Ask almost any campus club at Laurier Brantford what the most common question they receive from students is, and the answer will likely be: “We have a [insert club name here] club?”
This is a frustrating question for Lewis Wood, an administrator for our campus’ ski club, the Snow Hawks. The club was created three years ago, and was a great success in its first year. It saw diminishing interest last year and now the Snow Hawks face extinction.
Among myriad reasons for their drop in membership, the club’s leaders cite the high turnover in membership and leadership, the cost of skiing, and a new member fee, introduced for sports clubs this year. The fee is $25 and, on top of the already high price of lift tickets, can be off-putting to prospective members.
The fee would not be as big an issue if the club’s trips were subsidized, which they could be.
“It’s a catch-22 for us, though,” said Wood. The member fee helps to subsidize club activities, but “we need members to get subsidies.”
Though this fee does not apply to clubs that are not sports related, most clubs face similar challenges.
Falynn Wynacht, Campus Clubs Coordinator, said “it is hard to get a lot of people as [some clubs] appeal to people with specific interests.”
According to Wynacht, most clubs have around 10-15 members.
Despite the many opportunities around campus, advertising remains a troublesome topic for many clubs.
“Advertising has perhaps been the most frustrating thing for me, every year,” said founder of the Improv Club, Christopher Tanaka-Mann.
Clubs are free to make use of advertising venues that include LBTV, the online Student Union website, posters around campus, weekly news, Facebook groups, and Twitter. Clubs can also advertise during the Clubs Fair at the beginning of the year, but not everyone who signs up will show up. According to Andrew Henderson, president of the 14-member WLU Poker Association, “weekly turnout only rests around five to eight.”
One issue the club presidents raise is that our campus is quite small. Though we are attached to a medium sized university and carry its name, we still have comparatively few students. According to Tanaka-Mann, our clubs may feel especially small when meeting similar clubs from other schools.
“Believe me,” he said, “at Brock University’s Improv Summit last year, we felt tiny.”
This comparison is especially unflattering for the Snow Hawks, whose Waterloo campus counterparts, the Laurier Ski and Snowboard Club, far exceed them in membership.
Persistence, said Tanaka-Mann, is one of the most important qualities a club president can have.
“Ultimately, if you want to start a club, you must want it,” said Tanaka-Mann.
Unfortunately for the Snow Hawks, no matter how much they want it, they may have to face the very hard reality that students do not. If they cannot prove otherwise, there may not be any Snow Hawks next year.