We’ve all been there: wandering around the brightly coloured stalls, handing over our cash for cardboard membership cards and calico bags stuffed with sponsored supplies. All too quickly, you’ve signed up to seven plus clubs, only to realise a few weeks later that you’re:
(A) no longer enticed by the effort required to go to those events;
(B) consequently unlikely to make any use of their membership; and
(C) wasted money they could have otherwise spent buying pide from Uni Bros.
But are clubs and societies really a ‘waste’ of money and time? Honi sent out a questionnaire to various student-run USyd clubs and societies. Thirty-seven replied with surprising enthusiasm.
It’s not about the money money money
One third of surveyed clubs have no membership fees (although participation in their major events may require additional costs).
“We want no barriers blocking people from getting involved with our society,” said James Wood, president of SU Ruhi Society. Six others – Calligraphy Society, Women in Science, AIESEC, SU Ghost Hunters, SU Thai and PastaSoc – echoed this remark, stressing the importance of societies being “accessible” and “inclusive” to all.
Both the Statistics Society and SU Mathematics Society (SUMS) hope free membership will attract as many members as possible. According to SUMS, “Most people would not join if a fee is required.”
Interestingly, the Roller Derby Society offers optional membership, meaning students choose to either remain a non-member and pay per session ($5 for ACCESS; $9 for non-ACCESS), or pay the $5 membership upfront for benefits like every sixth session free and free skate hire (which would otherwise cost $2 per session).
Getting bang for your buck
There seemed to be an overall emphasis in survey responses on how easy it is for members to retrieve back the dollars they spend on joining societies.
Almost 70% of surveyed societies throw in freebies for members, such as food or drinks. JazzSoc, for instance, gives members one drink voucher at every event. “Given that a drink is on average $5, if [members] go to two of our events, their membership is paid off,” said Hubert Demonteverde, president of JazzSoc.
Almost all surveyed clubs that do require membership fees said this additional income from students – accompanied by the standard $4000 annual funding limit provided by the University of Sydney Union (USU) – goes towards paying for:
- O-Week goodie bags that include beer drink vouchers (Brewiscal), CDs (SU Musical Society), discount movie passes (FilmSoc), water bottles (Medical Science Society), t-shirts and stationery;
- Free weekly food, particularly pizza and soft drinks, or, in the Food CoOp’s case, healthy lunches supplied by Vegetarian Society;
- Discounted events like JazzSoc’s annual Swing Ball ($10-15), Metal Society’s tickets to music shows and clubs around Sydney, SU Association of Malaysian Students’ (SUAMS) Deepavali Night and Mamak Night (high-quality meals for a small fee or for free), as well as Science Revue Society’s annual comedy production (member entry costs $5 instead of ~$20 for concession);
- Maintenance of equipment for societies like SURG FM (radio broadcast gear and studio) and SU Marching Band Association (SUMBA) (drums and music).
Pledging your allegiance
But if you want more from your membership than just a return on your financial investment, you’re going to have to ‘dive into student life’ and engage. Becoming an active member of a society is like entering a new relationship: you’ll need to water it constantly for any chance of growth.
How much time is considered ‘commitment’? Nearly 60% of surveyed clubs said they have weekly events, with six out of the twenty-two saying they meet up even more regularly. Soulxpress holds hip-hop classes most days of the week, while both the Roller Derby Society and SURCAS have two to three sessions a week that cater for different groups and skill levels.
For many revue societies, your level of participation depends on the selectiveness of your director, and the quality of your audition. If you’re part of the Wom*n’s Revue Society, for example, you’ll only “meet twice a year but twice a week if [you’re] in the show”, according to Victoria Zerbst, former president of the society. Other clubs, like the Science Revue Society, have event times that vary from week to week for any and all members.
Regardless of how you keep in touch with your society, dedication is key. No one’s going to appear at your doorsteps and force you to participate. It’s ultimately up to you – the overworked, overstressed student – to choose socialising at events over curling on the couch in pyjamas. Joining will only be worth your time if you’re eager – or at least willing – to translate that money into energy.
