Clubs are tricky at university: we have so many in existence; plus a million more being planned at any given minute. It's not like high school, where everything was neatly planned. Many university clubs are not truly active after the first couple of weeks. Due to lack of resources, lack of will or lack of interest in the club: members disband and the executive stops planning. It’s hard to keep track of which clubs exist and which are active. This makes Clubs Week at any university a terrifying process for a newbie. What if you join the wrong club? What if the one you joined is just a lame social party? What if the executive is disorganized and lazy, and it ends up shutting down?
So, allow a Clubs Fair veteran to point out some clubs that might be ideal for the readers of Keepingithalal.com.
A good club...
1) Allows you to build a resume: Is it a clubs that has a long history? A great number of resources? Lots of clout? Famous alumni? Is there someone who can provide you a reference, or is there some evidence of your involvement in the club?
2) Allows you to build a large social and professional network without sacrificing your religious values. Do the members meet regularly? Do they attend events, socials and trips together? And if so, is the social life diverse, or is it focused on clubbing and drinking? Is this a place where you can make good friends?
3) Is not a waste of your time. Are the meetings efficient? Check the website: Is it up to date, and does the team execute its mandate within the year? Is there room to grow from a lowly member, to an organizer or executive; or are you stuck at the bottom of the totem pole forever?
Here are some clubs I saw at the U of T Clubs Fair this past week (September 4th – 8th) that may or may not be a good place to start. While these clubs are specifically a U of T, you most likely have similar clubs at your own universities. As well, it still gives you a good idea of what to expect, and what to look for.
For the Politically Inclined:
1) U of T UN Society (Model UN):
Meets Wednesdays 7-9 pm OR Fridays 3 -5 pm. Location TBA.
This is a Model United Nations; the club trains members on how debate, negotiate and perform well in United Nation SImulation Conferences that take place in Canada, the United States and throughout the world.
The committees you find in the conferences simulate real committees that have been or are in the United Nations.
Some of the more interesting committees you can be a part of:
- Futuristic Security Council, Mafia Wars of the 1920s, Mexican Drug lord negotiations, Palestine/Israel peace talks.
Some of the more interesting conferences you can go to:
-Yale, Harvard, McGill, London (UK), Lahore, Pakistan
- You can meet a lot of great people during weekly meetings, weekly socials, and the conferences.
- A great resume builder! You can start off as a delegate, you can win awards, you can organize local conferences or be a Head delegate in an away conference...
-The club has a long history and more resources than most clubs. The U of T team is one of the best model UN schools in Canada & the United States. There are also similar teams at York and Ryerson. I've met them, and I can tell you they have a lot of fun. MUN'ers around the world usually become friends for life. This means that if you met someone at Model UN in Chicago, you've got a place to crash the next time you visit!
- the away Conferences can be pricey. The team is working on getting funding, but you're still covering a lot of costs on your own. It's up to you to decide if its worth it.
2) Hart House Debates Club
Meets Tuesdays at 7 pm AND Wednesdays at 4 pm, at the HH Committees Room (2nd Floor)
This is a university wide organization based out of Hart House. They train members on how to debate, in practice for tournaments that take place in Canada, the United States & abroad.
-Another great resume builder. Debating skills are essential to many political/social careers. In fact, they are essential to many fields, so its definitely useful.
-The fact that the team is affiliated wtih historic and world-renowned Hart House is not bad, either.
-The tournaments are not very expensive! The 2009 McGill Winter Carnival North American Invitational was only about $35.
-There is a lot of room to move up in the organization: if you are a good debater, you can go from a novice to a pro. If your skills are not up to par, but you love the environment, you can be a tournament organizer for local events.
It's a close-knit team. You will make friends for life here.
-2 mandatory meeting times? Though a heavily rewarding experience; it could be very time consuming and mentally exhausting.
For the Intellectually Inclined:
OPTIONAL meetings: Thursdays from 3-4P OR 5-6PM in Hart House
This club at U of T wants have fun with reading. They also want to support (non-textbook) literacy on campus. According to their website: "At our monthly meetings, we discuss the book of the month and vote on the following month’s book. We also discuss issues that are relevant to the club, such as which charity events members would like to participate in, and ideas for club socials."
- What a nice, relaxing club! Pick a book, read it, and talk about it? Maybe have some tea and cookies? Take a mental load off? I'm interested.
-There's also an active online forum for those who miss meetings, or who want more discussion.
- As for these so-called charity and social events, I don't see a single picture of one on the website, and I have yet to hear about it on campus. Could it be that the group is a little bit disorganized? Considering that the one-hour meetings are OPTIONAL, how much does the club really get done?
- As a resume builder, it depends on what the charity events are. Otherwise, you're just a group of kids who sat together and read a book. Big whoop for an employer/grad school acceptance committee.
- Could be a great way to meet like-minded people. Books really do tell you a lot about people.
For the Religiously Inclined:
4) Muslim Students' Association
Meetings depend on your involvement!
