In a report issued to the student body on April 12, the Undergraduate Student Government Referendum Response Team made five recommendations intended to promote eating club transparency, inclusivity, and diversity.
The Referendum Response Team consists of U-Councillor Olivia Grah ’19, Senator Andrew Ma ’19, Senator Eli Schechner ’18, and Public Relations Chair Maya Wesby ’18.
Wesby is a former chief copy editor and senior news writer for The Daily Princetonian.
The report was prepared in response to a referendum held in winter 2016, in which Leila Clark ’18 collected petition signatures to call for the collection and publication of demographic information including race, gender, and major from eating club members as well as those applying to selective Bicker clubs. The referendum was voted upon by the student body and passed with 68.9 percent of voters supporting and 31.1 percent of voters opposed.
Since its creation, the referendum has met resistance from several eating club officers as well as the Interclub Council, an organization comprised of the 11 eating club presidents which oversees eating club policies. President of the ICC and former Colonial Club president Christopher Yu ’17 previously said that the eating clubs historically had not collected demographics and did not intend to in the future.
Among the report’s recommendations is the creation of a permanent Subcommittee for Eating Club Transparency and Inclusivity on the USG University Student Life Committee. According to the report, the subcommittee would be tasked with identifying and addressing opportunities for collaboration between the USG and the ICC in order to achieve its goals of increasing eating club transparency, inclusivity, and diversity.
The recommendation stipulated that the subcommittee would consist of members of the ICC, the USG Senate, and the sophomore, junior, and senior class governments. Additionally, at least 10 percent of the subcommittee members would not be affiliated with any eating club.
Ma said that the subcommittee would be creating initiatives similar to last year’s Taste of Prospect, an event hosted by the ICC that allowed freshmen to visit and familiarize themselves with the clubs. He emphasized that one of the primary goals of the subcommittee would be to increase students’ exposure to eating clubs prior to sophomore year.
“I do think that part of the reason people voted in favor of this referendum is because they want more information for their decision-making process,” Ma said.
Grah added that the subcommittee would also focus on strengthening the relationships between the eating clubs and diversity centers on campus.
“The benefit of having USG now involved in the process is that the subcommittee would be focused on [that] and would have USG resources, because while the ICC is looking to make clubs welcoming to all people on campus, it also has so many other things under its purview. So here’s USG, able to provide a helping hand in pursuit of this goal,” Grah said.
Another recommendation by the report states that the subcommittee will continue to pursue demographic information for each eating club. However, Yu reaffirmed that various issues including privacy, representation, and a service agreement with the University preventing the public release of demographic information led to the ICC’s continued opposition to the referendum.
As previously reported by the ‘Prince,’ the ICC and all of the affiliated eating clubs do not report to the USG. Thus, any demographic information released by the clubs as part of the subcommittee's efforts would come on a voluntary basis.
“I believe that the demographic point is not feasible from a logistical standpoint, and even if it was possible, I think a broader discussion needs to happen first,” said Yu.
Yu emphasized that the ICC is still committed to working with the USG to promote diversity and inclusion. He also cited several ICC initiatives intended to promote these goals, including a partnership with the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding and an upcoming series of speeches titled Redefining Masculinity on the Street.
“We are trying to change the discussion on the culture of Street in a positive manner through these efforts ... A lot of these efforts are underway. But I think that’s where the partnership with USG can help,” Yu said.
Yu added that eating clubs also face problematic popular perceptions. He named a 2013 ‘Prince’ article as an example of an incident that exacerbated club stereotyping, and said he hoped that the subcommittee will work to address that problem.
“The Prince’s article only perpetuates stereotypes that are wrong in many of the clubs,” Yu said. “To say that all the clubs are the exact same as they were five years ago, even one year ago, is very incorrect. The subcommittee could work on those efforts too. It’s not exclusively on what the eating clubs are doing. It’s also about how student organizations form this perception of the eating clubs.”
The remainder of the report provides background information on the current position of eating clubs in the University and the history of the referendum as well as a summary of arguments in favor and against the referendum.
Clark, the original creator and sponsor of the eating club referendum, indicated that the report’s recommendations matched the referendum’s original intent.
“I think the committee that put together the report did a good job in considering all the arguments and in putting forward their suggestions of how USG should act on the will of the students that was expressed in the referendum,” she said.
Specifically, Clark felt optimistic about the recommendations pertaining to the creation of the USLC subcommittee and continued pursuit of eating club demographic information.
“I'm excited about the formation of a permanent USG USLC Subcommittee for Eating Club Transparency and Inclusivity and I’m glad to see that the reports [suggest] that the committee will have a mandate to collect demographics in its charter,” Clark said. “I hope that USG is able to act on this report swiftly, so that we get the demographics that we as a student body voted on as soon as possible.”
The report’s recommendations were approved by the USG Senate on April 2, at which point the committee was not yet ready to make its recommendations public. Grah said that the next steps would involve the drafting of a charter for the new USLC subcommittee.
The USG is currently conducting a survey to collect student feedback on the recommendations outlined in the report.
Wesby indicated that students looking to contribute more feedback can find the survey in the weekly email sent by USG President Myesha Jemison ’18 as well, as on the USG Facebook page.