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June1, 2011

Vol. 111, No. 14

Making the clubs better

In light of the current review of social life at Princeton, younger Princetonians might be interested in the experience of the Class of ’52 in the bicker of 1950. For years before that, the clubs had extended invitations to a large majority of all sophomores, often leaving 15 to 20 percent without access to a club. The Class of ’52 decided to circulate a petition declaring that, unless every member of our class received a bid, none of us would join.

News of the petition produced turmoil at Princeton and among alumni, but by early December 1949, 625 class members had signed up. Some considered the petition an outrageous threat to the clubs — and others would eliminate the clubs altogether. Bicker time came, and after maximum efforts by the clubs and the Interclub Committee, the Prince was able to announce on March 9, 1950: “All Sophs Get Bids.” We believe that this was the first time “100 percent” was achieved in a club bicker.

The petition was not an attempt to destroy the clubs. It was an attempt to make them better. The clubs were the only dining and social facilities for juniors and seniors; the few who were excluded had their meals in Commons with freshmen and sophomores, or on their own, and no social facilities.

The clubs have been a unique and valuable part of life at Princeton. They provide larger community groups than sororities and fraternities, and a more congenial variety of members than have the residential colleges with which I have been familiar (Yale and Oxford). I hope that the clubs will be retained in the final plan.

James C. Parham Jr. ’52
Greenville, S.C.

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