Selin Nalbantoglu, Contributing Photographer

After a year and a half of online club meetings, postponed recitals and canceled events, the Yale extracurricular scene is partially back to in-person programming.

Student organizations began their recruitment process earlier last week, sending out marketing materials to undergraduates and hosting auditions for those interested. However, this is not a return to normal by any means. Many Yale students chose to take a leave of absence last year, thereby inflating class sizes, especially for the class of 2025, and leading to an increase in the number of students interested in clubs. 

Also, due to the ongoing public health situation, many — if not most — student organizations cannot fully return to pre-pandemic operations. Limits on gatherings and face mask mandates pose new challenges for club leaders. 

Auditions for some of Yale’s premier music ensembles have resumed, albeit with slight modifications. Veronica Lee ’23, recruitment coordinator for the Davenport Pops Orchestra, or DPops, explained that while auditions were conducted in person, students had to wear masks.

“In addition, those who play wind instruments are provided with special face masks so that they can play safely,” Lee added.

Normally, DPops is an 80-person orchestra that performs regularly in the Davenport dining hall and Battell Chapel. This year, due to COVID-19 guidelines, the orchestra will split into four groups of 20 musicians and will hold all concerts outdoors, according to Lee. While this change is not ideal, Lee said, she and the DPops community are excited to have the opportunity to host concerts again.

Musical programming is one of the hallmarks of Yale’s artistic community, and orchestras are not the only organizations hosting live performances. This semester, a cappella groups will resume in-person rehearsals and performances. In compliance with Yale’s COVID-19 regulations, singers must wear masks for the entirety of the practices and performances.

In addition to musical ensembles, club sports will also resume in-person practices and competitions this semester. However, the increased level of interest, combined with COVID-19 limitations, has meant that some captains had to rethink their practice schedules.

“We are still navigating the constantly changing Covid guidelines but we know that we can have practices if we wear masks when we are not swimming,” wrote Anna Pertl ’24, vice president of the club swimming team, in an email sent to new members. “Unfortunately, practices may initially be limited to 20 people, so we may have to invite different years on different days to start out.”

Many students have spent the last year away from sports and are eager to get back into regular practice and competition. However, physical activity also poses a risk of COVID-19 infection, as athletes often come into close contact with other players, and mandating masks, especially for sports such as swimming, is often not feasible. 

Another group that has experienced high levels of interest is the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs. The Guild is responsible for playing the Harkness Tower bells daily, and this year they have a larger group than usual of aspiring carillonneurs to train, according to Guild Recruitment Director Kimie Han ’23.

Normally, students interested in joining the Guild would undergo individual training. However, the carillon room in Harkness Tower is relatively small, and there is not enough time to train all of the interested students individually.

“Because of the number of people interested in joining the Guild, we have decided to do group lessons for the first two weeks and then do individual lessons,” Han said.

Groups with competitive tryouts have also become more selective due to the increased class numbers and interest levels. Public speaking groups such as Yale Debate Association, Yale Mock Trial and Yale Moot Court have dozens of students registered for tryouts with only a handful of open spots. Other groups like Yale Undergraduate Diversified Investments, Yale Alternative Investments and Yale Undergraduate Consulting Group require formal applications with potential interviews.

All registered student organizations have contact information available on Yale Connect.