How Clubs Invoke Social Change on Campus
(Featuring the Armenian Students’ Association)
By Alissa Chooljian, Staff Writer
“Real change starts with the individual”–The Armenian Students’ Association
Members of the Armenian Students’ Association (ASA) understand that many of their peers may often feel powerless in the fight for social change. By recognizing that there is a predominant perspective that labels students as ‘outliers’ when they start fighting for societal, environmental, and economic reform, ASA provides a place for students to unite and combat this issue together. Although students lack parliamentary and governmental power, there are other avenues of social advocacy and empowerment which enable them to invoke ‘real changes’ regarding both national and international issues. This article will shed light on the role and influence clubs may have in terms of leaving “real impact”.
There are more than five-hundred recognized study groups at the University of Toronto. Many of these groups consist of academic clubs, but there is nonetheless a significant number of cultural clubs, which are an excellent example of unity among students and a place to reconnect with one’s culture.
Many students beginning their studies at the University of Toronto may feel that they don’t belong or blend in with the rest of the students. This can be attributed to the drastic change in scenery and social environment compared to secondary education. To help combat this feeling of loneliness on campus, clubs can provide a sense of community, or a semblance of home. It is crucial to mention that over 28% of UofT’s students are international students. Thus, cultural clubs can serve as a microcosmic community for students who want to remain connected with their culture, despite being thousands of miles away from home. Furthermore, clubs can create a sense of identity and community for first-year students by providing them with an outlet and space to communicate and connect with their peers.
The University of Toronto – St. George sports an enormous campus—almost resembling a mini-town—and very big lecture halls. This means that making friends is not as easy as it was in high school. Many students befriend the person sitting next to them in a lecture hall, and by the second class, that connection is lost as the seats are rearranged. However, students at UofT can resolve this by joining clubs, which tend to offer an intimate and close-knit, friendly environment for however long the student wishes to remain with the club.
ASA is an excellent example of one such club. To better foster that friendly, supportive environment for its members, it “co-hosted an online panel discussion with ASAs across Canada, inviting psychologists and psychiatrists from the Armenian Medical Association of Quebec to share tools and resources for mental and emotional support.”
To give their members a platform for social advocacy on issues that matter to them, such as the 1915 Armenian Genocide, ASA uses their “fundraising events as opportunities to interact with non-Armenian students on campus and spread awareness about [their] fundraising campaigns.”
Alongside the many things it does for its members, the ASA also “[strives] to connect with other cultural groups at UofT to promote unity and diversity. This year, [they] were invited to participate in the BIPOC Resource Fair hosted by New College which gave [them] the opportunity to interact with other cultural clubs at UofT, sharing about Armenian culture and learning about others.” This opens the door for a more comfortable and multicultural campus where students of all cultures can interact.
ASA demonstrates that students at UofT can come together to support each other while also leaving “real impact” by spreading awareness about important cultural and global issues. Although this is only one example of the power of clubs on campus, it is nonetheless a powerful demonstration of how clubs can offer unity among students and simultaneously invoke social change on campus.