Summary of Recommendations
The report of the Task Force on Relationships between the University and the Eating Clubs begins with an introductory section that presents the charge to the task force and information about the more than 650 visitors who submitted comments through its website. The report then provides a brief history of the eating clubs and some basic facts and figures that provide background and context for its findings and recommendations, which are summarized below.
- The eating clubs are an integral part of Princeton’s history and distinctiveness. They make positive contributions to the experience of many students and shape the Princeton social scene even for students who are not members.
- The University has developed attractive options for students who choose not to join the clubs, while anticipating that the clubs will continue to play a central role in the lives of most students and encouraging interaction between the campus and the clubs.
- A number of developments in recent years have improved the experiences of students in the clubs and the relationships between the clubs and the University.
- Concerns have been expressed about lower participation in the clubs by students from lower income and minority backgrounds; a “culture of alcohol” that characterizes much of club life; a selection process at some of the clubs that many describe as hurtful; and pipeline relationships between fraternities/sororities and some clubs.
- There are concerns about the continuing financial viability of the clubs, and especially the sign-in clubs. As a task force we believe it is important to sustain both a critical mass of clubs and a significant number of spaces available on a sign-in basis.
Alcohol and Safety
- Consider whether additional steps should be taken, beyond those already instituted in recent years, to better control excessive consumption of alcohol and discourage drinking games, dangerous initiation rituals and other incentives to drink to excess. These steps should be part of a larger strategy on campus and at the clubs to encourage responsible use of alcohol. One element of this strategy could be the reintroduction of a campus pub.
- Create a more diversified social infrastructure at Princeton, including the expansion and improvement of on-campus social activities of real interest to students that do not involve alcohol; the reinstatement of a University-subsidized program to encourage at least one major alcohol-free event each week at a club; and some increase in on-campus events with alcohol for of-age students and perhaps faculty and staff.
- Explore the possibility of reinstating the Department of Public Safety as the first responder at the clubs, with support from the borough police only as needed, in a context of better training in the clubs and more constructive engagement between the clubs and public safety.
Financial Aid and Cost
- Consider further improvements in the University’s financial aid program to address concerns about costs not covered (social fees and sophomore charges) and the mechanics of the aid process. Better publicize the availability of financial aid to help meet the costs of the clubs.
- Increase transparency about the costs of clubs, and improve the process by which club members can request aid or extended payment plans from the clubs.
- Consider whether there are ways to increase scholarship aid available through the clubs, perhaps with the engagement of the Princeton Prospect Foundation.
- Sustain current University support for wireless access and snow removal and encourage the clubs to consider further actions to reduce the costs of operating the clubs, including collective purchasing and waste removal; working with the University’s Office of Risk Management to reduce the cost of insurance; and possible modifications in club meals plans such as eliminating breakfasts (giving club members access to the residential colleges for breakfast) or closing for one dinner per week (with club members using one of their free meals at the colleges for dinner on that night).
- Consider an alternative club selection process in which each sophomore interested in joining a club would submit a ranked list of preferences and each club that wished to do so could submit a ranked list of sophomores it would most like to admit. A computer program would make matches based on the preferences submitted by students and any preferences submitted by the clubs. The process would not preclude clubs (open or selective) from encouraging students to get to know them and list them as preferences.
- This process would permit clubs to retain aspects of selectivity but would not require them to do so. By placing every student in his or her highest possible choice as part of a single process, it evokes a central feature of multi-club bicker. This method provides for greater privacy in the selection process and is much easier to describe to potential applicants and admitted students.
- Encourage all bicker clubs to pick up new members at 1879 Arch (as Cottage and Cap and Gown did this year) or at the clubs, and to consider new or improved sections related to pick-ups and bicker in the clubs’ Best Practices Handbook.
Fraternities and Sororities
- Relationships between fraternities/sororities and some of the eating clubs have an unfortunate impact on several areas of concern: 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. Relationships between these organizations and the clubs, and the willingness of some clubs to provide space for them, create tension in the relationship between the University and the clubs.
- Consider actions by the clubs to reduce the advantage associated with fraternity and sorority membership in the club selection process and access to passes, and action by the fraternities and sororities to postpone their admission process to sophomore year.
Exclusivity, Inclusiveness and Diversity
- Steps should be taken by the clubs and the University to remove as many barriers as possible to inclusion and to socioeconomic and ethnic diversity; to make sure that all students have as accurate and complete an understanding as possible of the benefits and attractions of the clubs; and to reduce the sense of separation between students in the clubs and students not in the clubs. The clubs should consider whether they are doing everything they can to reach out and be as welcoming as possible to students from a full range of backgrounds.
- More programs should be created to introduce all freshmen and sophomores, including students of color and international students, to the eating clubs, and especially to the non-party aspects of club life.
- There should be more University-sponsored social programming that is attractive to students who do not socialize at the clubs and to students who do. Such programming should not be limited to Thursday and Saturday nights. Student organizations should be supported in sponsoring social activities on campus with broad appeal.
- Activities that increase interaction between the campus and the clubs should be encouraged, with movement in both directions. There may be merit in more joint programming and additional and improved meal exchanges between some of the colleges and some of the clubs.
Communications and Representations
- The clubs should be described more fully and fairly to prospective students and applicants in written materials and on University websites. There should be photos of the interiors as well as the exteriors of the clubs and perhaps a video tour.
- Admission staff and Orange Key guides should have better and more detailed information to use in describing the clubs and answering questions about them. Collaboration between the Admission Office and the clubs is critical to effective communication to applicants and admitted students, especially during Princeton Preview.
Academic Life and Community Service
- The clubs should increase their connections to the University’s educational activities and their commitment to charitable activity and community service. The Princeton Prospect Foundation can help bring more classroom activity and faculty presence into the clubs.
Relationships between the University and the Clubs
- The relationships between the University and the clubs can be strengthened by a number of the suggestions made in earlier sections of the report.
- It is important to preserve a critical mass of clubs and to ensure that there continue to be clubs that operate on a non-selective basis. Some University investment may be required over future years to help some of the less financially secure clubs get on a firmer footing.
- The inter-club coordinator hired by the clubs with housing provided by the University plays a critical role in supporting the undergraduate officers of the clubs and the graduate boards, who need to take an active interest in the management and oversight of the clubs. The University liaison to the clubs also plays a critical role in coordinating between the clubs and the University.
- The Best Practices Handbook sections on alcohol usage and safety policy should be strengthened and additional sections should be developed on the selection of club members and governance.
- Improved mechanisms should be put in place to ensure regular communication and shared planning between the University and the clubs.