Beyond the Title: Club Culture at Andover

A core part of many students’ Andover experience is the numerous clubs that the campus has to offer. From Math Club to Model UN, Andover’s clubs reach a wide audience, allowing students to explore their interests in their formative years. With these clubs comes leadership, as those with experience lead their clubs, developing them for the next generation of members.

The spring term is crucial for many of these clubs as they select leadership to replace the outgoing seniors. Emails populate students’ inboxes with board applications and, eventually, their selections for the coveted board spots. Cheers or pats on the back following a decisive outlook chime, the release of a new year’s board positions is always surrounded with excitement or consolation. After all, applicants are hoping to be able to perform their best work in a more involved role. As such, a culture that values the title rather than the work has developed around clubs at Andover, harming the club, students, and community.

Increasingly, the perception of club titles has shifted from a means to an end, seen as the end goal of one’s involvement with a student organization. More often than not, many stop participating if they are turned away from the board, instead choosing to spend their time in another club to pursue a position. At least two-thirds of students acknowledge college as a factor in extracurricular participation, as per 2022’s State of the Academy. Unfortunately, the culture around clubs results in many not participating in clubs for their own genuine interest, but for a spot on the board to pad their resume. Additionally, disingenuous interest in clubs harms leadership, as some students minimize their effort and become complacent when they achieve the board position. Ultimately, the club as a whole is harmed by those only seeking a board position, damaging the club for those with passion for it.

Andover is home to many clubs focused on social justice and activism, which are greatly harmed by this kind of club culture. Often, dishonest interest in clubs focused on advocacy results in performative activism, the harms of which are well documented. Activism requires sustained efforts that are emotionally burdening. Performative activism rarely results in change and only distracts from genuine efforts.

High school is meant to be a time of exploration, one where budding adolescents discover their passions. The club culture surrounding board positions at Andover hurts the high school experience for all. However, it would be foolish to disregard the ramifications of college completely. Like many at Andover, students aiming to attend selective colleges often need to participate in clubs and other extracurriculars. Rather than just seizing the opportunity to join a board, students should reflect on their interests and participate in clubs they are genuinely interested in. 

College application pressures have created a complicated culture around clubs at Andover. Despite this, Andover students should aim to keep their true passions at heart for both the student and community’s best interests. More significant educational system reform is needed to let students prioritize their interests, but students can take a first step this Spring.