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Characteristics of the Students in the Eating Clubs

The University and the Undergraduate Student Government have collected data in recent years that shed light on the views of students about the eating clubs and the characteristics of students who choose to join, or not to join, them. One significant finding is that the clubs, the bicker process and fraternities/sororities are among the very few aspects of Princeton about which students hold highly disparate views. In all three cases, there are students for whom these are among their most positive Princeton experiences, and students for whom they are among their most negative.

Chart 3, from the Class of 2009 senior survey, illustrates that the clubs, in general, are less diverse than the University as a whole with respect to ethnicity and nationality, although it is important to note that many clubs have memberships that more closely reflect the overall distribution of the student body. White students are overrepresented in selective and sign-in clubs; black and international students are underrepresented in both kinds of clubs; and Asian students are underrepresented in selective clubs and overrepresented in sign-in clubs.

Chart 3

Class of 2009 Senior Survey

  White Black Hispanic Asian Int’l Other
Selective Clubs 74% 6% 6% 7% 4% 2%
Clubs 63% 5% 7% 18% 5% 2%
Total Class of 2009 59% 10% 7% 14% 8% 2%

Chart 4, from the USG’s COMBO survey, shows that in 2007 more than half of black students were not in clubs and more than half of Asian students were in sign-in clubs.

Chart 4

USG’s COMBO Survey 2007

  Selective Club Sign-in Club Not in Club
White 32.1% 43.1% 24.8%
Black 17.2% 28.1% 54.7%
Hispanic 14.0% 39.5% 46.5%
Asian 7.2% 52.6% 40.1%
Other 25.8% 37.1% 37.1%

Graph 5, from the USG’s COMBO survey, illustrates that students in the eating clubs, and especially the selective clubs, are significantly more affluent than Princeton students overall. The findings in both graph 5 and graph 6 are supported by the University’s senior surveys of recent years.

Chart 5: income and dining option compared to annual parental income

Graph 6, also from the COMBO survey, indicates that white and higher-income students are much more likely than other students to be in fraternities and sororities.

Chart 6: Greek Membership by Income, Ethnicity

The 2009 senior survey found that 16% of the class participated in a fraternity or sorority. Among selective club members, 34% participated, while among sign-in club members the percentage was 6%. No sign-in club had more than 10% of its members in fraternities or sororities, while chart 7 shows the percentages of club members at selective clubs participating in the Greek organizations.

Chart 7

Club Members Participating in Greek Organizations Class of 2009

Ivy Club 57%
Tiger Inn 50%
Cottage Club 27%
Cap and Gown Club 21%
Tower Club 14%

While some fraternities and sororities have clearly become pipelines to some of the selective clubs, there are also pipeline relationships between some clubs and selected athletic teams and between some clubs and selected student organizations. In the Class of 2009, 54% of varsity athletes were in selective clubs, as compared to 33% of the class as a whole; as a result, 29% of all students in selective clubs were varsity athletes, even though they represented only 17% of the class.

While recent University surveys and the COMBO surveys found overall student satisfaction at Princeton very high, there appears to be a higher degree of satisfaction among members of clubs. In the 2009 senior survey, 53% of selective club members and 48% of sign-in club members were “very satisfied” with their undergraduate experiences, as compared to 39% of non-club members. (In addition, 42% of selective club members, 45% of sign-in club members and 47% of non-club members were “generally satisfied.”) At the same time, when asked about the contribution of the clubs to their Princeton experience, 96% of selective club members said it was positive or very positive, as did 94% of sign-in club members, but only 27% of non-club members.

There are significant differences between club members and non-club members with respect to their use of alcohol and their perceptions of the role of alcohol at Princeton. While 88% of selective club members and 73% of sign-in club members in the Class of 2009 believed alcohol made a positive contribution to Princeton’s social culture, this view was shared by only 32% of classmates in the residential colleges, 35% with no dining contracts, and 27% in co-ops.