Last fall, Charter Club’s Graduate Board solicited proposals from the student body to take the eating club in a “bold new direction,” aiming to increase its membership after years of decline. At the time, just 29 students were in the club.
According to Charter alumnus Matthew Daigger ’17, a decrease in overall eating-club participation has particularly affected the five sign-in clubs on the Street, including Charter, which switched from a bicker selection system in the late 1970s.
Of the three proposals selected as finalists, two garnered significant support on campus. One sought to establish a bicker system that’s less exclusionary than that of other clubs, beginning in the spring of 2021; another aimed to turn Charter into a cooperative. In January, the board chose the former, saying it was more popular and more feasible.
The winning proposal, written by sophomores, aims to attract a diverse group of students from different social groups on campus. Its goals include expanding financial aid for members, providing a wider variety of meal options, and revitalizing Charter’s social scene.
“Our vision for the future of the club is to create and preserve an amazing space for groups of like-minded students to come together and form lifelong bonds with one another over meals and events,” said John Beers ’76, chairman of the Charter board, in an email to PAW.
With 125 sophomores and two juniors signing into the club during Street Week at the beginning of February, the proposal already has been successful in dramatically increasing membership. There is also a growing waitlist, according to Charter Club president Jaren McKinnie ’21.
McKinnie said the success of the proposal would not be measured solely on these numbers. “It’s mainly making sure that the membership continues to enjoy all of the things that Charter has to offer this year, next year, and [in the future],” he said.
The board’s decision to reinstate bicker in a club that has been sign-in for several decades drew some criticism. On the anonymous Facebook page “Tiger Confessions,” several students voiced concerns that a bicker system would be inherently exclusionary. Susan Spock ’76, a member of Charter when it was a bicker club and a supporter of its switch to sign-in, criticized the decision in an opinion column for The Daily Princetonian, calling bicker “inimical to the mission of the University.”
Beers pushed back against the critics, saying, “The desire to make the club selective came from our new sophomore section itself, and contrary to popular perception is being advocated as a way to preserve the diversity and inclusiveness the proposal group espouses.”
Rowan Pierson ’22 and Katie Goldman ’22, writers of the proposal, emphasized that it is a “fluid document” and that they will seek input from current and new members going forward.
“We understand that the word ‘bicker’ carries a lot of weight with it. So, we’re hoping to create a selection process that really helps get a membership that is excited about the club, and we’re not sure about what the specifics of that process [are] going to look like,” Goldman said.