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November 16, 2005:

Sobering thoughts: Clubs, drinking … and jobs

By Christian R. Burset ’07

Borough and University officials have long engaged in a cold war against underage drinking on Prospect Avenue. While often voicing their disapproval, they rarely take major action against the clubs.

In October, when police detained an intoxicated 17-year-old student from a nearby private school, the war briefly seemed poised to heat up. According to The Daily Princetonian, the police determined that the student had been drinking at two eating clubs. Police launched an investigation, and – independently of police involvement – Tiger Inn and Ivy both voluntarily went dry for two weeks.

But no charges were filed, and the clubs haven’t announced any sweeping reforms of their taprooms. At most, it seems the Prospect 10 will renew their commitments to existing safeguards: professional bouncers at the door to ensure only Princeton students enter, wristbands to identify students who are 21 and older, and club officers patrolling parties.

“All of the clubs have very good procedures” for regulating alcohol, borough prosecutor Kim Otis said. “One of the issues is how they enforce them.”

But others say those procedures aren’t adequate. Councilman David Goldfarb said he favors an ordinance permitting police officers to enforce existing liquor laws on private property – including eating clubs. In an interview, he said alcohol-related problems at Princeton would decrease if there were no eating clubs.

“The culture of the clubs leads students to think that it’s expected of them to drink,” he said.

Many students argue that eating clubs actually contribute to a safer drinking environment. They serve beer rather than hard liquor, and they eliminate the risks of driving to bars off-campus. The University has helped train a group of students at each club in first aid, CPR and how to recognize dangerous levels of alcohol consumption.

Jamal Motlagh ’06, president of both Quadrangle Club and the Interclub Council, said that since February – when current club presidents came into office – the clubs have had an exceptional safety record.

Motlagh acknowledged that there are dangerous patterns of alcohol consumption on campus. But he said the problem was often “pregaming” – room parties in which students start the night by drinking hard liquor – rather than the clubs themselves.

He also stressed that alcohol-related problems originate not with institutions but with individual students.

“I think there needs to be more personal responsibility,” Motlagh said. “If we’re adults and we’re drinking, why can’t we be held responsible for our actions?”

IT’S RECRUITING SEASON, as anyone can tell by watching suit-clad seniors grab much-needed coffee between interviews. Most of them apply for jobs or grad schools that take them away from Princeton. But for some young alumni, graduation means staying close to Nassau Hall.

Tom Vogl ’05, who works as a research specialist in the Woodrow Wilson School, said he was initially concerned about fitting in as a Princeton employee.

“When I first took the job, I was a bit apprehensive about feeling out of place, about feeling as if I was still hanging around a place from which I should have moved on,” Vogl said in an email from Tanzania, where he’s coordinating fieldwork for two weeks. “As it turns out, my qualms were mostly unfounded.”

Vogl has tried to remain active in campus life as a Butler College fellow and by becoming involved in a community service organization, for which he never had time as a student.

But even for those with ties to University organizations, it can be difficult for young alumni to find rewarding social lives. Ryan Anderson ’04, who has worked part-time since graduation as the ministry coordinator of the Aquinas Institute and full-time as executive director of the Witherspoon Institute, said that compared to his home town of Baltimore, there’s not much for non-students to do in Princeton.

“I’m not meeting new people, except for freshmen,” Anderson said, noting that they are now six years younger than he is. The problem is exacerbated, he added, because most of his workday is spent in the solitary task of research.

But Anderson added that his professional and ministerial experiences have outweighed the social downsides.

Anderson wasn’t unique in worrying about Princeton’s lack of social opportunities. Katherine Reilly ’05 decided to move to New York City even though she works in Princeton as special assistant to Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter.

“As much as I love it [at Princeton], I thought it would be more exciting to live someplace new and to be able to be near my friends,” said Reilly, a former PAW columnist. “My commute is pretty long, but I think it’s worth it.”

So just how different are professional and student life at Princeton?

“Actually, I find that my office life parallels my (former) thesis life in a number of ways,” Vogl said. “Most alumni would cringe at the thought of this, but oddly enough, I enjoy it.”

“There’s far less alcohol in the office than in the dorm,” he added.

Christian Burset ’07Christian Burset ’07 is a history major from Bernardsville, N.J.