The MSA works to be a representative voice for Muslims at U of T, and a unifying one.
There are lots of ways to get involved: For example, the MSA Community Affairs Committee organizes events such as: Ramadan Food Drive, Blood Drive, Habitat for Humanity Build, Pink Hijab Day, Sandwich Run, Lecture, occasional recurring events, and more as suggested by the committee members.
- Your voice matters. Got an idea? You can put it into action if you find the right committee.
- It's a close knit group, despite the size of the group.
- You decide your own involvement. So meeting times vary and commitment level varies depending on what you can handle.
- It's chicken soup for the Imaan =)
- The fractured nature of the involvement means a lot of people get lost in the shuffle. It's a huge club and they put on many events that get regular attendance and regular notice. But this means there are different bodies of the MSA doing different things at different times. The lack of simple structure can be disarming to some.
- As a resume builder, beware. In today's society, it may not send off a good vibe if the only thing you are involved in is your local religious organization. Many employers and grad schools expect variety and diversity in your experiences. If this is ALL you do, it may come off exclusive.
For the Active:
5) University of Toronto Outing Club
About ten-fifteen outings per semester. See website for details.
The club sends out trip information via a mailing list and members sign up for which outings they
want to do!
Some outings include:
-Halloween Outing to the UTOC cabin, with a movie night and a trip to the apple orchard, a Killarney Canoe Trip, a Gourment Foods weekend at the UTOC weekend, day trips at the Dufferin Quarry, indoor rock-climbing, and ice-skating.
-Don't want to be a committed member but want to go camping with some friends? Sign up for an outing!
-Trip costs are very low for day trips. The most expensive trip is the weekend canoeing which is about $90, with food and accomodation included.
-Doing active things with friends, and getting to see some beautiful parts of Canada!
- An escape from the city!
- Though there is a large number of events, many of UTOC's socials appear to feature pub nights. But if you can get your own group together who doesnt drink, it changes the nature of the experience.
- As a resume builder, it does show that you have diverse interests. It can be wow-ing, depending on how you spin it!
For the Creatively Inclined - Those who want to get Published!
6) The WA
Is a biannual urban publication. According to their booth at the Clubs Fair: If you can write/draw/design/interview/come up with "cool shit to publish", then send it off to the WA, at firstname.lastname@example.org
-It's a free for all! Got ANY cool social things to publicize or highlight? Send it to the WA!
- The group doesn't have a website that is easily searchable; or any place you can find a mandate or a mission statement. Who do you contact to look at back copies of issues? Who is the Executive? Even if you get published, will it mean much as a credit if no one can find any evidence of it online? It may just be free exposure to small group of emo/artsy people.
-You exercise your typing skills... not your social skills. Not a great way to make friends.
It's U of T's premier global health magazine, produced in association with the Centre for International Health. They look for photograph essays, articles and other submissions on a WIDE topic of issues related to global health. Don't let the name fool you. It's got a WIDE scope. You can comment on Mental Health, Aboriginal Issues, Social & Economic class issues, International Development, Refugee Issues, etc...
- It's a VERY well-known and reputable magazine in its field. So it's a great writing/photography credit to have. I know MANY of our readers are budding artists/poets/writers; so this is perfect way to build a portfolio.
- The scope of the magazine is large enough that even Poli Sci, Art, English or Law students could participate
- It's a great way for science nerds to express their creative side!
- JP is not just looking for "cool shit to publish" : they have submission guidelines. Look it up on the website if you're interested.
- You can do a lot of this at home, so again... it's not a great way to make friends.
9) Not joining a club at all, and volunteering a a university body instead.
Like: Hart House, the Multifaith Centre, the Munk Centre for International Relations...
Help these organizations plan events and coordinate activities. It's a more structured and formal type of environment than the club scene.
10)Do-it-Yourself Clubs: Got an idea but dont want the hassle of a club? Collaborate and network! Get tow clubs together and present them your idea! You plan the event/activity, and they pool the resources!
For example: want to put on a rock concert for charity? Maybe ask the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association if they want to get involved? Ask if they want to lend their hour on the CIUT 89.5 U of T Radio Station to give you publicity? As long as the clubs you include get credit, or some proceeds of the funds, why not collaborate? You scratch their back, they scratch yours!
Be wary of...
(Like the "Free the Children Charter at U of T" , or "Amnesty International at U of T".)
Many may be great, but don't make assumptions based on the important-sounding name they are attached to.
A representative from one of the organizations (who chose to remain anonymous) told me that she is very disappointed with one U of T charter in particular: they begin to host events with a company that is known for operating sweatshops. This put the organization in a very tricky spot and they got a lot of bad publicity for it.
So the moral of the story is: some university groups USE the name of a larger organization but are no longer acting in their interest. Beware before you join!
InshAllah, this gives students at any university some good ideas before setting off to join a club! And if you attend university at U of T, and you want some more ideas, check out the Ulife Clubs website!