Ever since its announcement, the overhauled Burke clubs policy has been a major topic of discussion and complaint among students. Now that clubs have officially begun meeting, it is abundantly clear that the policy is a misguided attempt by the administration to overregulate students’ participation in clubs and the ways in which clubs can operate.
The new schedule where morning activities depend on the day of the week rather the color day was a well-meaning and creative way to address calls for fewer assemblies and more time for clubs. However, the administration undercut its purpose by controlling the clubs signup process and instituting and enforcing a policy of mandatory and exclusive clubs attendance. Per The Cageliner’s reporting, one reason for the change was that club attendance was so inconsistent as to interfere with the aims of the club. The administration also wanted students to have more free lunches, so they cut down the number of lunchtime clubs. Unfortunately, initial results seem to suggest that the new policy has not rectified these problems.
The combined effect of these two well-meaning changes has been that students have to choose between two or more beloved clubs that they had previously been able to do simultaneously for as long as they have been at Burke. Clubs lose members, students resent the reduction of their freedom of choice, and the atmosphere surrounding clubs changes from one of fun and exploration to one that is much more rigid. At any high school, especially one as small as Burke, students will want to explore new and different areas, and every club will always have a number of people who are members of more than one club.
Clubs used to be a welcome respite from the daily grind of classes. Now, thanks to mandatory attendance and binding commitment, clubs period is starting to feel like a new category of required elective classes. In theory, the policy sounds great. Consistent club meetings every week should give groups of people with similar interests more time and a better chance to accomplish whatever they aimed to do. Monitoring who shows up to their club(s) should allow leaders to focus on important decisions rather than worry about who’s actually committed. Admittedly, change is always hard, and to new students, perhaps, the old policy seems ridiculous and the new policy is logical. Also, this is officially a pilot run of a new program; there will be opportunities to reassess in January when students can choose new clubs and at the end of the year.
These early flaws may be just the unavoidable kinks in a new system. They could just as equally be signs of a deeply concerning disconnect between Burke’s decision-makers and its students. It remains to be seen whether this new format accomplishes its goal of making clubs better for everyone involved. It sounds great in theory. Maybe in a school where every student agrees with the administration’s analysis about how clubs should work, it would be a perfect plan. But so far, it seems that at Burke, with Burke students, it isn’t working out.
Clubs are supposed to be by students, of students, and for students. Given Burke’s commitment to including student voices in the decision they make, it seems that such a decision, which affects students almost exclusively, should happen with input from students, or at least SGA. However, according to one member of SGA, the administration simply informed them of the upcoming change without leaving clear room for SGA to fulfill its role of representing students’ interests. As stated in the school constitution, Burke students have “the right to be represented in conversations regarding potential school policy changes that directly relate to their social, academic, artistic and athletic experiences.” It is important and very distressing that the administration appears to have ignored that right in this case.
Burke’s website says this about clubs: “[Burke] wants students to join together as a community and indulge their passions, whether it be for art, movies, religion or social justice.” The family handbook states that “participation in clubs provides a meaningful opportunity to share and explore common interests outside of the classroom.” The new policy does not meet these standards. In trying to perfect the clubs program, the administration has forgotten its stated goals, gone away from the identity of the school, and denied students their right to have a say in changes that affect them.