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Relationships between the University and the Clubs

We received many comments about the relationships between the University and the clubs. Some were concerned that relationships were not as good as they could or should be, while others observed that they seemed to be better in recent years than at earlier times. Both statements appear to be true. Many commented on the desirability of maintaining the autonomy of the clubs in a context in which the clubs are “independent but integral,” the relationship between the clubs and the University is clarified, and the roles of the clubs and the University are clearly delineated. Some recalled the “Gentleman’s Agreement” that once delineated these roles and wondered whether it would be helpful to develop a modern-day equivalent. One person said that the University and the clubs should work together to keep the clubs “open, welcoming, distinctive and safe.”

Many called for the University to describe the clubs more fully and fairly to prospective students and applicants, a suggestion we endorsed in an earlier section of this report. Other suggestions discussed elsewhere in our report include further improvements in financial aid; additional use of the club buildings for academic and charitable purposes; cost savings initiatives such as joint purchasing and/or waste removal, free wireless service, reduced insurance rates and possible reductions in meal service; and the exploration of a closer relationship between the clubs and the Department of Public Safety, both with respect to additional “community policing” on Prospect Avenue and as first responder on calls for assistance. All of these are steps that could strengthen relationships for the mutual benefit of the clubs and the University, and for the benefit of Princeton students and the undergraduate experience.

Beyond these steps, we want to say another word about the importance of preserving critical mass and ensuring that there continue to be clubs that operate on a non-selective basis. We didn’t seek financial information about individual clubs, but we believe some additional University investment may be required over future years to help some of the less financially secure clubs to get on a firmer financial footing. While some clubs (and especially the selective clubs) have done an excellent job of sustaining the loyalty and engagement of their alumni in the ongoing life of the club and have been very successful in fundraising, other clubs (and especially the sign-in clubs) might benefit from assistance from the University in strengthening their programs of cultivation and solicitation of their alumni.

We want to close our report with a brief discussion of governance, coordination and communication. It remains important that the clubs elect capable undergraduate leaders and that they take full advantage of the opportunities for coordination that are available through the ICC, and through liaison with both the University representative (currently Maria Flores-Mills from the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students) and the inter-club coordinator, a recent alumnus who is hired by the clubs but whose housing is provided free of charge by the University — a contribution currently valued at over $1,000 a month. It also remains important that the graduate boards of the clubs continue to take an active interest in the management and oversight of the clubs. (They too are well supported by the coordinator.) As noted earlier, we were reminded again and again that each club is independent not only from the University but from the other clubs and each club is distinctive in various ways. But we would encourage the clubs to consider whether on some matters it might be helpful to empower the GICC to serve as a point of collective decision-making and collective negotiation on matters like shared purchasing. One possible short-term project could be the expansion and enhancement of the Best Practices Handbook to strengthen the sections on alcohol usage and safety policy and develop additional sections on the selection of club members and governance.

Finally, we think there is merit in making sure improved mechanisms are in place for regular communication and shared planning between the University and the clubs. We were not able in our deliberations and in this report to consider all the suggestions for improvement that were submitted through our website or mentioned in our outreach sessions, and we hope our report will stimulate additional suggestions to be considered by the University and the clubs. Both the University and the clubs have a great stake in preserving the viability, vitality and value of the eating clubs, and as in a crew race, the best outcome is going to be achieved if everyone is pulling on the oars in the same direction, and together.