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Fraternities and Sororities

Many of the comments we received expressed concern about the role of fraternities and sororities at Princeton and about the connections between these organizations and the clubs. Many alumni expressed surprise about the existence of organizations that were explicitly prohibited at Princeton from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century and were not reintroduced until the mid-1980s. They expressed concern that fraternities and sororities jeopardize and alter in fundamental respects the nature of Princeton’s distinctive social system, with its reliance on eating clubs that students join in the middle of sophomore year, by forcing decisions and restricting social interactions very early in a student’s Princeton career (fraternities and sororities solicit members as newly admitted students arrive on campus in the fall of freshman year), and by foreclosing competition for spaces in the selective clubs as older members of fraternities and sororities pave the way for younger members to become known and then admitted to the club with which the particular fraternity or sorority is associated.

Student comments also focused on the role fraternities and sororities have developed as feeder mechanisms to particular selective clubs, to the point where students who enter Princeton with an interest in a particular club may join the fraternity or sorority associated with that club primarily to increase the likelihood that they will be admitted to the club. They also join them because through their membership they gain access to passes at clubs that restrict access. Since, as indicated earlier in this report, fraternity and sorority members are disproportionately white and from higher-income families, these feeder relationships contribute to the social and economic stratification of the clubs. A number of students noted that other feeder relationships exist between certain clubs and athletic teams and/or student organizations. While those relationships exist, students don’t join teams or organizations for the purpose of getting into a particular club; the club relationship is ancillary to the core relationship, which is between the student and the team or organization. By contrast, it appears that for some members of fraternities (and similarly, but less so, for members of sororities), the primary motivation for joining the organization is to get into their preferred club. We acknowledge that students in fraternities and sororities form strong bonds of friendship; that some of these organizations (especially the sororities) engage in charitable or community service activities; and that some students join fraternities or sororities for reasons other than their role as pipelines to the clubs. But both data and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that this is a primary motivation for many. A number of students and alumni also expressed concern about the association of fraternities, and to a lesser degree sororities, with excessive, and in some cases coerced, consumption of alcohol.

As a task force, we were asked to look at issues related to the role of the eating clubs and the relationships between the eating clubs and the University. The relationships that have developed between the Greek organizations and some of the eating clubs have an unfortunate impact on several areas that are of concern to us: the pervasiveness of an alcohol culture at Princeton; the socioeconomic stratification of the clubs (and especially the selective clubs); and a sense of exclusivity and privilege that we will discuss in the next section of this report. Because of the University’s concerns about the impact of Greek organizations, especially in the freshman year, the relationships between these organizations and the clubs, and the willingness of some of the clubs to provide meeting and social space for these organizations, create tension in the relationships between the University and the clubs. We hope the clubs will consider actions (as some have) to reduce the advantage associated with fraternity and sorority membership in the club selection process, and we believe students at Princeton would be well served if fraternities and sororities elected to postpone their admission process until sophomore year when students are more knowledgeable about the full range of social and associational options available to them at Princeton.