The University Task Force on Eating Clubs has produced a very relevant and well-thought-out report. All members of the study group should be thanked for their volunteer time that benefits the Princeton community by providing a factual framework for discussion.
The report recognizes the historic place of the upper-class eating clubs in the social mix that is the Princeton experience. Interestingly, it also describes in both an historic and contemporary context the fraternities and sororities that once were banished but are now in existence. My point: The University does not recognize the existence of fraternities and sororities at Princeton. Hence, since they are not recognized, they are not regulated. This was not the subject of the task force, but its observations on this subject seem to demand further inquiry and discussion.
One of the problems focused on in the report is the pressure to rush a fraternity or sorority in order to position oneself for a better shot at an eating club. All would (or should) agree that this is a dysfunctional social system. Freshman week should not be cluttered with a Greek rush process. Most schools I have researched ban fraternity/sorority rush until at least second-semester freshman year, and many until sophomore year. Our administration sends out a letter to incoming freshmen requesting them “not to participate in the Greek rush system upon arrival at Princeton.” This seems to be a weak approach. Banning such activity with the threat of expulsion would take care of the practice in one stroke of a pen.
The other aspect seems to be that the fraternities operate on campus, with the attendant drinking taking place in dorm-room parties. Again, this could be better regulated if the organizations were recognized and then told what is or is not acceptable behavior. Hazing must be an offense that is completely banned at Princeton (along with all forms of drinking games), and the consequence can and should be expulsion from the University.
As one who advocates banning all freshmen from the upper-class eating clubs, I have been told I am out of step. One reason given in the past by University officials is that they have no alternative plan for freshman activity. Eliminate fraternities/sororities for freshmen and access to upper-class eating clubs, and our young scholars will find constructive things to do without the peer pressure of underage drinking. In my view, it just takes a well-thought-out plan, with accountability coming from the dean’s office.
Michael Mathews ’62