Sydney Tran staff writer
Few things appeal more to teenagers than free stuff and food, so, naturally, the rooms teeming with students during any given lunch period are those that host clubs advertising free pizza, free Chipotle, free cookies, you name it.
Although undoubtedly an effective way to get more kids to show up to club meetings, incentivizing club attendance with food or prizes creates an apathetic community of students who satiate their cravings over their true interests and detracts from other clubs.
For example, surely you’ve heard of NextGenVest, the club that provides Chipotle for its attendees, but do you actually know anything about it? And have you heard of BHHS Amnesty International, which meets on the same days?
Both NextGenVest and BHHS Amnesty International encourage the promotion of well-being beyond school, in an economic and social sense, respectively, but there is one key difference between the two that shows in the amount of members. NextGenVest offers an incentive, while BHHS Amnesty International does not, and their attendance is indicative of this reality.
President and Group Coordinator of BHHS Amnesty International Ninan Pollack sees the faults in the system and feels that the Chipotle stands between her club and some members who join the swarm of students eagerly awaiting their burrito bowls at NextGenVest meetings.
“I do think that a club like mine that does not provide members with free Chipotle does have to compete with a club that provides an edible incentive,” Pollack said. “In fear of sounding presumptuous, I am a bit disappointed because I do think that it is possible my club would have more members if students ignored incentives.”
Pollack fears the atmosphere of apathy that results from such a practice.
“My major concern would be that people would be joining a club, not because they actually care about the club’s mission, but because they want free stuff. I truly think that students should be members of clubs they are passionate about,” Pollack said.
NextGenVest’s Vice President of Editorial Keith Stone does not share this concern for his club, which he feels is too intriguing to not be appreciated.
“We have such a solid foundation and interesting content that anybody who has the opportunity to get in the door of one of these great meetings would stay—not just for the Chipotle—but for the people and the experience and the education they’ll get.”
Instead, Stone views the incentivization as a service to the student body.
“I think that it’s very good that we offer Chipotle because not only can kids get some food in their stomachs and relax and listen to an important topic, but they can also eat food while they’re doing it. We help them mentally and physically,” Stone said.
At the same time, however, with over 175 people in attendance at the first meeting, there were most likely at least a few people who were disinterested. These few people could have instead spent their 50 minutes at a meeting about a topic that appeals to them more. Giving people the option of absentmindedly watching a presentation while daydreaming about the Chipotle they’re going to devour in about 10 minutes does not benefit the club; in fact, it is detrimental to the focused atmosphere.
This isn’t to say that clubs that offer free food are not worthy of immense attendance; they are. Rather, these clubs would be more enriching environments if they weeded out those who are merely there to get their bi-weekly fix of commercialized Mexican food. After all, NextGenVest’s goal of “help[ing] students with their financial literacy” is one of the most useful and important things that can be taught to students who will most likely be drowning in debt after college; it shouldn’t need an incentive, and neither should BHHS Amnesty International.
Clubs are not a competition of the greatest turnout; they’re a place to express, enrich and explore interests. Let’s keep it that way. Ultimately, the choice lies with the students. Next time you’re deciding how you want to spend your lunch period, ask yourself what’s more satisfying: tingling your taste buds for 10 minutes by feeding into the institution of incentivizing club attendance or enjoying lunch in an enriching environment—which may very well be at a club that gives out free food—talking about something you love?