Student organizations navigate recruiting new members, some consider class year when selecting

The Mayer Campus Center is pictured on Dec. 3, 2020. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

Tufts’ student organizations can largely determine their own criteria for selecting new members, as long as they do not interfere with any of the protected categories defined by the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO). In practice, this means that, under university rules, clubs have the ability to admit students into their organization based on their class year.

The protected categories are listed on OEO’s website in a nondiscrimination policy. 

“Race; color; national or ethnic origin; age; religion; disability; sex; sexual orientation; gender; gender identity and expression; including a transgender identity; genetics; veteran status; retaliation; and any other characteristic protected under applicable federal or state law,” the policy reads.

The one exception is the protected category of age. Under Massachusetts law, age is only considered a protected category for those who are at least 40 years old.

Each student organization at Tufts has its own selection process for new members, with a variety of variables.  

For Tufts Mock Trial, most accepted members are first-years with some sophomores also being selected. Recruitment for the team includes tryouts that are geared toward first-years and sophomores, according to Bennett Demsky, co-president of Tufts Mock Trial. 

Demsky, a junior, cites Mock Trial’s rigorous training process as a reason for the decision to accept younger members. 

“There [are] just a lot of rules and procedures that people need to know,” Demsky said. “It’s pretty hard to take upperclassmen because there’s just not enough time to teach them and then for them to realize their full potential, so we mostly focus on incoming freshmen.” 

Andre Ching, a transfer student who is the former captain of Reed College’s mock trial team, was accepted this semester into Tufts’ mock trial team as a junior. 

Ching emphasized that his acceptance was based on his ability to perform at a similar level to other juniors on the team.

“I think one of the reasons they … made the exception to allow a junior onto the team was because I showed them in the tryout and various conversations I had with the leadership at Tufts Mock Trial that I have the skills of a junior,” Ching said. 

He mentioned that even though he is a member of Tufts Mock Trial, junior transfer students have the most difficulty joining student organizations. 

“I’ve only joined Mock Trial because I actively reached out and … pretty much went out of my way to look for ways to enter, but no other organization has reached out to me,” Ching said. 

For the Amalgamates, one of Tufts’ all-gender a cappella groups, all class years besides seniors can audition. About three-quarters of the auditionees are first-years, with a quarter being sophomores and just a handful being juniors or transfer students, according to Noah Bedrosian, business manager of the Amalgamates.

Bedrosian, a junior, noted that class year is not considered when deciding which students receive a callback, and students are chosen based purely on their performance. 

He added that during callbacks, the Amalgamates stress the time commitment required from their members, which may be more challenging for upperclassmen to adhere to. 

“We rehearse three times a week for two and a half hours each time and we have gigs slash performances most weekends,” Bedrosian said. “For freshmen, it’s [easier than for upperclassmen] to block out that time.”

For other a cappella groups such as the Jackson Jills, an all female-identifying group, all class years can audition, but for logistical reasons, the group caps the number of members in each class year, according to Miley Xiao, president of the Jackson Jills.

“We try to keep the group under 16 people, so four each grade or five each grade just because of transportation purposes, because when we do performances off campus, we do have to provide our own transportation. And a larger group would make that a little bit more complicated,” Xiao, a senior, said. 

Xiao said that students of all class years have similar chances of joining the group, and that class year is not considered heavily in the Jackson Jills’ selection process.

“We try to make [age level] as trivial as possible because, obviously, we want the best singers,” Xiao said. “I think [age] is definitely part of the discussion at the very end of the selection process, but we won’t eliminate someone [on that basis].”

Enchanted, Tufts’ coed Disney-themed a cappella group, accepts students regardless of their class year, but the first-year class has the highest audition turnout, according to Mitchell Shapiro-Albert, president of Enchanted.

Shapiro-Albert, a junior, stated that auditions are evaluated solely on singing ability, and neither age or class year are considered in Enchanted’s audition process. 

Shapiro-Albert also noted that Enchanted has flexibility in determining the number of members to accept after auditions. 

“Enchanted is never locked at a certain number of members, so we would always take anyone we’re excited about,” Shapiro-Albert said. “Enchanted is a relatively young group and so our founders who wrote our constitution took pretty specific care to ensure that we never be restricted in terms of number of members.”

Due to the pandemic, Tufts Debate Society has changed the traditional selection process for new members due to online debate tournaments, Aonkon Dey, vice president of operations for the group, said. 

Dey, a junior, said that the debate team previously had new member selections in the fall semester to eliminate the process of selecting teams of two to compete before each tournament. Since the tournaments had fees associated with them, a set team each year allowed for an easier budgeting process.

He noted that the team will continue without member selections until it can no longer accommodate the number of interested members.

“Hopefully by next fall, the pandemic goes away, and things return back to normal,” Dey said.