A letter from a reader about The great fallacy of selective clubs

July 22, 2007:

I read with great interest "The Contender" by Marcia DeSanctis '82 (Perspective, April 4). I admire her ability to grow out of the disappointment of bicker, and I concur. But to me now it begs the bigger question: Why does the Princeton community continue to foster the entire system of selective clubs and bicker, which brings so much anguish?

I accepted this social process at Princeton in the 1970s as I accepted so much of my life to that point, as a given. Something to be navigated, succeeded at wherever possible, rarely questioned. Family expectations, peer expectations, my own misplaced expectations, made me try for Ivy. The first time I was rejected. The next fall, my junior year, I made it in.

In the fall of my senior year I met a man, another student, and we fell in love. His courage to take on and live his gay life openly, gave, by example, the same to me. I left the world of Ivy, and some former friends, and entered a new world, much of it his, in a non-selective club where we lived. Where I too met people, as Marcia DeSanctis did – my lover being one – who refused to participate in the selective system, who understood from the start its iniquity. 

  One of the major arguments I heard from proponents of clubs was that they were just part of "reality." But this was the great fallacy, as I discovered when my true life began.  Caste and hierarchy are everywhere, but they are in fact grafted on to the real. The real is the chance to meet, and be known by and loved by those who accept that change can happen in life, and who live the happiness that change can bring.

Nor does the argument that even universities like Harvard or Yale have clubs carry weight. The clubs there exist but are the preserve of very few, and there is no comparable scale of undergraduate participation. Clubs of those drawn to each other for mutual interest, artistic or academic? Of course. But clubs for those with perceived social graces? Why? The selective club system is our "peculiar institution," one at odds with the very concept of a "university," and it does not bring us laud and honor. 

  What to do?  I don't propose the elimination of selective clubs; better they should wither away. And the University should continue to urge such an evolution along. Perhaps the renewed drive for four-year colleges moves us that way. I hope so. 

New York, N.Y.


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