The College of Charleston boasts 218 clubs and student organizations, ranging from Archaeology to Quidditch to Visual Arts Club, but sometimes these still aren’t enough to cover every student’s interests. The process of starting your own club can be long and difficult, but that hasn’t stifled the enthusiasm of students and faculty members behind clubs new to the College this semester.
On Wednesday, September 3, the fledgling Linguistics Club convened for their first meeting in two years. According to Dr. Alyson Eggleston and Dr. Hilary Barnes, professors in the Linguistics Studies Program, the members were too few and had too many conflicting interests to develop the club past the initial stages. However, Dr. Eggleston and Dr. Barnes are optimistic about this incarnation’s chances of success.
“We had 21 students in attendance and 5 faculty members from various departments,” Dr. Eggleston said. “This was an unprecedented level of interest—and honestly, we were not prepared for it!” She attributed some of the meeting’s success to promotional fliers that faculty members created to spread the word. Only about half of those students were declared Linguistics minors, indicating to Dr. Eggleston that the formation of the club would promote growth for the Linguistics Studies Program.
By the end of the year, Dr. Eggleston expects a core group of students to complete the official club application. New members have already begun work on the constitution—required of every club to be officially recognized by the Student Government Association. “Ultimately, the success of any endeavor depends upon communication and organization,” she said.
Unfortunately, not every club can garner the interest necessary for its survival. Last year, student Danielle Smith tried to start a poi club. “Poi isn’t really well known here,” Smith said. “However, I was able to find about a dozen people who had spun poi in the past that were interested in meeting and spinning.” Poi are balls on the ends of strings that can be manipulated to create patterns in the air, which Smith said can be a meditative solo activity, but more fun to do with others.
Despite the initial interest, Smith had difficulties with the bureaucracy of forming a club. “Being a part of a club might not take much, but starting one is quite a job,” she said. Every new club hoping to be recognized must submit a constitution to the SGA outlining the club’s bylaws and naming at least two officers. This document must then be signed by at least twelve members. After submitting the constitution and securing a faculty advisor, a club must go through a probationary period before receiving funding from the SGA.
“Writing a constitution is kind of difficult,” Miya Fowler, who is starting a West African Drum and Dance Club, said. “I haven’t even turned in the constitution for this club yet, and this is an idea that’s been evolving since this summer.” Fowler, who has been dancing with a company since her freshman year in Charleston, wanted to bring the sense of community and cultural understanding of West African drum and dance to the College.
She said that getting the word out to people about her club was much easier than filling out the paperwork. Despite not putting
flyers out until the day before the interest meeting on September 4, she had a turn-out of 20 people. “Everyone was excited, I got a couple of phone calls about it, so it’s very exciting.” Fowler sees the club growing even larger by the end of the year, and the club has already been invited by professors to perform at various events.
Caroline Goodin encountered similar enthusiasm while organizing the recently recognized Comic Book Club. “I was surprised CofC didn’t already have one,” Goodin said. Her goal was to provide a space for bringing like-minded people together, “where nerds can hang out with other nerds.” Goodin experienced some confusion last spring when she started forming the Comic Book Club, referencing the difficult-to-navigate College website as well as the waiting period between turning in the application and being recognized as a club. The waiting period “fell awkwardly on the snow days, so it was a little frustrating to wait for so long. But the club is an official CofC club now and we couldn’t be happier.”
Cheese Club president Madeline Pearse and vice-president Ryan Laders have shown that special interest clubs can quickly establish themselves and succeed at the College. Pearse was inspired to start the Cheese Club last spring after becoming cheese-tasting certified during a semester in Amsterdam. “We didn’t know how it would be received, so we just had to wing it,” Pearse said. “Fortunately, the student body responded really well.” Over 50 students attended their first meeting, and more than 300 have liked the club’s Facebook page.
Laders said, “The challenges were few and far between. The executive board—namely, Maddie—did a great job making things run smoothly.” Losing the help and expertise of Trudi Wagner and Patty Floersheimer of the Broad Street fromagerie goat.sheep.cow would be an obstacle this semester, Pearse said, but she and Laders were both excited for the opportunity to make more connections in Charleston and continue to grow their club in its second semester.
With the right combination of promotion, perseverance and circumstance, others may also make it through the difficult processes to start a club. “My advice is to just go ahead and do it,” Goodin said. “Chances are even if it’s the most bizarre club ever, you will find someone else who shares your interest. It’s a great way to meet new people.”
For more information about any of these clubs, contact:
Cheese Club: Madeline Pearse and Ryan Laders, @cofcheese or College of Charleston Cheese Club on Facebook
Linguistics Club: Dr. Alyson Eggleston, email@example.com
Comic Book Club: Caroline Goodin, firstname.lastname@example.org, Melissa Ender, email@example.com, or College of Charleston Comic Book Club on Facebook
West African Drum and Dance Club: Miya Fowler, 864.363.2255 or firstname.lastname@example.org