Social Club Proposal Released
Issue   |   Wed, 04/22/2015 - 01:12

The Social Project Work Group released a final proposal for the implementation of social clubs on Tuesday, April 14. The proposal outlines the potential process for creating social clubs, selecting their members and the objectives and requirements of clubs. The proposal is addressed to the student body, and the administration “will only consider a proposal that has the overwhelming support of the student body,” according to Chief Student Affairs Officer Suzanne Coffey.

Following the board of trustees’ decision last May to ban all fraternity activities on and off campus, current AAS President Tomi Williams ’16 wanted to find a way to address issues of social life at the college. He assembled a group of interested students, and last fall, the Social Project Work Group began to brainstorm ideas for social clubs on campus. The group has been soliciting feedback from the student body by offering workshop discussions, setting up an informational table in Valentine Dining Hall and presenting the initial model of social clubs at a meeting at the Powerhouse last November.

The Social Project Work Group wanted to create clubs that did not require a unifying skill or interest, but could still provide social opportunities for different students on campus. The social clubs are designed to offer a more diverse selection of social opportunities to the student body.

“It is a recurring criticism of our community that, although we are uniquely diverse, there are not enough opportunities for students to engage with this diversity beyond one-off events,” Williams said. “These groups also present an opportunity to establish long-lasting traditions in the form of semesterly events that will be open and are meant to attract the entirety of the Amherst community.”

Williams also spoke about the importance of mentorship on campus. Williams said he believes that the social clubs could provide an opportunity for upperclassman mentors to help younger students.

“As it stands now, first-year athletes have the greatest access to upperclassman students as soon as they are on campus — a lot of times even before they arrive,” Williams said. “These connections with older students are tremendously important and oftentimes ease the anxieties of students who are concerned about their first-year experience. Social clubs give an opportunity for first-years to build relationships with upperclassman students, who can help reassure, guide and advise younger students as necessary.”

According to the proposal’s final draft, the social clubs must have at most a 60:40 gender ratio, a requirement also in place for the college’s dormitories. No single class year could make up more than 50 percent of the club’s membership. Members must meet regularly as a group and plan social events for both the club and the entire student body each semester. As long as these rules are met, the social clubs could freely establish their own defining characteristics.

“What would give each club its character is the yearly campus event it organizes, which would ideally develop into a long-standing tradition for the college,” Social Project Work Group member Brian Beaty ’17 said. “As an example, just as the student body comes to expect a fall festival each year, it could also come to expect a social club, say ‘the Dickinson Club,’ to throw a poetry slam event the first day of spring every year on the quad. Students obviously wouldn’t join the Dickinson Club on the basis of that event alone — they would join it because they enjoyed the type of community it offers and wanted to become friends with the current members.”

The clubs could potentially range from anywhere from 30 to 50 members. Williams explained that the size would depend heavily on initial interest from the student body. The size of the clubs would be important because the groups should be big enough to provide a random mixture of students to foster new friendships, but be small enough to create intimate relationships within the clubs.

In order to create a social club, a group of three to five students would submit a brief social club proposal, consisting of the club’s name, a description of a potential campus-wide event the club would plan and host, ideas for intra-group events and a mascot. The Social Project Work Group would then administer a poll in which the student body would vote and the social clubs that received the largest numbers of votes would become the initial social groups on campus.

The selection process of clubs’ members would be based on how students rank the clubs in order of personal preference. Each student would fill out an application with basic information, including their name, class year and extracurricular activities, and attend pre-selection events, such as a club’s informational meetings.

A student’s admission to a social club would depend on an algorithm that takes into account student preferences and the club founders’ preferences, while evenly distributing interested students across the available clubs. All students who apply would be guaranteed membership in a social club.

“We recognized apprehension about the amount of subjectivity on behalf of club leaders when matching prospective members to their groups; students are now matched with clubs by an algorithm similar to that used to place first-years in their seminars,” Williams said.

Students would be allowed to join a social club during the spring semester of their first year at Amherst. This is to “ensure students have time to get to know the social clubs, as well as Amherst social life in general,” according to the social club proposal.

A social club oversight committee would provide supervision to the social clubs on campus. The committee would consist of an administrative member and a representative from each club, who would serve a one-year term. The representatives would be required to attend monthly meetings and ensure the clubs are regularly organizing school-wide and intra-club social events. According to the proposal, other duties of the committee include “maintaining their distinctive qualities and [ensuring that] they uphold the mission of the college.”

Furthermore, just like many other clubs and teams on campus, the social clubs would require their members to attend bystander and anti-hazing training. They would also be expected to host intra-group events using resources of the Student Health Educators, Peer Advisors, Queer Resource Center, women and Gender Center and the Multicultural Resource Center. A social club would be disbanded if it fails to host regular social events, does not receive interest from applicants and loses participation from current members.

Coffey said that Williams has regularly checked in with the Office of Student Affairs to inform the administrators of the student feedback and the changes being made to the proposal of social clubs. Members of the Social Project Work Group also presented the process of designing social clubs to the College Council, chaired by Professor of Religion Maria Heim.
If social clubs are implemented, the Social Project Work Group will seek further support from the college administration in order for social clubs to receive funding for their events.

“And if we want this to be success, it is going to need student, administration and board of trustee support alike,” Williams said.

The group plans to put out an AAS poll soon so that students can vote on the proposal. The poll is tentatively scheduled to be released on May 5, after two more town hall meetings on the topic of social clubs.

