In recent years the University has attempted to improve campus-based social life, partly in an effort to reduce the influence of the eating clubs and increase school spirit. The Board believes the high attendance at events such as the Silent Disco and the dodgeball tournament is evidence of potential for sustained success in hosting University-based social events that attract a broad swath of campus. We, like the University, recognize that there is merit in partially shifting Princeton’s social life away from the eating clubs and toward campus itself primarily because such a shift would foster a sense of unity that is sometimes absent from the Street. But we disagree with the method the University has employed in order to achieve this shift.
Aside from the few large-scale, campus-wide events referenced thus far, Princeton has mainly tried to centralize social life on campus by promoting residential college events as a source for campus interactions. However, despite these efforts and the increased funding to the college councils, the Board believes that residential college events such as intramurals and socials sponsored by the residential colleges have failed to gain traction in the student body and are often poorly attended. While similar residential college systems have been successful at other schools, we believe that the nature of the Princeton community makes such success difficult to replicate here. For example, at Princeton the participation of upperclassmen in the residential colleges is limited both by their independent work and their affiliation with eating clubs. The lack of upperclassman participation strongly inhibits the residential college’s ability to serve as a center of social life on campus. As a result, the Board recommends that some of the funding for residential college events be reallocated to hosting more campus-wide social gatherings. We do not believe that the residential college system should be dismantled; we are merely advocating for a change in the fashion in which the University distributes funds to varying institutions.
The success of the Silent Disco and the Orange and Black Ball indicate that the student body is much more receptive to large-scale social events. The Board recognizes that such events are not a panacea for whatever deficiencies campus social life may have, but they have proved to be an effective way to bring together a diverse group of students in a way that the residential college events have not. In particular, it appears that these events have been much more successful at attracting the upperclassmen that the residential college system struggles to involve. These social events also allow students to interact with peers they may have not interacted with in other settings without trying to create artificial rivalries between the colleges, as the Clash of the Colleges does, for example. Furthermore, campus-wide and class-wide social events are more compatible with the University’s existing social structures, like eating clubs, than events and initiatives hosted by residential colleges.
In summary, the Board recommends that the University continue to increase support for campus-wide social events. These events have been effective at creating a campus unity that is often lacking at Princeton and that has not been fostered by the residential colleges. We urge the University to shift the emphasis away from the residential college system and to carefully examine existing campus institutions while planning University-wide gatherings.