Rollout rejections need to change

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Rollouts can be an amazing Stanford tradition. Clubs show up to dorm rooms at the crack of dawn and drag their new members out of bed. Usually followed by a little breakfast party, rollouts work toward building community, welcoming newbies to the fold with snacks, mystery and impromptu socialization.

I have to be honest; I loved getting rolled out. Even though I was exhausted, it made me feel special and wanted. It was a good way to meet people, and again, get snacks. 

However, rollouts have their flaws. Some people complain about rollouts as being too noisy or an invasion of privacy, but I am not trying to talk about that. I am trying to talk about the needlessly harsh rejection culture rollouts can foster.

A lot of groups that roll out don’t send notifications to their rejectees. Students wake up, excited, to banging in the halls, only to find out that their neighbor is being rolled out, not them. They are being ignored, which means they are being rejected.

Why are clubs being so harsh? I am not saying everyone should win; I understand that clubs sometimes have to be selective, but what would be so hard about sending quick emails to those who have not been accepted? Where is the dignity in essentially ignoring an excited applicant?

Rejection is no joke. It feels awful; that is just the nature of it. Researchers have even found that rejection “aches” in a way similar to physical pain. Rejection is inevitable, and while being rejected from a club in college is not going to make or break most students, rejection still hurts. 

It would be easy to notify rejected applicants in a respectful way. A simple email or posted list would suffice. For negligible work, we could greatly ease, if not the pain of rejection, then at least the humiliation of it, by treating applicants with some respect.

There may be an easy way to implement such a policy change. Since student groups are largely student-run, it is hard to enforce policy when it comes to these smaller logistical matters. However, if even just a few of the bigger student organizations started improving their relations with rejectees, the tides could turn. Real change in practice could come from larger groups leading the charge and changing the norms. 

You may be thinking, “Wow, these kids are so sensitive. So millennial. They can’t even handle rejection.” But this proposal is not about being able to handle rejection. It is about kindness. Part of the reason I came to Stanford in the first place was because I was promised that it was different from other elite schools. I was told that Stanford students are kind. They care about each other. Stanford doesn’t just make good students, they make good people. When there is such an easy way to be kind, it seems silly to not implement it.

There are also practical aspects to this. If a student tries out for a club their freshman year, and gets rejected without so much as acknowledgement, what are the chances they try out again later in their academic career? I can’t imagine they are high. A club isn’t even trying to reach out to them, so why should the student put themselves on the line again? 

However, what if the club sends them a kind rejection email? “We are sorry, applicant. We couldn’t accept you this year, but we hope to see you again soon.” What if the club takes the opportunity of rejection to encourage applicants to apply again some other year?

Often clubs reject students because they just don’t have a need for them this year. A singing group has too many sopranos or a student needs more experience in an activity before they are ready to compete. There are students who go out for clubs who get rejected, but who may be great applicants a year or two down the line. If clubs were to take the opportunity to console those they reject, and to encourage them to keep trying, clubs could be sustaining themselves, making sure they don’t isolate possibly very valuable talent. 

Adding rejection emails to roll out culture is a simple move that could really improve the culture around student clubs, from both a more emotional and practical level. I hope clubs start emailing their rejectees, because the five seconds it takes to send an email seems like a low-cost kindness.

Contact Kirsten Mettler at [email protected].

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Kirsten Mettler '23 writes satire and opinions for the Daily. She is interested in political science, law and justice, and occasionally dabbles in theater.