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Summary of Major Recommendations

The report of the Working Group on Campus Social and Residential Life begins with a review of the charge, composition and work of the group; a brief history of social and residential life at Princeton; and data on options available to undergraduates and their satisfaction with on-campus social and residential life. The report then outlines the University's goals regarding undergraduate on-campus social and residential life and presents observations and recommendations in the areas of social and residential life, fraternities and sororities, and a campus pub. The report's major recommendations are summarized below.

Goals

  • The residential experience is intended to create a strong sense of community, collaboration and mutual respect, and to support individual initiative and personal growth. It aims to help students develop such core values as honesty, integrity and fairness, and to encourage creativity, curiosity, collegiality, resourcefulness, a capacity for leadership and a sense of responsibility for their own well-being and the well-being of others.
  • On-campus social life is intended to help students develop the skills necessary to build a sense of community and shared experience and live a balanced life; develop a sense of connectedness with each other and the larger community; get to know students from backgrounds unlike their own and experience new perspectives; see the world through the eyes of others; demonstrate empathy and work collaboratively with others; provide an outlet from academic pressure; provide opportunities to be refreshed and have fun; and foster friendships and support systems.

Social & Residential Life

The report cites three recurring themes in the comments it received on its website and in focus groups: the importance of connections across classes; the importance of encouraging and facilitating "unstructured socializing" (perhaps through an annual unplanned "snow day"); and the importance of building a broader sense of community. It then makes recommendations under the following sub-categories:

Larger-Scale Events
  • The report notes the popularity of such off-campus eating club-sponsored events as lawnparties and houseparties and such on-campus events as the annual dodgeball tournament, the Pre-rade, the Undergraduate Student Government's University Film Organization (UFO) program, intramural athletics, free skating at Baker Rink, Fristfest and other activities.
  • It recommends the addition of one or two more "big signature events" each year that attract all four undergraduate classes. These might include an additional major concert with headliner talent, perhaps in Princeton Stadium or Weaver Track; an all-student dance sponsored by the USG or other student organizations; a "battle of the bands" with a campus-wide picnic, perhaps during Princeton Preview; or a "birthday party" with music, dancing and a special cake commemorating Princeton's founding on Oct. 22.
Smaller-Scale Events
  • The report encourages a broad range of extracurricular activities and a variety of social activities in the residential colleges.
  • It suggest more events designed to increase bonding within each of the four undergraduate classes; greater outreach from the residential colleges to juniors and seniors who are not in the colleges or the clubs; and more encouragement of community service, of activities that revolve around games and other competitions, and of the arts.

Relationships Across the Classes

  • The report encourages a plan under which all juniors and seniors would "go home" once a month to the college they were in during freshman and sophomore years, with programming that serves their needs or allows them to serve as mentors or guides to current freshmen and sophomores.
  • It suggests adding one or two sophomores, juniors or seniors to advisee groups in the colleges — in addition to the residential college adviser — to help introduce freshmen to upperclass students and to social and extracurricular life.
  • It suggests a program in which freshmen would get together several times a year with students in the other three classes who previously lived in the room they now occupy. These "family dinners" would bring together students from multiple classes with different backgrounds and interests.
Life in the Colleges
  • The report encourages the residential colleges to schedule occasional meals and other events that are open only to college members and encourages healthy competition among the colleges. The purpose is to create a stronger sense of identification with each college.
  • The report also encourages the colleges to reach beyond their membership on occasion — to juniors and seniors outside the colleges and to students in other colleges — in sponsoring social activities and events.
  • The report encourages more student-initiated programming in the colleges; more outreach to juniors and seniors who live in the colleges; greater effort in the colleges to encourage students to take "time off," develop friendships, enjoy themselves and have fun; better outreach by the colleges to freshmen prior to their arrival on campus; and more programming during holiday breaks.

RCAs and OA/CA Groups

  • The report suggests that Outdoor Action (OA) and Community Action (CA) groups get together on occasion throughout freshman year to share experiences and seek guidance from the upperclass students who lead these programs.
  • The report asks whether residential college advisers should be asked to do more to introduce their advisees to other upperclass students and Princeton's social, recreational and extracurricular life.
  • The report suggests bringing advisee groups back together in junior and senior years to help sustain ties between upperclass students and the colleges and to reduce the compartmentalization that can occur in junior and senior years.
  • The report asks whether dormitory assistants in the upperclass dorms should play more of a role in building a sense of community in those dorms.

