Schools love to tout how many committees, clubs, and co-curricular activities they offer. The bigger and sexier the school, the more exotic and diverse the offerings. Philosophy club. Poetry club. Science club. Chess club. Feminist club. Finance club. PETA club. Social Justice club. And so on. Increasingly, grassroots committees provide support for marginalized groups, and students rallying attention to social or political causes. This is especially true on college campuses, where activist groups can find support, meaning, and fellowship among other students who share the same interests, concerns, and aspirations. This is all good; what’s not to like?
There’s nothing not to like. But there’s something missing. The exponential rise of committees and clubs have made schools more inclusive places, but this trend has also narrowed and isolated the forms of interaction available on campus. There are lots of conversations taking place among like minded people, but less engagement among those with differing views.
And there’s a cost. As students develop stronger ties, they may also weaken affiliations to those outside a narrow cultural, political, or social category. When separation between groups and committees widen, campus life can devolve into a set of self reinforcing ideological cliques. Students may have more options to become members of a group, but this membership places few real demands on critical thinking and civic engagement. Group identity may intensify, but democratic community declines