Those who worried that the introduction of Princeton’s four-year residential college system would hurt the eating clubs need not have been concerned — at least, if the results of this year’s bicker and club sign-ins are any indication. As our brief report in Notebook points out (page 12), the clubs had a very strong year.
Few seemed to notice that this year marked the 50th anniversary of what has become known as the “Dirty Bicker” — for who would want to remember an episode that divided the campus, caused hurt and bitterness, and brought Princeton negative national press? But that bicker marked a turning point in an evolution in campus life that continues with the four-year colleges today.
In 1958, 23 sophomores failed to receive bids for the 17 existing eating clubs. More than half of the excluded students were Jewish, a fact that brought into the open the rarely discussed question of quotas in the clubs. The chairman of the Undergraduate Interclub Council that year was Steven C. Rockefeller ’58, who had tried to ensure that every sophomore who wished to join a club received an invitation. A year later, Rockefeller submitted an 88-page report that laid most of the responsibility on a University administration that “did not have the foresight to realize that the changing nature of the student body was becoming increasingly incompatible with the one-sided social system which Princeton offered.”
The bicker made clear what President Robert Goheen ’40 *48, in his first year on the job, already knew: Alternatives for Princeton’s changing student body were an urgent need. At Alumni Day, Goheen announced plans for a dormitory complex that would become the New Quad (later known as the Old New Quad): a “residential grouping which will at once house a healthy cross-section of the undergraduate body [and] provide for its residents the advantages of a closer interconnection between their social and academic life ... .” The new “quadrangle” would need “distinct and affirmative values of its own” to generate interest, he said. Goheen specifically dismissed the idea of a college or house system — a notion that obviously has grown in appeal.
In the years since, the steps taken by Goheen have led to an array of options. Students compete for the best suites in desirable four-year Whitman College and rave about new dining options. Those who don’t care for Prospect Street find a welcome elsewhere. And the clubs, though there are fewer of them, seem as resilient as ever.
One thing we at PAW have learned is that Princeton alumni know everything — at least that’s what they tell us. In this issue, senior writer Mark F. Bernstein ’83 interviews five alumni who publish advice for a living. He gets the latest advice on questions of money and ethics, fashion, health, and relationships. (Bernstein, at left, is pictured after taking the clothing suggestions of Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan ’86.) Enjoy it. We know you will tell us what you think.