“Instead of a flat lottery system, sophomores will have the opportunity to advance their selection by participating in club events in the months leading up to the formal sign-ins period,” Charter president Justin Knutson ’11 announced in an e-mail to club members in August.
In an interview, Knutson explained that the idea originated in a conversation with John Bruestle ’78, chair of the club’s graduate board. “We were kind of wondering about the swings in the sign-in clubs that had happened in previous years,” Knutson said. “We wondered, rhetorically speaking, how were we to emulate the success of the bicker clubs, which always seem to have a flat curve?”
With the advent of the four-year residential college system in 2007, the total number of sophomores joining sign-in clubs has fallen, with just 13 students joining Colonial Club in the first round of sign-ins last February. The number of students joining bicker clubs has remained relatively constant over the last few years, with Tower Club setting a record number of bickerees last February.
Bruestle noted that the system also provides a way for sophomores to have their interest in the club taken into account. “We were having a problem because we were oversubscribing, and we found out that we were turning away sophomores who had come and spent a lot of time at the club, and others that maybe just signed up at the last minute were getting in.”
Dominick Pugliese ’12, a member of the Eating Club Task Force, which released its report last May, said in an e-mail that he thinks Charter’s new policy will benefit both the club and prospective members.
“The key difference between the old and new policies is that you can now increase your chance of getting into Charter by demonstrating your interest in the club — which I think is a positive development for both sides,” he said. “The sign-in system doesn’t take people’s interest in the club into account, which means that a sophomore who has attended Charter Fridays religiously has the same chance of getting into the club as someone who’s never [set] foot in there but happened to pick it out of a hat the night before sign-ins.”
Knutson said he believes that the system, which was approved unanimously by Charter’s graduate board over the summer, is neither selective nor a move toward Bicker.
“None of the original system was conceived around the idea that Charter would ever become a bicker club,” he said. “Our philosophy is that you should have an equal chance of getting in. There’s no selectivity in the system, no one is involved, and it’s just numbers.”
Bruestle expressed similar views. “There’s no element of selection in here,” he said. “There’s nothing that we’re doing that isn’t open to every sophomore in the University. All the meals and all the events that we’ll be using for this system are open to everyone.”
To receive an advantage in the sign-in process, sophomores must be recognized for attendance at one event, Knutson explained. However, the more events a student attends, the higher he or she will appear on the list. “To gain an advantage, sophomores should come to as many events as possible,” he said.
The events, which are slated to begin in early October, will not just include sophomore meals and nights when the club is open to all students. “I would expect to see day trips, afternoon tea, ‘Monday Night Football,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ whatever the flavor of the day would be,” Knutson said, adding that he anticipates between 12 and 16 events, all of which the club intends to publicize.
Pugliese said that Charter’s new policy would prompt the other clubs to reconsider their prospective member events, “since Charter has essentially made theirs mandatory for anyone who seriously wants to get into the club.”
But Pugliese also noted that taking attendance into account under the sign-in system would produce its own set of complications.
“The bicker clubs, to a certain extent, already take attendance at events into account, but it’s a lot easier to explain to your friend in Tower why you couldn’t make it to the sophomore dinner than it is to explain [it] to a lottery system,” he explained. “The Charter officers will have to consider this — is it fair to decrease someone’s chance of getting into the club if, for example, they couldn’t make an event because of a class or a game?”
However, Knutson asserted that the system would not pressure sophomores to attend as many events as possible. Referring to the dozen or so events Charter plans on holding in the fall, “anything above that and I’d start to question whether you’re Superman, going to all of your classes and still coming out to the club.”
Knutson also explained that the new system aims to involve current members to a greater extent in the sign-in process. “The sign-in system is currently a lottery, and with a lottery system there’s a lack of incentive for the membership to actually bring people out to the club,” he said. But, he added, under the new system, “as a sophomore it pays to know a member to come out to the events, and as a member it pays to bring a sophomore out to the club.”
Since Charter announced its new sign-in system, no other eating clubs have followed suit. However, Pugliese noted that the policy change would help other clubs realize that “no club policies are set in stone.”
“I hope that some of the other clubs will take notice that Charter is changing such an entrenched policy, and consider evaluating their own policies,” Pugliese said, adding that he thinks “a lot of people wish that we could return to some form of multi-club Bicker without sacrificing the attention and consideration that the bicker clubs are able to give each prospective member during discussions.” Last May, the Eating Club Task Force called for an alternative to Bicker in which sophomores, either individually or in groups, would rank their preferences among clubs and clubs could submit a ranked list of students. A computer program would then match students with clubs.
Knutson and Bruestle were optimistic about the possible effects of the new policy on other clubs.
“Do we expect anyone to follow us? We’ll have to see,” Knutson said. “If we’re successful and see continued membership at very high numbers, that will definitely turn heads.”
“Frankly, we’re hoping to see other clubs follow this,” Bruestle said. “It makes the recruiting process meaningful.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2010/09/20/26263/