When the U. S. Senate bill eight passed, junior and founder of the Women’s Liberation club Sidney Uy Tesy and her friends were overcome with a need to make a change and promote women’s rights in their community. The Women’s Liberation club was born.
The introduction of the Equal Access Act have made open forum, or student lead and created, clubs the new way for students to participate in campus life and make an impact in their community. But how do you start an open forum group? How do you run the group as a student? And how can you be sure the club will survive after you graduate?
To start a club, students will first have to come up with an idea for a club. Some students do this by finding an issue that they are passionate about and think others will be passionate about as well.
“We were planning to start this club,” Uy Tesy said. “So we got people to support it and right now we have about 20 to 25 members.”
Once the club has a solid foundation and enough members, students will need to find a teacher to be their club’s sponsor. When they have a sponsor, they just need to fill out club forms , and then a club is official. This year Johnson had nine new clubs started.
“Students come in and there’s certain forms they have to complete as part of the application process, draft of a constitution, have to have a minimum of 20 members with permission slips from parents, and then the faculty sponsor,” assistant principal Jonathan Campbell said.
Open forum clubs are one of the few opportunities for students to see their wants and needs represented on campus. They give students the chance to showcase their cultures.
“We need more groups that are like celebrating individual groups, groups that are able to celebrate those individualities together,” junior and Muslim Student Association member Suha Dhukkani said.
Clubs also hold an important space on our campus and in the lives of our students.
“There’s some interests [where] it’s hard to find other people who also enjoy the same thing,” senior and former creative writing club member Alejandra Ortiz said. “It’s nice to have like that club where everybody has something in common and can have a safe space.”
While these clubs do represent what students want, they don’t always last for extended periods of time. Usually clubs are started by upperclassmen and, after graduation, the fate of these clubs is left up to chance. If student interest in the club decreases or nobody steps up to fill the open leadership positions, the clubs will be ended and added to Johnson’s list of no longer active clubs.
“It was like a group of friends when I was there,” Ortiz said. “During quarantine everything went virtual and I remember the last time I went to creative writing club, it was just me, the president and another girl on Zoom and it was pretty sad. You can tell it was dying off.”
In fact, it seems like many of these clubs have had their demise quickened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our biggest challenge was last school year, because of the hybrid learning and it was really tough for clubs to meet,” Campbell said. “A lot of clubs were pretty stagnant last school year.”
Loss of student interest is quite a common outcome for clubs. In fact, some clubs don’t even have enough interest to make it past the planning phase.
“It’s just a number of people who have this idea and they got excited about it, but really never really kind of shared their power so that other people had the buy in for it,” former creative writing club sponsor Laurel Dixon said. “There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm about it and then it just kind of dropped.”
The driving forces behind clubs is the students because the teachers are mostly just there to handle paperwork and other administrative tasks. This is a crucial part of open forum clubs. The sponsors act as more a mentor to the students which gives students an important opportunity to experience leadership and gives them something to add to their college applications or job resumes.
“I took responsibility of helping make sure that people were organized, as well as, gave them encouragement if they’re missing paperwork to get that done,” Dixon said. “It gives them ownership, I think that’s really important.”
Whether a club is created to discuss relevant social topic, to make a change, celebrate a culture, or gather people together to create, they all present students with the opportunity to learn.
“Because there are still things that students can do in order to advance their own rights,” Uy Tesy said. “I think it’s important to let students know about their own rights and what’s going on the world and how that pertains to them.”