In May 2010, a task force composed of eight undergraduates, three faculty members, five staff members, and two alumni who chair the graduate boards of eating clubs issued a report on relationships between the University and the clubs. The report followed a yearlong examination of "whether there are steps that can and should be taken to strengthen those relationships for the mutual benefit of the clubs and the University, and for the benefit of Princeton students and the undergraduate experience."
After an introductory section that presented information about the more than 650 visitors who submitted comments through its website, the report provided a brief history of the eating clubs and some basic facts and figures that provided background and context for its findings and recommendations. In a summary of its principal observations, the task force recognized the integral role that the clubs play in Princeton's history and distinctiveness and the many positive contributions that the clubs make, while also noting concerns that have been expressed about the clubs and the relationship between the clubs and the University.
In the final sections of its report, the task force presented findings and recommendations that it hoped would "reaffirm the strengths of Princeton's eating clubs while also addressing concerns and challenges that even supporters of the clubs acknowledge." It also hoped that its recommendations would "strengthen relationships between the clubs and the University." The task force's recommendations included some that fall entirely or almost entirely within the purview of the clubs; some that fall entirely or almost entirely within the purview of the University; and some that would require joint action by the clubs and the University.
This progress report summarizes steps that have been taken to address the task force's recommendations since the issuance of its report. It is intended both to inform the University community of recent developments and to focus renewed attention on a set of proposals that the task force continues to believe could strengthen the clubs and relationships between the clubs and the University, and could benefit Princeton students and the undergraduate experience.
Recommendations to the Clubs
1. Develop stronger and new "best practices" regarding the appropriate use of alcohol, the operation of the selection process and pick-ups to be more respectful of students not selected, and governance practices.
The Best Practices group, which includes undergraduate club officers, graduate board representatives, the interclub adviser and University representatives has been reconstituted and is scheduled to meet in early October.
2. Consider collective action on purchasing, waste removal and other cost savings.
The new interclub adviser, Christopher Merrick '08, will take the lead in exploring such opportunities.
3. As individual clubs or collectively, work with the Office of Risk Management to identify options to improve insurance coverage and achieve insurance savings.
Two clubs have been in touch with the director of the Office of Risk Management.
4. Adopt an alternative selection process, with technical support from the Office of Information Technology if desired.
Over the summer a working group composed of graduate board members and undergraduate club officers participated in the development of a detailed step-by-step description of how the process proposed by the task force would work. (The description is attached to this report as Appendix A.) The working group was assisted by OIT, which developed process maps to illustrate the multiple steps in the proposed process. The process seeks to achieve the following goals:
- Ensure a placement in a club for every sophomore who wishes to be in a club.
- Notify each sophomore of his or her placement at the same time. This avoids the current situation in selective clubs where unsuccessful bickerees go through a period of being unplaced ("hosed"), and it avoids the current situation in open clubs where some students join in a first round and others join in a second round.
- Allow selective clubs to continue to practice bicker (i.e., determine which students they wish to admit) in whatever way they believe works best for them.
- Allow open clubs to continue to admit members on a "sign-in" basis.
- Increase membership in open clubs by encouraging more students who bicker unsuccessfully at a selective club to accept placement in an open club, with that placement coming as part of a single process.
- Provide sophomores with greater privacy in the selection process, since no one except the student knows how he or she ranked his/her choices and everyone is placed at one time.
The task force proposal and the detailed process for implementing it are being discussed with the undergraduate officers and graduate boards of each of the 10 clubs this fall. It remains the hope of the task force that the clubs will be willing to adopt this proposal or a modified version of it for this year, at least on a pilot basis, as a way of addressing concerns about the club selection process that have been expressed by many students and alumni, while continuing to respect the key elements of the selection processes currently followed by both the selective and the open clubs.
5. Provide greater transparency about club costs for sophomores considering club membership; provide more financial aid from club resources to supplement University aid; allow students to apply for extended payment plans or aid through club professional staff or graduate board members rather than fellow students.
Maria Flores Mills, the associate dean of undergraduate students who serves as liaison to the eating clubs, and Christopher Merrick '08, the new interclub adviser, will be meeting with club managers beginning in October.
6. Increase outreach to a diverse range of students; among other steps, be more inclusive in distributing passes and in hosting open events.
Dean Flores Mills and the interclub adviser will facilitate discussion among the undergraduate club presidents to generate ideas for reaching out to diverse groups. Dean Flores Mills will contact leaders of organizations representing students of color and international students to encourage them to work with the clubs in achieving this set of goals.
