Investigating 2023-2024’s Fall Clubs and Pubs Fair

The Clubs and Pubs Fair this year caused controversial usage of the sixth floor to advertise clubs not chosen to present in the official fair.

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By Ryan Radwan

The Student Union (SU) hosted its annual Clubs and Pubs Fair on September 20 and September 21, during which 130 clubs were assigned to locations throughout the third floor, fourth floor, and the cafeteria. This year’s Clubs and Pubs Fair posed major challenges for SU directors and club leaders alike due to the limited amount of space available for every club interested in participating.

The fair encountered issues regarding available space, with the fifth-floor hallways, which were typically allocated for use, being unavailable, and the event being limited to two days rather than three. Having planned under the perception that they would have more space and time, the SU was forced to make rapid changes. “Last year was extremely crowded so we were already planning to cut the number of clubs a little bit this year, but then when [administration] had taken away all that space and taken away an extra day we really had to cut down and it wasn’t really something we were planning for,” SU president Amanda Cisse said.

Faced with accommodating a limited number of organizations, the SU created a form for club leaders to request a spot in the fair. Spaces were advertised as first-come-first-serve, meaning the first 130 clubs to fill out the form would be given a spot in the fair. “The initial intention was definitely to do first come first serve,” Clubs and Pubs Deputy Director Adeline Sauberli said. “We didn’t make the form with the idea that we would pick.” Unfortunately, when they realized around 230 clubs had filled out the form for only 130 available spots, the process became more complicated.

With the goal of fairly allocating spots, the SU strayed from its initial first-come-first-serve plan, instead choosing the first 50 clubs that filled out the form and then proceeding to choose based on a vetting system. “If there was a club that was either new or very similar to a club that already existed, they would be deprioritized,” Sauberli said. 

Cisse elaborated on this, explaining the intention of highlighting well-established clubs that had filled out the form late. “The only times we didn’t do first-come-first-serve is if a really big club like the Writing Center [or] GirlUp had filled it out late,” Cisse said. “The only reason we didn’t take a club first-come-first-serve […] was if it was a really big club that has been standing for a really long time and had a lot of members.”

In consequence, many club leaders quickly noticed that something was off with the club selection. “We saw clubs who applied earlier than us were not allowed in and clubs that applied after us were allowed in,” senior and leader of Stuyvesant TableTop Role Playing Games and Stuy Reality Check Israel Hernan Valezquez Rugama said.

Many students, especially leaders of smaller Stuyvesant clubs, were bothered by this selection method due to its strong emphasis on club hierarchy within Stuyvesant. By failing to abide by a first-come-first-serve selection process, students believed that popular clubs were given the opportunity to further their prominence within the student body, while new or lesser-known clubs were relegated to obscurity. “[The fair] serves to entrench the clubs that are the most popular and denies them competition,” junior and founder of the Stuyvesant Reform Club Muhib Muhib said. “Locking out smaller clubs because they’re small is not the right idea, especially if [the SU is] going to lie to us.”

In response to the lack of space, Sauberli sought to find a solution that allowed every club to be displayed. “You can’t really decide first come first serve or just choosing clubs. What you have to do is find enough space in this 10-floor building to fit every club that signs up. That’s all it is. It’s not our responsibility to choose. I’m not some sort of person who can decide which clubs are better than others,” Sauberli said. 

To combat the club capacity limits, Sauberli turned to expanding the fair’s limits themselves. After meeting with Assistant Principal of Safety, Security, and Physical Education Brian Moran and SU Faculty Advisor and social studies teacher Matt Polazzo, she was able to get permission to use the sixth floor. But in bringing it up to her fellow SU members, her proposal was shut down. They told her it was too late to make any major changes and that they did not have time to make a map for the sixth floor. “Making an extra map is so worth it so we don’t have to deny clubs. And I [felt] like I [was] the only one in this situation who [saw] the logic of this and I [was] like, ‘What is happening? Why can’t [we] use the sixth floor?’” Sauberli said. 

Amidst Sauberli’s efforts, many club leaders began planning to unofficially advertise their clubs. “Originally we had the idea of setting up camp on the bridge because we didn’t have permission from any teachers to set up inside the school,” Valezquez Rugama said.

When Sauberli heard about this protest, she wanted to prevent the safety hazards of a protest on the bridge. “If we’re the Student Union, we should never be doing something that makes people want to protest us. Just as a principle of what we’re trying to do here. Clubs and Pubs shouldn’t be that controversial,” Sauberli said. “So I said ‘no, actually, a better thing is just to use the sixth floor.’ I said [to the club leaders that] there is space in this school, and I told them I'm [not] making this up. I did have permission from Moran and Polazzo that the sixth floor was fine to use. And this was just the breakthrough.”

Though additional clubs were ultimately able to participate in the Clubs and Pubs Fair on the sixth floor, they were extremely limited in terms of both preparation and club promotion, given the short period of time in which the arrangement was made. “We were hampered, of course, by the lack of advertising, and we had to plan this in less than 24 hours,” Muhib said. “[Advertisements] clearly didn’t go very far as there was decent traffic, but way less than the third and fourth floors.”

On the other hand, in many respects, the sixth floor was a success. “They made a super beautiful and organized map,” Sauberli said. “At the end of each day of the fair I would go up to the sixth floor to see how things were doing, and the sixth floor would always look so spotless. This is proof that it's not that hard [to open up another floor].”

Other SU leaders were ultimately fine with the sixth floor usage despite initial hesitation. Cisse explained that a lack of communication of its availability by the administration caused her resistance during preliminary discussions. “[The use of the sixth floor] was totally fine with us. Our fair was still going on; at least they had some clubs up and there was some room for them,” Cisse said. 

In response to the sixth floor usage, SU Clubs and Pubs Director M M Abrar Hasnat claims that he sought to accommodate the sixth floor clubs on the lower floors for future days of the fair. “Our response was to move clubs that we could move back down to the actual fair and create some more space for them, [and] see if we could fit more tables on the maps on day two,” Cisse said. 

As for the rest of the fair, another change this year was that the clubs selected to participate were grouped together in categories ranging from STEM and visual arts to religion and community. “We want[ed] clubs to be more aware of each other,” Sauberli said. “Club leaders that have super similar interests could meet each other and collaborate.”

However, due to the belief that this encouraged competition, some leaders were unsatisfied with this grouping, and in general, students held many opinions on the fair and its organization. In response, Sauberli decided to make a feedback form.

For future fairs, club leaders suggest the usage of classrooms in which they can advertise their clubs to prospective students. In previous years, the SU gave clubs the opportunity to utilize classrooms for the fair, but this policy had recently been eliminated. “To ensure that more clubs can participate, [the SU] should go back to using classrooms and additional floor space,” Muhib said. “There are reasonable concerns that Clubs and Pubs can get too crowded, so we should spread clubs out and use as much space as possible.”

Sauberli hopes that in the future, the SU can collaborate more with students to produce a proper fair. “We can’t stray from the point of the Clubs and Pubs Fair, which is to show the variety of clubs and let people discover clubs and to give people an opportunity on even ground to show what their club is about,” Sauberli said. “I don’t think SU members should be made to feel scared of taking risks because they are told it would be too difficult or not feasible to do. Really good things come out of interactions between SU members and general students. The sixth floor was an example of that.”