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Another Bicker season has come and gone, leaving some students overjoyed and some crushed. For some of those students, bickering was a way to increase their social status, to be part of a club that everyone wants to get into. During the year, the thought of Bicker nags constantly in the recesses of their minds. Students actively try to hang out with members of clubs, even at the expense of their old friend groups. Every social interaction with a member of a selective club is just that much more important, more consequential. But I’m willing to wager that most students who bickered, like me, were just looking to be able to eat with their friends.

Strange, isn’t it? That even after getting into one of the hardest Universities in the world, we must apply again just to sit in the same dining hall as our friends. The Bicker clubs have discussions at the end of the Bicker process where your friends can vouch for you, your enemies can spite you, and the other 150 more-or-less strangers vote on how much they want you in the club. When I was hosed, I heard through the grapevine that while I had good, touching support from my friends, my chances were dashed by two members who didn’t really even know me and yet said they didn’t want me in the club. As one of my best friends put it, “your social life is decided by complete strangers.” That is just so fundamentally wrong.

Now, I’m not here to say that it’s realistic to end eating clubs or even Bicker. I’m here to propose a solution. The reason why Bicker is so harmful is because of what it decides. It decides possibly the biggest part of your social life: your meals. Meals are essential to everyone’s experience at college. In fact, it’s when a lot of friendships are made and solidified. However, to deny some students entrance to what is essentially a cafeteria with their friends in it is insane. It’s fine for clubs to have tryouts, Greek life to have rush, etc. because those are not essential. Not everybody dances, wants to join a frat, or plays tennis. But meals are something everyone shares.

There are two relatively easy steps I have to mend anyone else from being hurt or completely shut off from their friends. The first involves meal swaps. As we all know, meal swapping is time intensive, hard to plan out, and doesn’t even start until October 9. Instead of that system, there should be sign-up lists to eat at various clubs on the Street. Obviously, since the food is better at some clubs, these lists would have caps on them, but lets be honest, most people would sign up just to see their friends. Then, the greatest power of Bicker would be taken away — the power to keep friends from easily seeing each other for meals. Being a member of a club would still mean one can go to members nights, events, etc. It’s just that the meals would be essentially out of the equation.

The other step I am proposing has to do with Bicker itself. Every club should have positive-only Bicker. “But what if there’s someone I really hate that wants to join the club?” Then tough luck. If someone walks into a club with 200 people in it, there are bound to be a lot of people they are friends with, but there are also bound to be people who don’t like them. If that person really is as bad as you say, then others probably already know about them or have had the same bad experiences with them. You should be judged completely on your positives, not on the opinions of a few.

It’s probably near-impossible to end the system of eating clubs and Bicker. No matter how much people complain about it, they will still go out in the Street in droves this spring to put themselves out there and be judged on their character by complete strangers. I’m sure everyone would agree that eating clubs themselves really segregate the campus. Athletes in Cannon don’t mix with the politics majors in Tower, engineers in Charter don’t mix with the internationals in Ivy. That’s not what college is supposed to be like. You’re supposed to mingle with people different from you, not huddle among your own kind. But hopefully, if implemented, these two rules would drastically reduce the impact of clubs, especially Bicker clubs, on students. Everyone at college should be able to eat with their friends whenever they want to.

Noah Mihan is a junior studying civil and environmental engineering and can be reached at nmihan@princeton.edu. 

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