Close to two months after the last beer was served in its wood-paneled basement taproom, Tiger Inn was back on tap last night.
The Prospect Avenue eating club went dry after the February 11 pickups weekend, following problems with alcohol abuse, including two reports of alleged sexual assaults. The club reopened this week for social activities with a new member-approved security and conduct policy in place, as well as plans to continue reforming the club in the weeks ahead.
Club president Kyle Morgan '07 said the reforms are the club's attempt "to do the right thing" and "encouraging different values, a different culture" of safety and respect on the Street.
Sometimes called Princeton's "animal house" — a reference to the 1978 film "National Lampoon's Animal House," which is based in part on a hard-partying fraternity at Dartmouth — by publications including Sports Illustrated and the Princeton Alumni Weekly, TI has developed a reputation that has "cause[d] the rest of the Street to talk negatively about us," Board of Governors president Hap Cooper '82 said in an interview.
TI's undergraduate officers and the board have engaged in a membership-wide dialogue since February to change the culture and practices of the club, making it the "fun and safe place it should be," Cooper said, repeating a mantra he and others invoked extensively in interviews.
"Up and down Prospect [Avenue] there is a sense that there are issues with drinking," Cooper said, noting that problems extend beyond Princeton. Duke and the U.S. Naval Academy, for example, have had alcohol abuse and sexual assault scandals gain national media attention in recent weeks. "We're concerned about alcohol and the bad decision-making that can result," he said.
Morgan conveyed a similar sentiment, expressing concern about an ostensible shift in drinking behaviors both at the local and national levels. "The motivation for this system was ... a pattern of behavior that has been a concern not just at TI, not just at the University, but nationwide," he said. "We really wanted to reevaluate the kind of behavior we encourage and we wanted to ensure that we could promote fun but safety also."
The success of the club's policies in maintaining safety "remains to be seen," Daniel Silverman, the University's chief medical officer, said in an email. "I really think that curbing assaults will depend much more on students' willingness to step up and intervene — to first, prevent friends and guests from dangerous levels of binge drinking and failing that, to stop unwanted sexual encounters in public settings when they observe them happening — than on written policies or criteria for sanctions."
The club's rules, Morgan said, are designed to address those concerns, including a slew of new procedures communicated to members in a nine-page document, a shortened version of which was given to The Daily Princetonian. Under the club's new policy, all members must sign the document outlining TI's security guidelines, acknowledging their commitment to abide by the club's strict rules regarding admission and alcohol distribution, Morgan said.
To enter the club, members must show a Princeton ID with a TI sticker, and guests must have a guest pass signed and dated by a member in addition to their own identification. According to the document, nonmembers will only be allowed to enter the club until 1 a.m. and "[a]nyone who is visibly intoxicated is prohibited from entering the club, regardless of membership status."
The club's alcohol policy will allow only those members who are 21 or older to go behind the taps and serve beer. Servers are expected to abide by the legal drinking age and "[a]lcohol will NOT be served to anyone without a valid [hand] stamp or who is known to be under 21 years of age," the document said.
Club officers acknowledged, however, that underage drinking does go on at the Street. "If you went into any club, you're not going to have a bartender with a flashlight making sure you have a hologram on your [ID]," Morgan said. "Obviously it's a very sensitive issue. It's more about the values we're trying to enforce. It's the two buzzwords that are going around –– fun and safety."
When someone is visibly intoxicated, the document said, "[o]fficers are responsible for making sure that members and their guests are escorted back to their dorms if they appear intoxicated" and "[g]uards will assist the officers with any member or guest who needs assistance, call an ambulance when needed, and inform the undergraduate officers of the situation and actions taken."
Morgan said there can often be confusion when several people notice an individual who is drunk or sick and no one takes responsibility for helping that person, assuming someone else will. Referring to the group of security guards and sober officers who will patrol the club each night, Morgan said, "The safety patrol is a way of saying, 'You're the person who's going to take control.' "
But the officers expect that the patrol will rarely have to deal with dangerously intoxicated students. "Hopefully there won't be any need for them to actually have to do anything," TI's communications director, Rachel Cecil '07, said. "This is worst-case scenario; this isn't because we expect bad things to happen."
On a broader scale, the club is ready for significant value-based reform that reaches beyond simply tackling problems as they arise, Morgan and Cooper said in separate interviews. After TI went off tap in February — a decision made by club officers, Cooper said — its graduate board wrote a letter to members that "outlined our thinking ... about what is causing these issues and asked, 'Can we come up with some solutions?' "
At a "town meeting" in February, TI members discussed what they liked about the club and what they thought needed to change in an exercise called "keep, stop, start." The ideas generated by undergraduate members and alumni focused on the "procedures and processes to fit the philosophy behind the club," Cooper said.
Cecil said the club wants to facilitate "morals, values and culture, personal accountability" not only among members but also for guests who come to the club and the University community in general. TI, she added, "is not out to tell people what to do ... just to lead by example and reconcile beliefs with behaviors."
Silverman explained that problems with assaults are coming from systemic challenges that need to be addressed. "The problem seems to be a complex interaction of high-risk drinking, group dynamics, peer pressure and the intimate nature of the Princeton social scene," he said.
"[These factors] act to create a context that amplifies the danger of these heartrending events occurring while discouraging students from preventing them or after they have occurred, from reporting them for fear of being socially ostracized or marginalized," Silverman said, adding that if TI's policies "prove effective, they might be adopted by other clubs at that point."
Director of Public Safety Steven Healy said he "applaud[s] the effort that any club takes to improve safety for students" and wishes the club "lots of luck with its policy." But Healy said that Public Safety was not directly consulted in the creation of the TI rules though the department has created a document listing "best practices" for club security. It was adopted as "recommendations, not mandates" by the Graduate Interclub Council.
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Maria Flores-Mills, who meets weekly with club presidents at the ICC meeting, said she sees "creativity and commitment" in the current officers and is "optimistic" about the future of the clubs.
"It's always a tough road and this is a shifting culture," she added. "Ultimately, any initiative needs to be student-driven. I don't think anyone expects students to go through four years and not have fun ... but safe."