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Bored? Join the club

By Brandon Lambert
On October 4, 2011

Students struggling to find something to do in their free time should check out Norwich's selection of 50 student-led clubs, according to the president of the Student Government Association.

These clubs should appeal to the interests of most students, but in case such a club doesn't exist, "all you need is an advisor and at least seven other members," said Michael McCarthy, a 22-year-old senior criminal justice major from Brookline, Mass., and president of the Student Government Association (SGA).

According to McCarthy, starting a club has become a much more streamlined process in the past three years.

In the past, a confusing system of paperwork included a "seven- to eight-page packet of forms that was pretty hard to follow," McCarthy said. The process has been optimized to a small two-page packet that requires the club name, advisor's signature and the club's constitution.

After the club submits its paperwork to the SGA's Student Clubs and Activities Committee, it is voted into the university as an officially recognized club. The club must be relatively safe, promote a positive image of Norwich and include any student with an interest in the club, according to the SGA.

Officially recognized clubs are eligible for money from the school to be used on "equipment rentals or an event," McCarthy said. Each semester there is $7,500 available to the SGA to divide among clubs. They need to submit "three forms for a fund, a summary of expenses, a request form, and a questionnaire (filled out by the president of the club)," McCarthy said.

McCarthy makes it clear, however, that the SGA is not a primary source for funds, but a supplement. The SGA would like clubs to be "self-sustaining."

"Around 80 percent of the funds are given out at the beginning of the semester," McCarthy said. The other 20 percent of the club funds are available to "clubs founded during the (remainder of the) semester or ones that did not turn in their paperwork on time," McCarthy explained.

SGA president McCarthy describes a particular financial blunder made by a club: "They requested $1,000 for their club to throw a pizza party for its members."

To find out more about starting a new club, McCarthy recommends getting in touch with Bobby Coleman, the club secretary, or Kelsey McComish and Greg McGrath in the student activities office on the second floor of the Wise Campus Center.

Ultimately, McCarthy stated, "If you're a student you can start a club, that includes commuters, cadets, rooks, traditional students, no matter what your role is."

Nick Shepherd, a 19-year-old sophomore studies in war and peace major from Kittery, Maine, became the president of the Norwich fencing club last year as a rook.

"Being a rook, you don't have a lot of opportunities so I did this partly to keep myself sane,"said Shepherd.

Shepherd said the Norwich fencing club was in disarray last year. "There was a sort of framework (for the club), but the people that were doing (running the club) had lost interest and really didn't have any experience."

Shepherd has been fencing for about seven years. At one point he was a part of the Junior Olympics, he said.

Besides breathing new life into a long exhausted club, Shepherd also had to promote the club throughout the campus. "Fencing has been a part of Norwich for a long time," Shepherd said. He said, "It even used to be a varsity sport," but now "a lot of people don't know that we have a fencing club."

As a president of the club for a second year, he is focusing on "building a foundation that can be added to for years to come." He hopes to one day return the club to its former glory as a varsity sport. "Hopefully we'll be competitive (again) by the time I leave Norwich," Shepherd said.

Trevon Breitenbach, a 19-year-old sophomore international studies major from Overland Park, Kan., wants to entertain students on weekends with old-fashioned pugilism, the art of fighting with fists.

Like Shepherd, Breitenbach is using his SGA background to start this club.

He understands that his goals will not manifest overnight, and he is willing to fight for his chance to shape the boxing club. "The biggest problem is that the club will be viewed as a liability issue," said Breitenbach. Boxing is a dangerous sport, with injuries possible.

Breitenbach hopes to remedy the situation "with a waiver saying that you won't sue the club or the university for getting a busted nose," or any other common injury.

Additionally, he will require that members purchase their own equipment so that they cannot cast blame on Norwich.

Recruiting for a club that is as inherently dangerous as boxing will take some creativity, and Breitenbach says he's up to the challenge.

"Most people post (their flyers) on the 1st Sgt. boards around the Upper Parade Ground barracks, and that's fine, but most people just walk by," Breitenbach said. The same thing can be said for the flyers that are posted on the walls in the Wise Campus Center, Breitenbach explained.

"We're going to put (the flyers) on urinals," because according to Breitenbach, "people will be more interested." This theory is based on subliminal memorization that he had done last year as a rook.

He expects one day the club will be varsity and "travel to other schools for boxing matches like West Point."

Breitenbach's thinks this club will "instill a mental toughness (in its members)," so that members will be respected for being a "hard-nosed leader."

Be on the lookout for the boxing club to start at the beginning of the spring 2012 semester, with general interest meetings to be held in early December, according to Breitenbach.

To fight boredom, Melissa Grube, an 18-year-old sophomore biology major from Allentown, Pa., recommends that clubs hold activities on the weekends.

"A lot of people resort to doing things that get them in trouble in their free time," said Grube. "People tell you that you have to drink because there is really nothing else to do,"

"There are various clubs and associations (to be apart of) during the week, " she said, "and on the weekends (the university) offers activities like a movie," but in her opinion, "it's not enough to grab the attention of the school."

Shepherd says of clubs, "[They're] something to do so you don't go crazy, and there's not a lot to do. So getting involved in clubs, special units, or sports as a good way to get out."

To learn what clubs are available, go to the Student Activities Office on the second floor in the WCC.

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