This week, hundreds of sophomores participated in the annual spring Bicker process at the six selective eating clubs. One of the major problems plaguing Bicker is a lack of oversight, which creates difficulties for Bickerees who seek recourse when Bicker activities unduly harm or offend them. The Editorial Board accepts that eating clubs are institutions independent of the University and encourages each eating club to establish or strengthen internal accountability mechanisms. Without any system of accountability, Bicker clubs and their officers cannot take active measures to correct practices that make Bicker unnecessarily unpleasant for potential members.
Though Bicker is imperfect, its dominance in Princeton social life necessitates a better system to improve the process for Bickerees and club members. The Board believes that clubs can do a better job of clearly outlining what sophomores can expect before the Bicker process and clearly state Bicker boundaries to their membership. Clubs could communicate expectations in the form of an online guide sent to Bickerees or verbal instructions before Bicker activities begin. The process could additionally benefit from an anonymous feedback system with which sophomores could report deviations from these expectations to club officers. The Board recognizes that each club has its own traditions and practices and encourages clubs to make sure that bicker activities do not deviate from approved practices due to poor oversight.
A more transparent process would give club officers the information they need to prevent future transgressions. Often times, the line between what activities are allowed and what activities are discouraged is blurred and eating club members accidentally cross the line. With clearer instructions before Bicker begins and a better reporting mechanism, officers can become more aware of what lines may have been crossed so they can clarify guidelines with offending members.
Making the system anonymous would improve the reporting rate, since sophomores would not fear reprisal for their reporting. Officers could easily ensure anonymity with a Google form or a similar platform. While a complaint could be traced back to its source, it would be incumbent on the officers to prevent this as much as possible. Additionally, any failings of the anonymous system would be outweighed by the overall improvement of the process. A high response rate would give clubs more opportunities to improve their Bicker activities, as well as determine the most pressing issues in their current processes.
While some may contend that keeping complaints within the club would prevent any real change, the Board believes that an internal process is needed to account for differences between club traditions. Moreover, there does not exist an institution capable of providing effective or desired external oversight for the private clubs. The Board believes that the types of complaints that should be addressed are those that reflect deviations from officer and graduate board-approved bicker standards. Defining the baseline of acceptable behavior would give Bickerees a better idea of what to expect, as well as what activities would not be acceptable and should be reported to club officers.A more transparent delineation of Bicker boundaries would ensure that Bickerees understand the norms of the club to use as a baseline against their experiences during bicker. If clubs further institute an anonymous reporting system, they would be able to better prevent activities that fall outside of this norm. Bicker plays a large role in students’ lives, and it is the responsibility of the eating clubs to improve the system for present and future Bickerees.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinionsseparately from the regular staff and editors of the ‘Prince.’ The Board answers only to its chair, the opinion editor and the editor-in-chief.