Bicker overhaul process began years ago
The new system allows sophomores to bicker two eating clubs at a time or bicker one club while attending Charter events during spring Bicker week. Cannon Dial Elm Club, Cap & Gown Club, Charter Club, Cottage Club and Tiger Inn will participate in dual-club Bicker.
The impetus for the change originated with the Task Force on Relationships between the University and the Eating Clubs, which issued a report in May 2010 recommending, among other things, a multi-club Bicker process. More than a year later, at a meeting in October 2011, members of the Graduate Interclub Council — a group of members of club’s graduate boards — decided to form an Eating Club Steering Committee to consider some of the recommended changes.
“All of us knew that the system was not optimal and that it could be improved,” said Cap & Gown Club Board Chair Thomas Fleming ’69, who co-chaired the ECSC with former Tower president Joey Barnett ’12. Barnett is a former associate opinion editor for The Daily Princetonian.
The ECSC consisted of four GICC members and four eating club presidents from the Class of 2012 and met eight times throughout the 2011-12 school year. Fleming emphasized the Steering Committee was “jointly driven” by the graduate board members and the current undergraduates.
Members of the University administration were invited to attend the meetings, though they participated as “interested observers” rather than voting members, Fleming said. Administrators who attended included Executive Vice President Mark Burstein, Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee ’69, Vice President for Campus Life Cynthia Cherrey, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Maria Flores-Mills and Associate Director for Administrative Planning Matthew Kinsey.
By the time the current ICC — which consists of eating club presidents who are members of the Class of 2013 — took over this past February, the ECSC had completed its overall policy recommendations, including the recommendation that the clubs adopt some form of multi-club Bicker.
“The ECSC essentially turned it over to the entire ICC to bring the details home,” Fleming said.
By late spring, when Durkee confirmed to the ‘Prince’ the clubs were discussing the possibility of an alternative selection process, the ICC had settled on the idea of a dual-club Bicker system.
The ICC held on announcing the new system until Wednesday to provide clubs unsure of whether they wanted to participate some time to decide. Cap president Alec Egan ’13 said his club had signed on in May, and TI president Ben Barron ’13 said his club was on board then as well.
“Our graduate board has always been in favor of a multi-club system,” Barron said, adding the club was waiting for a multi-club proposal that it considered more viable than the current system. He said the club decided the recently unveiled proposal fits that standard.
Other clubs, however, needed time before they were prepared to sign on to the proposal. Cannon president Connor Clegg ’14 said the club was unsure of whether to adopt the new system in May. The club spent the fall consulting with its graduate board and decided by October’s GICC meeting that it would go along with the proposal.
In September, bicker club presidents acknowledged that a new system was being discussed but did not say which individual clubs, if any, had signed on. Barron said at the time that the club presidents had been asked not to talk about the new proposal, and they had declined to provide details until the release of the policy change on Wednesday night.
“Last night was just a matter of agreeing on crafting a language to a decision that’s been in progress for some time,” Flores-Mills said on Thursday, referring to the ICC meeting that took place Wednesday night before the change was announced.
Flores-Mills, who serves as the liaison between the University and the eating clubs, said the idea of altering the Bicker system had been discussed well before the Eating Clubs Task Force was formed in 2010.
“It’s been in the background since I started working here 12 years ago,” Flores-Mills said.
Despite the change in the selection process in the spring, fall Bicker will not be a multi-club process, according to ICC Chair Egan. Clubs will continue to decide independently whether and how to hold fall Bicker. Cap, Ivy and Tower traditionally hold fall Bicker. Cannon did so this past fall, but Clegg said he was not sure if the club would do so again.
Egan added the dual-club Bicker system would not necessarily drive clubs to accept more students than they otherwise would to compensate for students potentially selecting their club as their second choice. The logistics of the matching system will be handled by a computer program, which is in the process of being developed, Egan said.
Durkee praised the new system as a step in the right direction, noting it is in line with the recommendations of the Eating Club Task Force, which he chaired.
“It encourages students to think about the range of opportunities that are available within the club system,” he said. “That may encourage even more students to participate.”
Colonial president Roland Hwang ’13 also cited the possibility of increased participation as his reason for supporting the new policy. While the new admission process does not directly impact sign-in clubs besides Charter, Hwang said the new focus on increasing the accessibility of the Street would increase interest in the eating clubs in general. With more people in the pool, Hwang said, Colonial’s sign-in numbers would likely increase.
Tower president Jamie Joseph ’13 said her club decided not to participate because the new system would reduce the number of hours sophomores could spend bickering, thus reducing the quality of conversations bickerees would have with current members and advantaging students who had spent a lot of time at the club prior to Bicker.
On the other hand, Egan noted that since each night’s Bicker will be split into two sessions there could be fewer students bickering at any one time than in the past.
Ivy president Jason Ramirez ’13 said the club agreed with the dual-club proposal in theory but would not be participating for now.
“The club will continue to evaluate the dual-club Bicker system, considering ways to accommodate it while protecting the integrity of the club’s 10-interview Bicker process,” Ramirez said, declining to answer further questions.
Durkee said there was a possibility the clubs could re-evaluate and decide to expand the multi-club Bicker option to allow students to bicker more than two clubs at a time, noting the change is “potentially a very significant moment in the continuing evolution of the clubs.”
Egan also noted that changing the selection process to allow students to bicker three or four clubs in future years was not out of the question.
“It’s all about giving it a try this year,” Egan said. “We don’t know exactly how the system is going to work this year and what logistics are going to be like, but we had to take that first step of a dual-club Bicker.”
Staff writer Michael Granovetter contributed reporting.
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