from that time we found the ChatGPT trademark in the description of how a club would benefit the Stuyvesant community. That’s why it seems especially strange to take the time to draft a charter and build a club without first clicking around to see if such a club already exists or at least has a membership and infrastructure to tap into. Starting from scratch in defiance of another, established club can also have the subtly detrimental side effect of requiring new club leaders to rely heavily on their inner circle of friends to show up at meetings, and this process can sometimes insulate clubs from truly being open to the student population at large. If these details start to sound like clubs are being made in a way that goes against what clubs are colloquially supposed to be about—fun, and following one’s curiosities farther than school allows—then we might have the pressure of college admissions to blame again. People want to be leaders of clubs, not members. Unfortunately, it is likely that no college admissions officer might ever be able to corroborate the clubs that students keep creating across different college applications, because not enough students feel connected enough to a fledgling club to list themselves as a member and view this as an accomplishment. In other words, being the president of a club won’t leave the impression that you seek or expect if you haphazardly create a club and no one calls themselves a member of it.

Creating more clubs does not allow space for newer, more niche interests to flourish, just as much as creating a new highway does not reduce traffic. In actuality, the reach of individual clubs is steadily diluted, so using the guise of finding other students to join in “shared appreciation” or action in order to start a new club feels disingenuous. The reason I say this is because club leaders who go through the process of chartering a club from scratch, including the effort of painstakingly answering the (most important) question: “What makes your club unique?,” sadly neglect to try their shot at messaging a leader of an existing club that seeks to serve the exact same purpose as the club being chartered. The common fear is well-known: seeing the email address of a club leader does not make it any easier to reach out to them, especially since a glaringly obvious lack of scheduled meetings can only suggest that the club leaders have just about given up on the idea of having a club altogether. Right? Well, no.

There will not always be an unending demand for a Kazoo Club at Stuyvesant, although who knows how long it will last or maybe outlast? There will, however, always be a demand—to continue using marketing terms—for science societies, and whether we like it or not, finance clubs. Notably, the issue of redundancy in club leaders creating new clubs of the same subject despite a plethora of existing clubs in that field occurs most often in business and finance-related sectors. StuyActivities has the foresight of sorting clubs into categories, from arts and crafts to community service. Would it be so horrible to build consortiums of similar clubs that, together, seek to work in the same general direction? What’s more, why is it that we believe we must isolate and shelter ourselves from interests that slightly deviate from our own by creating unique societies explicitly designed for one single interest? Does the Crochet Club not benefit from StuyKnits members stopping by their room for yarn and then maybe even for an entire meeting? 

And yes, we in the Clubs and Pubs Department definitely benefit from people consolidating their similar clubs into coordinated meetings so that there is no longer as much of a room shortage. But this year marked the historic development of a Stuyvesant Club Union, and it’s vital that club leaders tap into this network to continue communicating with each other as rechartering begins anew. We, unlike Brooklyn Tech’s students, get to design our list from a blank canvas again. As many charters wait to be processed without showing up publicly on StuyActivities, it is increasingly likely that clubs with the exact same field of interest will be blindly chartered under different names if the Clubs and Pubs Department does not publish updates on how many clubs that explore the same field are in development and connect leaders accordingly. But club leaders who already have so much in common but run separate clubs need to be willing to collaborate and join forces, even if this means reconciling different leadership styles to better teach other Raccoon Artists and beyond.