Student begins collecting signatures for a petition to end Bicker process| Feb 18, 2015
A student began collecting signatures for a referendumpetition to end the Bicker process on Wednesday.
The referendum, which was drafted by Ryan Low ’16, specifically calls for each eating club to end Bicker not later than the first day of the 2019-20 academic year, to establish an ad hoc USG committee to facilitate ending Bicker and to call on the Interclub Council to appoint a non-voting member to the ad hoc committee to work with it to facilitate ending Bicker.
Low presented the referendum and began collecting signatures Wednesday evening at the Mental Health Initiative’s meeting.
The proposed referendum requires 500 signatures before students can vote on it, U-council chairZhan Okuda Lim ’15said.
Low coordinated with the Undergraduate Student Government to draft the text of the proposed referendum.USG assists students in drafting referenda they are interesting in running, but the referendum is not endorsed by USG,said Okuda-Lim, who assisted in drafting the resolution’s text for conformity to USG’s typical style.
The process toward creating the referendum began in late January, Low said, when a Counseling and Psychological Services counselor told him that early February was a busy time of year in their offices due to Bicker. Low added that he thought Bicker and its relationship to mental health should be a bigger discussion on campus than it has been.
"This entire atmosphere of not wanting to talk about this huge issue on campus needs to change," Low said. "Over the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been meeting with two or three people a day for many days now, and getting their input and from all those conversations. ... The end result is this referendum."
The interest in reforming the Bicker process is broader than just among those who bickered unsuccessfully, Low said.
"I think a lot of people in Bicker clubs don’t like Bicker, but they don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want other people in the club thinking less of them for not liking Bicker," he said. "But now with this referendum, hopefully people will come out of the shadows more and talk about this process."
He added one of the primary goals of the referendum is to get people to talk about the Bicker system, although he noted that he expected the referendum to pass.
"[People] feel like there isn’t a space for them to talk about what’s happening," he said. "They feel like they’ve been left behind by the rest of Princeton. ... It’s not OK to perpetuate a system that unnecessarily makes people feel that way."
Some people who still get into Bicker clubs and have to "hose," or reject, their friends also feel negative about the process, Low said. Both successful and failed Bickerees have expressed support for the proposal to him, he added.
A complete abolition of Bicker would be unlikely, Thomas Fleming ’69, chair of the Graduate Interclub Council, said, adding that the Interclub Council doesn’t have authority to tell a club it can’t engage in the Bicker process.
"I think the most important think to recognize about the governance of the clubs is that there are 11 eating clubs that are not only independent from the University but independent from each other," Fleming said, adding that the clubs have historically been largely open to new ideas, such as dual Bicker and computerizing the admissions process.
"I don’t think any club would want to ignore student desires, but I think that one of the benefits of the current system at Princeton is that students have a choice," he said.
Clubs, including Cap & Gown Club, of which Fleming is the graduate board chair, have been continually revising the Bicker process, Fleming said.
"The selective clubs are significantly oversubscribed now, so I think the market is saying that students, or at least a significant number of the students at Princeton today, value that experience, so I would be surprised if there was an overruling referendum saying to get rid of Bicker," he said. "The numbers of how many showed up during admissions week for selective says enough. If that changes, I think no club can arrogantly say that we’ll never change, because that would be a shortsighted statement."
Interclub Council chair Joe Margolies ’15 andAssistant Dean of Undergraduate Students Bryant Blount bothdeclined to comment, saying that they did not yet have enough information on the referendum.
Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan and Vice President for Campus Life Cynthia Cherrey did not respond to a request for comment.