Revisions of Policies for Starting Clubs

As of this school year, Choate’s Committee n Student Affairs (COSA) is rethinking how to achieve its mission of creating a thriving club life on campus. Many students have viewed this reworking as COSA becoming stricter. In reality, COSA is now going to act as a resource for leaders of both existing clubs and those proposing new ones.

Mr. Jim Yanelli, Director of Student Activities, said, “The club policies at Choate are determined by the Student Activities Center in conjunction with the School. They aim to establish the best practices for clubs, just as there are best practices in all the academic departments here at Choate.” He continued, “There are certain established benchmarks for excellent work here at Choate, and club life should be as managed and articulated as any other aspect of the school. Choate knows what it has to do in order to produce a winning football team, and now COSA is trying to find out how to produce a winning club life.”

COSA’s most recent change addresses how they plan to advise students who come up with new club ideas. Previously, Choate had been operating under a system in which students would fill out a proposal form and then meet with COSA as a group to be questioned about their proposal. Following those meetings, COSA would send a follow-up email with their decision – an acceptance, referral, or denial. COSA Head Truelian Lee ’17 said, “In each one of these cases, there was a concrete list of tasks for the students to complete in order to be accepted as a club or resubmit their idea.” 

In reassessing how it functions and in what ways they can improve their productivity, Lee explained that COSA is getting rid of many bureaucratic processes that had existed.  “Rather than sending an email with a long list of tasks and extensive paperwork, COSA wants to help grow and nurture club life on campus by helping and guiding clubs to make their goals a successful reality,” she explained. Students will now pitch their new ideas to the COSA Head and faculty advisers to discuss their ideas in a more personal setting, rather than with all of COSA. “This allows for more tailored feedback for students on how to take their idea to the next level and get it accepted as a club on campus,” Lee said.

Each of these students will also have to run a pilot of the club. This will help to get an ideal launch on campus when they officially become a club. Ms. Alex Long, Assistant Director of Student Activities, said, “The purpose of this is to ensure that the club has interest on campus and that it will grow and be beneficial to the community.”   If the students run their pilot period successfully, then they will have earned a designation as a club on campus.

COSA previously allowed any student with a good idea to start a club and measure its success over a six-week probationary period. Mr. Yanelli said, “COSA realized quickly that once a club becomes a club, it becomes blue card worthy, whether it is a good club or a relatively mediocre club. COSA simply wants to have credible clubs with good leadership and have the sum of club life be a benefit to the Choate community.” 

COSA is moving away from their previous model of simply accepting clubs, now helping students if they have a club proposal to test their idea out. Lee said, “Everyone has the potential to successfully start a club because COSA is no longer filtering these ideas at the forefront. If anything, COSA is trying to be more helpful and encouraging as students come up with their ideas and want to implement them on campus.”

She continued, “COSA realizes it is unfair to take someone who has never led an organization and expect them to run an effective club because they have written a one-page proposal.”  COSA acknowledges that it takes time and organization to plan meetings, communicate, and publicize to get active members of a club.  Mr. Yanelli said, “Clubs can very easily get 100 students into a room if they have pizza, but not many will go back to a second meeting if the leadership in the first meeting was lousy, regardless of pizza.”

COSA is specifically concerned about clubs that have a tradition of being handed down from sixth to fifth formers year after year with very little happening in between handout periods.  Mr. Yanelli explained, “There are many clubs that haven’t had viable activity, meaningful service, or community engagement on any level, and it just doesn’t make sense to perpetuate those clubs year after year.”  After talking to club advisers and leaders this year, before they had elections, many clubs had to meet with COSA to discuss the reality of their club going forward.

COSA does not want the reworking of their mission statement to be viewed as a crackdown. Rather, the members of the committee want Choate students to feel that they are now able to get more support when trying to form a club; if students want to form a club, they will be more likely to succeed due to these changes.

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