New eating club selection process deferred a year

Jan. 11, 2011 10 a.m.

Representatives of the 10 independent eating clubs that attract more than two-thirds of Princeton's juniors and seniors have agreed to defer for a year the implementation of a new selection process patterned after a proposal made last spring by a student-faculty-staff-alumni task force on relationships between the University and the clubs. Under the new process, every student who is interested in joining a club would be guaranteed placement in one of the clubs.

"As of December, eight of the 10 clubs agreed to implement the new selection process this year, and concentrated work began to do the planning and programming that would be required to carry out the new system," said Robert Durkee, University vice president and secretary and chair of the task force. "But all have agreed that more time is needed to refine, test and publicize the new system, and it is hoped that with the additional time the remaining two clubs also will decide to participate. While the process can work with eight clubs, it would work a whole lot better with all 10."

Of the 10 clubs, five conduct a week-long selection process known as "bicker" and five admit members on a sign-in basis. Under the proposed system, which would be administered by the clubs, students interested in joining a club would register through a website that would ask them whether they plan to bicker.

If they do plan to bicker, they would go through the club's bicker process, but they also would be asked to rank the sign-in clubs in order of preference, with the understanding that if they are not successful in bicker they will be placed in their highest ranking club where there is an opening. At the end of the week, all students who bickered would be informed whether they were admitted to the club where they bickered or were placed in a sign-in club.

Students who are not planning to bicker could register as individuals or in groups. They would be asked to rank their preferences among the sign-in clubs, and at the beginning of the week the sign-in clubs would be given the names of all non-bickering students who ranked them first. While formal placement would not take place until the end of the week, it is expected that these clubs would host activities for these students throughout the week.

At the end of the week, a matching process would occur. In its first round, students who registered for the sign-in clubs would be placed in their highest ranking club in which spaces were available. If any sign-in club is oversubscribed, students who cannot be accommodated would be placed in a second round along with students who were unsuccessful in bicker. Placements would be made until every student who registered for the club-selection process and submitted a list of preferences was placed.

In a final round, any student who registered but did not submit a full list of preferences would be placed in clubs with remaining capacity.

"Under this plan, the first message received by students who were unsuccessful in bicker is not that they were turned down by club X, but that they have been placed at club Y," Durkee said. "While no student will be required to join the club where he or she has been placed, the hope is that this process will take some of the sting out of being turned down, and that it will lead to an increase in the number of students unsuccessful in bicker who join the sign-in clubs.

"An overriding goal of the task force was to help sustain the viability of a 10-club system, and especially of the five sign-in clubs," Durkee added. "We believed that this could be accomplished in part by retaining more students who are unsuccessful in bicker; in part by consolidating sign-in club placement on a single date to reduce any sense of second-class citizenship on the part of student who now sign in a week later than other students; and in part by the straightforward message that every student who wishes to be in a club will be placed. We think this message will be especially welcomed by potential applicants and admitted students who want reassurance that if they attend Princeton and want to join a club they will be able to do so.

"While we would have liked to see the new process go forward this year, I am confident that the best way to achieve our goals is to defer implementation for a year to give everyone involved more time to work on the planning and logistics of the process, to communicate with next year's sophomores, and, ideally, to increase the number of clubs that participate," he concluded.

Implementation of an alternative selection process was one of 25 recommendations made by the task force to improve the undergraduate experience in the clubs, strengthen the clubs, and improve relationships between the clubs and the University. The task force report can be found online, along with a progress report issued earlier this academic year.