Officers’ emails trigger reforms at club; several students face University charges

Several students have been charged with violating the University’s sexual-misconduct policies following the distribution of a photo that reportedly showed a sexual act at the Tiger Inn eating club.

University spokesman Martin Mbugua said the disciplinary process would be “prompt as well as full and fair.”

The Dec. 11 announcement capped a tumultuous series of events at Tiger Inn that began with a pair of October emails to club members, sent by two different Tiger Inn officers.

The first email, according to reports in The New York Times and on the Planet Princeton website, included a sexually explicit photo taken on the dance floor and a reference to a woman in the photo as an “Asian chick.” 

The second email was sent the same night, a day before a campus event on student activism that was to include Sally Frank ’80, whose lawsuit had forced the last three all-male eating clubs — including Tiger Inn — to accept women. “Looking for someone to blame for the influx of girls? Come tomorrow and help boo Sally Frank,” the email said in part.

Hap Cooper ’82: “This is a slippery slope that can lead to real tragedy.”
Hap Cooper ’82: “This is a slippery slope that can lead to real tragedy.”
Courtesy Hap Cooper ’82

The University and the Princeton Police Department opened separate investigations after the first email surfaced, and grad board president Hap Cooper ’82 said the club “fully cooperated” with them. The criminal investigation was closed without charges being filed, police said.

In mid-November, “Rape Haven” was spray-painted on the wall in front of Tiger Inn. A day later, Cooper described the graffiti as “both inexcusable and understandable” in an email to club members. Terming events at the club “deeply disturbing,” he said a more serious concern was “the prevalent attitudes and mindset within the club that allow these behaviors to take place.” Any behavior or communication “that makes other members feel disrespected, uncomfortable, or unsafe must stop now,” he said. 

The grad board surveyed club members, and in a Nov. 24 letter reported its findings: The two officers who sent the emails had been removed because of conduct “offensive, disrespectful, and in direct violation of our core values”; the club membership of one was terminated. Bicker and initiations will become “safer, less demeaning, and more fun,” the grad board said. With few women serving as club officers in recent years, the board promised an election process “more transparent and representative.”

The grad board also pledged to create a safe process for members to report incidents and concerns, to eliminate “sexist or inappropriate” theme nights, and to reach gender equality on the grad board itself.

On Dec. 5, the Prince published a letter to the grad board signed by more than 100 Tiger Inn alumni expressing “dismay and disgust” at behavior by club members and demanding “swift and strong action to demonstrate that any kind of bias, harassment, exploitation, or assault will not be tolerated.”

Cooper told PAW that the club’s “sense of humor and laid-back approach have made men and women feel comfortable” for many years. But the membership survey made it clear that demeaning language has become commonplace in communications, chants, and party themes, he said. 

“Each was meant as a joke, but collectively have had the effect of communicating that ‘anything goes’ at TI,” Cooper said. “This is a slippery slope that can lead to real tragedy, and we will not allow that to happen.”