Orientation and Princeton Preview

  • The report recommends a greater emphasis on time for bonding and fun at both orientation and Princeton Preview, and a greater effort during orientation to bring freshmen together with upperclass students who can share their insights and experiences.
Final Thoughts
  • The report comments on the importance of late meal at Frist Campus Center and encourages more programming on campus and in the colleges that helps students see the world through the eyes of others; more student-initiated programming; more opportunities for students to travel to New York; and more guidance for students as they make choices among the many academic, social and residential options available to them.

Fraternities & Sororities

The report presents background information on the history, current status and membership of fraternities and sororities. It outlines the reasons students give for joining them and the concerns that are expressed about them. The working group expresses its concern that because of the nature of the selection process and the cost, fraternities and sororities exacerbate the divide on campus between students of means and students with limited resources. It also expresses its concern that behavior within some of the Greek organizations is demeaning, dangerous and incompatible with Princeton's values.

A major concern of the working group is that membership in fraternities and sororities in freshman year narrows students' social circles before they gain a full sense of the opportunities Princeton has to offer or experience the full diversity of backgrounds and interests among their fellow students. This concern is heightened by the pipeline relationship that exists between some of the Greek organizations and some of the eating clubs, which has the effect of tracking students very early in their Princeton careers.

The working group's other major concern relates to the dangerous use of alcohol and hazing, wherever it may occur. The particular circumstances of Greek life at Princeton accentuate this concern because (a) rush takes place in freshman year when students may be more insecure and less capable of resisting peer pressure than they will be in later years; (b) students may be more susceptible to peer pressure if they believe admission to a fraternity or sorority will also get them into the eating club of their choice; and (c) the lack of a significant junior and senior presence in fraternities and sororities at Princeton means that most pledging and hazing is conducted by sophomores, in contrast to the junior and senior leadership that more typically exists on campuses with fully developed Greek systems.

Because of these concerns, the working group makes the following recommendations:

  • Students should be prohibited from affiliating with a fraternity or sorority or engaging in any form of rush at any time during the freshman year, or from conducting or having responsibility for any form of rush in which freshmen participate. The penalty for violating these prohibitions should be severe enough to encourage widespread compliance, which probably means a minimum penalty of suspension.
  • The University should do a better job, through the residential colleges and in other ways, to make sure freshmen have meaningful opportunities to engage more with sophomores, juniors and seniors early in their Princeton careers.
  • The working group does not propose a prohibition on membership in fraternities or sororities beyond freshman year.
  • The University should sustain its policy of not officially recognizing fraternities or sororities, which means that they would continue to be unable to use University resources or facilities.
  • The University should significantly increase its commitment to enforce policies that prohibit serious forms of hazing wherever it occurs, and the University should become even more vigilant in imposing highly consequential disciplinary penalties on students found to have engaged in hazing that seriously threatened the health and well-being of any student.
  • The University should be more vigilant in challenging national organizations of fraternities and sororities to remove Princeton's name from their websites and not to suggest they have recognized chapters sanctioned by the University when they do not.

Campus Pub

  • The working group concurs with the widespread and strongly held view across a broad range of campus constituencies that it would be desirable to reinstate a campus pub that would be open to all undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff and help to model the responsible use of alcohol.
  • While recognizing the advantages of creating a "purpose-built" space, the working group focused its attention on two spaces that it believes could be successfully converted to serve as a pub during late afternoon and evening hours at a potentially manageable cost: the downstairs "Tap Room" at Prospect House; and the downstairs café area at Chancellor Green.
  • The working group believes the benefits that would accrue from reinstating a pub, especially in helping to create a more responsible culture on campus regarding alcohol, justify the investment of time and resources to develop a plan for one of these two locations, and seek the approvals and funding necessary to go forward.

Next Steps

  • The working group was asked to put forward its judgments and suggestions and to stimulate lively and informed conversation about on-campus social and residential life. The next steps depend on those students, faculty and staff who have responsibilities in these areas. It is now for them to decide which of the ideas and recommendations in this report ought to be pursued, by whom and at what pace. The members of the working group would be delighted to participate in this ongoing conversation in any ways they can be helpful.