Club leaders face unprecedented online recruitment season amid COVID-19 pandemic

Photo of Calapoolza
Lorenzo Dela Cruz/File
Unlike the January 2019 Calapalooza event held in person, this semester's Calapalooza and general club recruitment was forced online by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Normally, Sproul Plaza would be bustling with students handing out flyers, but this semester’s COVID-19 limitations confronted clubs with an unprecedented fall recruitment process.

For many clubs, the start of recruitment was marked by a virtual Calapalooza that took place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. Clubs updated their own websites and turned to social media as a primary means for advertising their organizations.

Campus sophomore Izzy Weiss found herself organizing a new club in the midst of the transition to remote instruction in March. Founder of In Between, a club that unites individuals who feel in between their Asian and American identities, Weiss said she had hoped to have a more structured club format but online recruitment threw her a “curveball.”

After a disappointing virtual information session for the In Between chapter at UC Berkeley, Weiss decided to change her plans for the club to focus on a more casual format without an application to join.

“I know that a lot of clubs have started since COVID, and it seems like they’re thriving,” Weiss said. “I was like, ‘Oh wow, all of these other clubs started during this time, and it seems like they have more members and (are) doing cooler things.’ (I’m) realizing that every club is different. It’s imposter syndrome but on a club level.”

Other clubs experienced similar disappointment from the realization that online recruitment would mean losing vital in-person interaction.

Dylan Epp, campus senior and internal vice president of Business Careers in Entertainment Club, was not sure if people would care to join clubs if they were online.

“We were expecting, obviously, less applicants than normal,” Epp said. “But we were surprised by the amount of people who were interested. Berkeley students are Berkeley students. I think they are proactive. If you’re a freshman or incoming transfer, you’re going to do your best to find a club.”

CalSol, an organization whose purpose is to create solar-powered vehicles, offers many hands-on projects to its members, according to operations director and campus junior Helen Wang. Its focus has been on digitalizing those in-person projects so new members can stay engaged with online training.

Wang added that while the volume of applications decreased, those who joined have been more active than previous semesters. Projects have been working successfully online, but an online spring semester would present major issues for the club’s goal of building the solar vehicle.

For software development club Blueprint, the recruitment process included virtual interviews and social events, according to Karina Nguyen, campus junior and Blueprint external vice president. She added that during the interview process, club leadership members accommodated applicants who faced technical issues and time differences.

“This experience has shown that we can provide quality experience for members as well as further our mission no matter where we are or what we do,” Nguyen said in an email.

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.