Join the club(s)
Civil liberties, ballroom dancing, Objectivism, tutoring,
rugby, Japanese animation, the Brazilian dance/martial art
Capoeira, hot chocolate—you name it, chances are
there's a U of C club to pursue it.
At this fall's Student Activities Fair,
hundreds of information seekers packed Hutchinson Courtyard,
where more than 90 registered student organizations (RSO)
had set up tables. While many RSOs passed out candy—Tootsie
Rolls, Smarties, Hershey's Kisses—fourth-years Jennifer
Hsu and Nels Frye of the conservative newspaper Criterion
attempted to lure new staff with free cigarettes. Pressed
on the exact connection between cigarettes and conservative
thought, Hsu offered: "Well, people come to find out
about the cigarettes, then we get a chance to tell them
about the Criterion."
"They're sort of there for publicity,"
added Frye, brandishing his death stick with great aplomb,
though further inspection revealed it to be unlit: "I'm
not really a smoker."
Fifteen feet away sat the smiling, mostly
blond U of C cheerleaders—the Phoenix Fires, founded
in 2000. They cheer at football games and men's and women's
basketball games, explained third-year Britanny Simmons.
In the spring they train and also perform at special events,
such as the international food festival.
What's it like to be a cheerleader at
a school whose stereotype is to fight such stereotypes?
"A lot of people are surprised" that there's a
cheerleading squad at all, third-year Stephanie Mostowski
admitted, but awareness is slowly building, especially after
the group created a Web site. "Last year we only had
ten people sign up, but this year we've gotten e-mails from
girls in high school who want to try out two years from
now," she said. "And not just girls—there's
interest from the guys as well," Simmons added. Aspiring
cheerleaders are required to audition, but competition is
not exactly stiff: "You don't need any experience,"
Mostowski said. "We look for people who have potential
to be a good cheerleader, which is really just having school
spirit. We can work with that."
The amateur's enthusiasm was equally
welcome at comics anthology Perspicacity, where drawing
skills aren't a prerequisite. The content of recent issues
ranges from "really artsy stuff" to "stick-figure
philosophical drawings that I do," said second-year
Sarah Nerboso. Nerboso often draws her stick man during
humanities class, she said, which explains why "sometimes
he ends up talking about philosophy and Plato and stuff
At the table for Trix, an RSO that brings
punk and hardcore acts to Ida Noyes, fourth-years Miguel
Quinonez and Lindsey Pawlowski obligingly lowered the volume
on a CD to answer a few questions. Trix, which also shows
punk-themed movies such as Repo Man and Rock'n'Roll
High School on Sunday nights, generated considerably
more interest than the cheerleaders: "This is our second
sign-up sheet," Quinonez said.
While the group has organized successful
punk/hardcore festivals for more than a decade, some years
are rough-going. Two years ago, "there were some incidents
with fireworks and chandelier diving in the Cloister Club.
It was a little sketchy," said Pawlowski. Quinonez
offered: "Here's a photo of everyone getting thrown
Although some RSOs may sound exclusive,
such as the Pakistani Students Association (PSA), "you
don't have to be Pak- istani to join," second-year
Mariah Siddiqui said. The PSA sponsors political events,
such as talks and teach-ins during Kashmir Awareness Week,
and purely social ones: at Nashta (Urdu for breakfast)
members munch on food from Devon Avenue. The group has about
100 members and is trying to expand-especially from outside
the Pakistani community.
Similarly, the club SistaFriends is intended
to be "a social and academic outlet for the minority
women on campus," said third-year Nakea West. But SistaFriends
includes men among its 60 members and is open to all students
who want to "support us and help us do what we want
to do," she said. The group sponsors poetry slams,
quarterly lectures, and a ritual celebration of sisterhood
at year's end.
Each year 15 or 20 new groups apply for
RSO status, said Lori Hurvitz, assistant director of the
Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities. Organizations
must have eight student members, written bylaws, and a different
purpose from existing RSOs. One of Hurvitz's favorite newcomers
is the Hot Chocolate Club, which "promotes hot chocolate
as a stress reliever," she said. "They're totally
serious about it. They're one of the most organized groups
— Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93