Here’s a brief guide into how you can get your money’s worth out of each surveyed club/society:
|Club/Society||Membership Fee||How to Get Your Money’s Worth|
|SOCIAL & ENTERTAINMENT|
|Film Society (FilmSoc)||$5||Receive discount movie passes during O-Week sign-up. Take part in weekly film screenings, with free pizza and a soft drink provided.|
|Usyd Book Society (BookSoc)||TBA (new club this year)||Share and discuss your favourite books with fellow Usyd bookworms.|
|Womn’s Revue Society||FREE||Attend workshops and weekly writers meetings. Audition to become a part of its comedy show at Seymour centre.|
|Science Revue Society||$5||Donates to Cystic Fibrosis NSW every year. Receive O-Week freebies: free pens, discount coupons, copy of New Scientist, bottle opener. Join the Science Revue cast and crew to put together a comedy production.|
|Unimates||$5 per semester||Participate in weekly activities, such as free food for members and trips with significant discount, e.g. Hunter Valley Tour, city tour where prizes can be won by teams (these events cost an additional ~$20).|
|SU Ghost Hunters Society||FREE||Go on ghost tours around campus. Take part in a training camp (which costs an additional $30).|
|USYD Go Society||$2||Learn and train in Go (strategy game) during weekly (Tuesday) friendship games and lessons; refreshments provided at these meetups.|
|FOOD & DRINKS|
|Food CoOp||$2, annual renewal is $10||Have free lunch at its weekly meetings. Volunteer for 2 hours a week, manning its fruits and vegetable cooperative store.|
|Brewsical||$5||Discounted beer tasting at microbreweries, e.g. during the club’s Inner West Micro Breweries Pub-Crawl.|
|SU Pastafarian Society (PastaSoc)||FREE||Free (carbohydrate-based) foods and drinks – free Friday lunches as well as Ramen Night at the end of semester (free ramen!). Become a tutor, or receive free peer-to-peer academic tutoring through its Noodles for Knowledge Tutoring Program, launching this semester.|
|CULTURE & RELIGION|
|SU Association of Malaysian Students (SUAMS)||$5||Get a full dinner at its welcoming events for $0-3. Participate in its free fortnightly Kopitiam (Malay coffee) & chill sessions. Use sporting equipment and courts at a discount during its sporting events. Receive welfare support via its mentor-mentee programs.|
|SU Italian Society||$2||Get free coffee every Thursday at its Italian conversation events.|
|SU Thai Society||FREE||Socialise at events such as karaoke. Meet influential people like the Thai-Australian Ambassador. Partake in the Interstate Games – travel to other unis and meet your fellow Thai students (transport and accommodation costs not covered).|
|Calligraphy Society||FREE||Free food every week. Join its calligraphy workshops (twice a week, by popular demand) and use society-provided ink, paper and brushes to practise your calligraphy.|
|SU Ruhi Society||FREE||Receive a little designer bag during O-Week sign-up. Join its movie nights, prayer days, picnics, study circles and extensive community outreach activities, e.g. visiting Bahai temple in Mona Vale.|
|Usyd Buddhist Society (Unibodhi)||$2||Receive a Buddhist book, necklace and bracelet during O-Week sign-up. Participate in Buddhist talks about meditation. Go on trips to Buddhist temples/monasteries.|
|Soulxpress||$5||Join its hip-hop dance classes ($2 per class) – a much cheaper alternative to dance studios around the city.|
|SU Quidditch Society||$5 (membership with Quidditch Australia is an additional $40 for the whole season)||Customise your own broom (which is either 1 metre wooden dowel or pvc piping). Train for and compete in Quidditch tournaments all over NSW, Australia and beyond. Participate in social events, including meet & greets, pub crawls, scavenger hunts, movie nights and Harry Potter trivia.|
|SU Speleological Society (SUSS)||$15 (covers the cost of joining Australian Speleological Federation)||Have free access to equipment for its caving trips, which are also free.|
|Roller Derby Society||$5 (optional)||Try out beginner level training on skates, which could lead to competitive derby playing. It meets up twice a week – once for contact-level skaters and once for beginners.|