7. Reduce the advantages of fraternity/sorority membership in the club selection process and in access to passes.
This recommendation is addressed to the clubs that provide significant advantages to members of fraternities and sororities.
8. Sponsor more academic, community service and charitable activities.
Several clubs currently sponsor guest speaker series, and other initiatives will be encouraged to increase academic programming at the clubs and invitations to faculty to participate in activities at the clubs. It might be helpful to reinvigorate the Prospect Alliance for Community Action as part of a broader effort to encourage more community service and charitable activities at the clubs.
9. Strengthen the capacity of the Graduate InterClub Council to act collectively on some issues and review the role of the GICC chair.
One question that was asked following the release of the task force report was whether the GICC would consider naming a chair who is not a current chair of the graduate board of a particular club. This would allow the GICC chair to concentrate on that role without at the same time having to lead the board of his or her club. Possible candidates for GICC chair could be former graduate board chairs who no longer have active responsibility for their club.
Recommendations to the University
10. More fully and fairly describe the clubs in admission materials and events (Princeton Preview) and through Orange Key.
This year's Admission viewbook includes a much-improved section on the eating clubs. Other steps are being planned and undertaken by the Admission and Communications offices.
11. Consider creating an online video tour of the clubs.
The Communications Office is planning to create such a video this fall, working in cooperation with the interclub adviser and representatives of the InterClub Council.
12. Expand and improve on-campus social life (University-sponsored and student organization-sponsored), including larger and smaller scale events, and including some with alcohol for of-age students (wine and cheese receptions).
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Tom Dunne and Director of Frist and University Scheduling Tom Myers are creating a campus social programming inventory to identify gaps in social programming and propose programming targeted at particular gaps or needs. Students will be actively engaged in the follow-up and planning. The Undergraduate Student Government is also exploring ways to expand and improve on-campus social life, and this will be a central topic for the new Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life.
13. Consider re-establishment of a campus pub.
This topic has received some attention in recent years by the Alcohol Coalition Committee and others, and the new Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life has been asked to examine it. Amy Campbell in the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life will convene a small group to explore questions related to potential types of licenses and possible locations. Both the USG and the GSG have expressed interest in participating.
14. Provide Alcohol Initiative funding beyond Thursday and Saturday nights.
President Shirley M. Tilghman has agreed to lift this restriction. Funding from the Alcohol Initiative will continue to be available for Thursday and Saturday night alcohol-free programming, but there will be flexibility to support alcohol-free programming on other nights as well.
15. Consider modifications and further improvements in the provision of financial aid; better publicize the availability of aid to help meet club costs.
Extensive communication already occurs, but the financial aid office is considering additional communications and will be encouraging the clubs to link to the aid office's paying-for-clubs website. The aid office has begun conversations with the treasurer's office about process improvements and possible simplifications.
16. Reconsider the University's policies regarding fraternities and sororities.
This is part of the charge to the new Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life.
17. Examine the role of Public Safety on Prospect Avenue with the goal of taking on more responsibility and being more actively engaged with the clubs.
Conversations are under way with local officials and the clubs.
18. Continue to provide wireless access and snow removal for the clubs.
Continuation of these programs is being reviewed along with continuing cooperation between the clubs and the University in offering shared meal plans.
Recommendations to the Clubs and the University
19. Address concerns about excessive drinking, including pre-gaming and drinking games, working with the Alcohol Coalition Committee.
The ACC will continue to take the lead in addressing these issues. The ACC has an ambitious set of goals for 2010-11.
20. Re-establish the practice of clubs offering one major alcohol-free event each week, subsidized by the University.
Funding is available for this "Prospect Initiative" if the events are offered on Thursday or Saturday nights and all clubs agree to participate. Dean Flores Mills will discuss this initiative with the ICC and GICC.
21. Explore possible modifications in club meal plans to achieve cost savings (e.g., no breakfasts, one day a week without dinner) with options to eat on campus.
The University is prepared to discuss options with any clubs that might be interested. This proposal would be in addition to the current arrangement under which all juniors and seniors in the clubs are entitled to eat two meals per week in the colleges at no additional cost.
22. Develop programs to introduce freshmen and sophomores to the clubs through meals and social events (especially students of color and international students).
Taste of Prospect funding is available and other programs could be developed. Dean Flores Mills will be following up with the ICC and GICC.
23. Consider more joint programming and meal exchanges between the colleges and clubs.
This topic may be discussed by the new Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life.