Below is the original version of Social Project Work Group's final proposal for the social clubs:

The Social Project Work Group originally came together in the Summer of 2014 when Tomi Williams spearheaded an effort to address existing social issues on campus with a group of interested students. Tomi chose members of the group based on expressed interest in helping change Amherst social life particularly in the time after the Trustee’s decision to ultimately ban all fraternity activities on campus.

The group began working together remotely this summer in approximately mid July. They discussed issues in Amherst social life and agreed to try to craft a possible solution to some of the problems, recognizing that no single solution could fix all the issues in student life at Amherst College.

Upon returning to school, the group attempted to construct a bare bones model in order to begin sharing it with the student body and soliciting student feedback. The model was presented to the student body in a Town Hall meeting at the Powerhouse on November 6, 2014. Following that introduction, the group worked to solicit as much feedback as possible by tabling in Valentine and hosting a workshop discussion in the Friedman Room.

Following these actions and much feedback from the student body, the group worked to readjust the model to alleviate many of the concerns of the students and also expanded to six more members. The six additional members were selected with the help of the AAS Appointments Board on January 30, 2015. Members were asked to help expand the model as well as offer different opinions to create a structure that would help Amherst Social Life going forward.

Since January, the group of fourteen members has constructed a complete proposal for a Social Club Model discussed below. Continued student feedback in encouraged and can be shared in person or emailed to

The Social Project Work Group

Tomi Williams ‘16
Ellie Anderson ‘15
Ashley Felix ‘15
Jenny Fitzpatrick ‘15
Abe Kanter ‘15
Brian Lobdell ‘15
Virginia Hassell ‘16
Meghan McDonough ‘16
Tom Sommers ‘16
Julia Yates ‘16
Brian Beaty ‘17
Siena Koh ‘18
Olivia Mastrangelo ‘18

A social club is a group of students with no single unifying skill or characteristic coming together to gather socially in small groups and to plan and provide social opportunities on campus. These clubs can supplement existing registered student organizations on campus that unify students who have a particular interest or skill. The social club model has been created to better social life on campus, to create and foster tradition at Amherst, to introduce a more diverse environment of social opportunities, to bridge the “athlete/non-athlete divide,” to connect students across class years, dorms, and potentially neighborhoods.

Social clubs are required to have a 60/40 gender ratio similar to that of the dormitories on campus. No single class year can make up more than 50% of the membership. Social clubs are expected to meet regularly as a group and take attendance. Meetings are intended to consist of planning events for the social groups to do individually and also to plan one school-wide event open to the entire student body for each semester. The cornerstone of these clubs is to bring social opportunities to the campus as a whole as well as to create a smaller social environment for its members. Time commitments and types of events are expected to vary among clubs as they create their own club characteristics.

Initial group creation relies entirely on participation by the student body. Groups of three to five students would submit a brief social club proposal. The proposal would entail the name and a short description of a possible school-wide event that the club would throw. The proposal would also entail potential intra-group events, a mascot, and an Amherst related club name. These proposals would then be voted on by the Student Body and the clubs that have received the most votes will become the initial groups on campus.

The initial club selection process will be different from the selection process going forward, but we anticipate this structure will work better to encourage students to participate in the first clubs and to retain students. The process of distributing members among the first clubs will be similar to that of the First Year Seminars. Students will rank all the clubs in order of personal preference, and they will fill out an application with their name, class year, and the activities that they participate in. The process would be an opt-out process to encourage student participation.

The selection process for clubs going forward would entail the same application as well as students ranking all clubs in order of preference. The club would mark demonstrated interest by a student by inputting a dummy variable of 0 or 1. This dummy variable indicates that the student has made any effort to attend pre-selection events like club meetings, the club fair or any of the events held by the club. The two inputs ( student preference and dummy variable) would be put into an algorithm to distribute students evenly across social groups. All students that apply are guaranteed to be placed in a social club.

This placement process would happen for first-year students after fall semester to ensure students have time to get to know the social clubs, as well as Amherst social life in general. A social club fair and various events would be held in order for students to meet the existing members of the social clubs and express interest to the members. There will be a round of re-application for students who want to transfer social groups and for transfer students at the beginning of the fall semester.

These clubs are expected to be held accountable by the Social Club Oversight Committee (SCOC). This committee is expected to have an administrative representative as well as one representative sent by each club. Each representative serves a one year term on the committee. This would be similar to the form of SAAC representation. This would entail one monthly meeting to ensure social clubs are planning the school wide and intra-club events. They would be in charge of creating a calendar to ensure events do not fall on the same day. This group sees that clubs maintain their distinctive qualities and membership and that they uphold the mission of the college. This group would also handle interclub discipline and pass any major disciplinary action on to the general administration. A club can be disbanded if it loses participation, does not throw events, or loses interest from applicants.

The process of adding new clubs would require a group of students to petition SCOC. This petition would have to include some interest for initial membership. Students would have to explain to the oversight committee why the existing clubs do not meet particular social needs on campus and why this could be helped by creating an additional club.

Ultimately, along with providing social opportunity on campus, the clubs are expected to be used as a tool to educate the student body and carry on the mission of Amherst. Club members are expected to go through Bystander training and Anti-Hazing Training. They would also be expected to host cultural competency intra-group events by utilizing the resources of the SHEs or PAs, Queer Resource Center, Women and Gender Center, and the Multicultural Resource Center.