|USYD Social Football Soccer Society||$5||Free pizza and drinks are provided every few weeks, after its free football games which happen on Tuesday and Friday afternoons in Victoria Park. Because it’s a relatively small society, passionate students can easily obtain executive positions.|
|SU Recreational Circus Arts Society (SURCAS)||FREE||Receive $10 discount on aerial circus lessons. Participate in the annual circus show.|
|SU Musical Society||$5||Rehearse under a professional choral conductor and sing at a concert without auditions, all for free.|
|SU Symphony Orchestra (SUSO)||$20||Free sausage sizzles and pizza at social events. Rehearse four hours per week throughout semester, led by a professional conductor, playing in four concerts a year.|
|SU Marching Band Association (SUMBA)||$5||Receive at least 1 free drink during drinks nights, and a free lyre (a little clip on music stand to attach music to your instrument) should you not own one. Have opportunities to perform, e.g. at street festivals.|
|SU Metal Society||$7||Free food and drinks. Go to free gigs and metal shows at discount prices.|
|Jazz Society (JazzSoc)||$10||Get a free drink voucher at every event. Listen to live jazz music. Take part in the Jazz Society Big Band, which gives you the opportunity to perform at various functions.|
|CAREER & EDUCATIONAL|
|SURG FM||$7||Receive industry training (additional $3) and practical experience in broadcasting. Free food and drinks are provided at all events.|
|Network of Wom*n||FREE||Events, such as Sponsorship Conference 2017 and corporate office tours, gives you the opportunity to speak with industry professionals.|
|Women in Science||FREE||Take part in talks, workshops and networking events with Australia’s best women in science. Receive free food and calendar.|
|SU Mathematics Society (SUMS)||FREE||Participate in weekly (Thursday) seminars presented by academics and students, with free pizza provided.|
|Medical Science Society (MESSY)||$5||Receive goodie bag during O-Week sign-up: water bottle, bag, lanyard, stationery and guide to Med Sci. Take part in trivia sessions and eat free lunch from sponsors.|
|Statistics Society (STATSOC)||FREE||Have free weekly drinks at Hermann’s, where you can get two free beers (provided you get the cheapest beer) and discuss statistical problems with peers.|
|Finance Society (FINSOC)||FREE||Receive an exclusive newsletter which often contains job opportunities. Participate in academic workshops, Assignment Workshops (3-4 per semester) and career nights. Recently, the society has run a Financial Planning round table, placing students on the same table as potential employers.|
|SU Project Management Society||$5||Receive free or discounted food at its fortnightly food events, as well as free or discounted tickets to networking events and classes.|
|Pavlov’s Dogs||$2||Receive information about psychological careers. Participate in exclusive psychology experiments, e.g. Night of Illusions where various psychological illusions are showcased.|
|AIESEC||FREE||Partake in its national and international conferences, as well as exchange programs (which cost an additional $950/$1200, depending on whether it’s volunteering or an international internship).|
|SU Model United Nations Society (SUUNS)||$5||Free pizza and soft drink (or subway and cookies). Participate panel sessions, speaker talks, as well as miniMUN – designed to introduced new uni students to Model UN debating. You can also go to SYDMUN (Australia’s largest MUN debating conference) by paying an additional $120 (registration, venue hire and some meals).|
|Resistance Club: Young Socialist Alliance||$2||Receive an activist badge and Green Left Weekly upon O-Week sign-up. Partake in and help organise politically engaging forums and actions.|
 List of clubs/societies who participated: AIESEC, Brewsical, Calligraphy Society, FilmSoc, FINSOC, Food CoOp, JazzSoc, MESSY, Network of Wom*n, PastaSoc, Pavlov’s Dogs, Roller Derby Society, Science Revue Society, Soulxpress, STATSOC, SUAMS, SU Ghost Hunters Society, SU Italian Society, SU Mathematical Society, SUMBA, SU Metal Society, SU Musical Society, SU Project Management Society, SU Quidditch Society, SURCAS, SURG, SU Ruhi Society, SUSO, SUSS, SU Thai, SUUNS, Unibodhi, Unimates, USYD BookSoc, USYD Go Society, Women in Science, Womn’s Revue Society, Young Socialist Alliance.