24. Explore possible University assistance to the open clubs in developing programs of cultivation and solicitation of their alumni.
The Development staff is willing to provide assistance to the open clubs, individually or collectively, if they are interested.
25. Develop mechanisms for better communication and planning between the clubs and the University.
One key mechanism is the effective working relationship between Dean Flores Mills and the interclub adviser (now Chris Merrick '08) and another is the Best Practices group, but additional mechanisms need to be established. These will be pursued by Vice President Robert Durkee and the leaders of the individual clubs, the ICC and the GICC.
Appendix A: A Possible Alternative Selection Process
- Each selective club determines its targeted section size, and each open club determines its maximum section size.
- Each selective club operates a bicker process of its own choosing to determine which students it wishes to invite to join the club.
- At the end of the bicker process, on a predetermined day, each selective club submits one or two lists of students to the computer. The first list is unranked and is the size of its targeted section. The second (optional) list is a ranked alternate list.
- Each sophomore interested in joining a club submits a ranked list of clubs indicating the student's order of preference. Each student's list must include any selective club or clubs at which the student is bickering and all five open clubs. Each student includes an e-mail address to guard against mixing up students who may have the same name.
- For each selective club, the computer compares the club's unranked first list with students who ranked that club as their first choice. When a match is made, the student is placed in the club. The match only occurs when a name is on the club's list and the student ranked the club first.
- If every student on the club's list ranked the club as his or her first choice, that club's section is filled. If some names don't match (i.e., a student on the club's list did not rank that club first), then the club has two choices:
- It can instruct the computer to place no additional students, accepting a section size lower than its target that is filled entirely with students on its initial list who ranked the club their first choice; or
- It can instruct the computer to accept students from its ranked alternate list who ranked the club first until the section is full or all names have been exhausted. If the club reaches this latter point, it again has two choices:
- It can instruct the computer to place no additional students and accept a section size lower than its target that is filled entirely with students it wanted to admit who ranked the club first; or
- It can instruct the computer in a later round to return first to its initial list and then, if necessary, to its ranked alternate list admitting students who ranked the club lower than first and who have not been placed in their first choice club, giving preference to the highest rankings among those students until section size is reached.
- It is important to emphasize that no student would be placed at a selective club who had not been on the club's list and that selective clubs do not have to rank their initial lists; they only need to rank their alternate lists if they choose to submit them. If they wish, they can instruct the computer to take demographic factors into account in identifying matches from the alternate list (if, for example, they wish to maintain the gender balance of their initial list).
- After all matches have been made between the selective clubs' lists and the students who ranked the club first, the computer then places all students whose highest preference was an open club into their first choice club. If this number exceeds the maximum size for any given open club, random selection would be used to reduce this number to the maximum and any students not placed in their first-choice open club would move into the next round when any students not yet placed are distributed by their second preferences to clubs with available spaces.
- The second-preference round essentially repeats the process of the first-preference round. If a selective club has elected to participate in this round (see 6.b.ii), a match is made if a student who designated the club as his or her second choice is on the club's list(s). Students who designated an open club as their second choice are placed in that club unless the club is oversubscribed, in which case the computer makes random selections among students who ranked the club second and any student thus not placed moves into the round when distribution to remaining spaces is determined by third preferences. The process continues until all students are placed.
- At this point the computer has ten lists of students, one for each club, with the following characteristics:
- All students placed at selective clubs were on their club's list;
- Students at open clubs have been placed with first preference given to first choices, followed by second choices, etc.
- Every student who submitted a ranked list that at a minimum included all five open clubs has been placed.
- These provisional lists are then sent confidentially to the officers of each of the ten clubs so they can check for any discrepancies or errors. For example, selective clubs can check to be sure that every name on their placement list was on their acceptance list.
- After the lists have been checked, students can be notified about their placement. This notification can come from the administering agency or from the club at which a student has been placed. If the latter, then agreement should be reached on a uniform time of notification. A best practice may be to have the initial notification by the administering agency, followed quickly by a communication from the club.
- After students have been notified of their placements, there should be a procedure by which students can indicate whether they accept their placement and intend to join the club at which they have been placed. This acceptance could go to the administering agency, the pertinent club, or both via a response form that accompanies the notification.
- It probably makes sense for the clubs to agree upon a policy regarding appeals. The process probably works best if appeals are not accepted except in the case of real error (a name was coded incorrectly, for example). This process does not preclude a fall bicker in which students could seek admission to a selective club that had spaces available, nor does it prohibit individual requests from students to move from one club to another.