Activity Period Brings Club Chaos

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If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of student-led clubs this year, you are not alone. “The number of clubs follows Moore’s Law,” remarked staff writer Edward Y. ’23 in last month’s Tatler; there are now 71 different groups to choose from on the LS Club Tracker website. And while this amount of community engagement is encouraging, Lakesiders are now struggling to participate in all their interests with limited time to do so.

Under the current activity period schedule, students have one-hour assemblies every Wednesday, as well as 20 minutes of advisory time on Mondays and Fridays. This leaves devoted club-only periods for the other two days of the week, which would have been sufficient — except for the fact that the for-credit groups Tatler, Numidian, and Assembly Committee all meet on Tuesday. As a result, the majority of clubs have opted to hold meetings on Thursdays, when they can be sure that all potential members have time to stop by and participate. 

This is a problem. Competition between groups is exploding under a schedule that limits them to just one day of the week. Online and around campus, students have expressed frustration about needing to alternate or split activity periods to attend just a couple groups of their choosing. Meanwhile, club leaders are battling to get their organizations off the ground as they realize there is no time that works for everyone. 

We have to choose between parts of our identity,”

— Michael L. ’24

Such an issue was absent in 2020, when groups could organize for various hours after school or during the whole of asynchronous Fridays. Lakesiders rarely had to sacrifice one for another out of scheduling concerns, regardless of how many existed at the time. Now that school is back in-person, however, the opposite is true. The amount of clubs has ballooned, and Lakeside’s club scene is undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts; after a disappointing and disconnected pandemic year, students are coming back with an urge to be more involved as both members and leaders. 

Amid this rapid growth, student-led groups have once again been relegated to a specific period of the week. Upper School Assistant Director Hans de Grys notes that under the legacy schedule, we “only had one activity period per week, so we thought by moving from one to two full-sized ones… things would improve for students.” While the change is a gain for students vying for extra club time on paper, it coincides with the rescheduling of Tatler, Numidian, and Assembly Committee to Tuesdays. Only around 90 students participate in these three organizations, but it’s enough to push numerous groups to the week’s other available slot. The effect: as new clubs swamp the campus, activity periods have simply not caught up.

Collectively, the Upper School students have signed up 2526 times on LS Club Tracker as of October 16, which averages out to five clubs per person. Around a quarter of the school is also involved in the leadership of a club. When asked how they are handling scheduling conflicts in the poll, students responded along the lines of “I’m probably going to rotate around clubs,” “choosing one and sending it”, or merely, “I am not.” Despite these complaints, students are largely ambivalent about the activity period schedule itself. 60 out of 122 poll respondents expressed some degree of satisfaction with the current schedule, though the actual opinions of the group vary widely. One sophomore indicated they were somewhat satisfied, but seemed to contradict themselves in the next question: “I am very content with the balance other than that everything is on Thursday, or that we only have two days a week to go to clubs, while most assembly information is covered in emails.” Only five respondents said they were completely unsatisfied. Still — as any Lakesider could tell you — 50% approval is not a passing grade.

Across the board, limited club time has stifled the growth of new, niche get-togethers and reduced attendance at storied institutions. Of particular interest here has been the conflict between clubs and affinity groups: LAPS, GLOW, BSU, LATISPA, SAAG, MIXED, and NASA are all scheduled for Thursday, with only CIDA, Interfaith and Spirituality, and LARS occurring on Tuesdays. Safe spaces now compete against clubs of interest for time, creating an impossible choice between identity and hobbies. While affinity groups continue to enjoy high membership (45% of poll respondents said they would regularly attend one this year), many students have already planned to alternate SALT and non-SALT clubs from week to week. In the end, every group suffers from a lack of regular members and spotty attendance.

Scheduling difficulties also play out with students who participate in multiple affinity groups. Split between two or more communities, these Lakesiders must reject one for another or repeatedly skip meetings to attend all.

Sephina P. ’24 is one student in this predicament. On joining LAPS and GLOW, she declares, “I would love to be a part of both affinity groups; my Asian and LGBT identity are huge parts of my life, and I want to express my own admiration and care towards those identities. [With] the extremely limited time we have in engaging with affinity groups/fun clubs… it’d be hard to feel like a consistent member or really feel like you’re part of the group when you only come every so often.” 

Michael L. ’24 is another student in two SALT spaces. “We have to choose between parts of our identity,” he says about the new activity period schedule. “I normally would like to attend all meetings, but I guess I’ll do what I can and go to the ones I most want to. It’s not ideal.” 

Without the necessary club time, students like Sephina and Michael are barred from being regular, contributing members to the groups they associate with. They have few full activity periods in which they can go to clubs not centered around identity. Simultaneously, they have decreased access to the support they need.

Ultimately, this is an issue that affects students’ ability to engage in their personal interests and experience all of what the Lakeside community has to offer. “I am not really sure how I’m going to handle it,” said one freshman at the beginning of October. “Every club seems to want me to come to the first meeting because it is the most important, but the majority of the clubs I signed up for all meet on Thursday. I have no idea how I will manage this or how to even decide when I haven’t even gone to any of the clubs yet.”