Writer’s Note: Please be aware that I am not a member of any eating club and will not be eligible to join until 2015. The purpose of this article is to inform students outside of Princeton about the eating club system; it provides no opinion on the system.
If you have a friend that goes to Princeton, you’ve probably heard something about eating clubs. In response to your inquisitive look, said friend may have said something along the lines of “It’s kind of like fraternities and sororities, but they’re co-ed and you eat in the houses instead of living there.” Well, finally, you have an article to explain these strange places to you, so the next time your friend says, “I’m going to bicker Terrace,” you can respond, “Isn’t that a sign-in club?”
So what exactly are eating clubs? They are mansions located along Prospect Avenue, colloquially known as “The Street,” just off of the Princeton campus. While some officers of the clubs live in these houses, the vast majority of the members of each club just eat, study, and socialize at their respective clubs. There are currently eleven eating clubs: Terrace F. Club, Tower Club, Cannon Dial Elm Club, Quadrangle Club, Ivy Club, Cottage Club, Cap and Gown Club, Cloister Inn, Charter Club, Tiger Inn, and Colonial Club. Six of these clubs are selective clubs and five of them are open clubs. The selective clubs use a process called “bicker” that is unique to each club. Bicker clubs are: Tower, Cannon, Ivy, Cottage, Cap, and T.I. The open clubs allow prospective members to sign-in to the club until spots are filled, or in the case of Charter, utilizes a point-system based on number of events attended by prospective members. Sign-in clubs are Terrace, Quad, Cloister, Charter, and Colonial.
The bicker system (and the eating club system in general) has received criticism for being exclusionary and promoting elitism. Others have praised the system for being the best possible option and for preparing students for the outside world. Many have argued that even sign-in clubs are exclusive to those who can afford it. Indeed, the eating club dues are more expensive than alternative options offered by the University.
The eating clubs are also home to the majority of Princeton’s social scene. While each club is open to its members at most times, during most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, some combination of clubs are open for guests. Sign-in clubs are usually open to all students of Princeton and out-of-town guests who are on the list. Bicker clubs usually limit their party by requiring passes or for one’s name to be on the guest list. Passes can be acquired from members of the clubs and are little colored cards with the club’s emblem raised on it. Similarly, one can ask a member to be put on the list for that club for a specific night.
So how does one choose which club to bicker or sign-in to? There are a few different methods by which one could decide the club to join. Often, students part of specific organizations on campus will be a part of the same eating club, so new members of said organizations often follow suit and join their respective eating clubs. There are also stereotypes for each club. One might also find his or her friends all joining the same club and will hop on the bandwagon. And sometimes, people join random clubs just to see what it’s like.
So when can you join? Students become eligible to join eating clubs starting in the spring of their sophomore year. In the beginning of spring semester, there is something called “bicker week” during which, you guessed it, bicker takes place, and the sign-in clubs start taking members (though some start taking members slightly before the week starts).
So next time your Princeton friend tries to explain eating clubs to you, save her or him the trouble. Just say you read The Prospect’s article on them.
For more information on Princeton Eating Clubs, visit this website, from which I got a lot of the information in this article!