When sign-ins were over last spring, Jay Meisel '99 was not satisfied. His first choice – Campus Club – was full and he was placed in Terrace, his third choice. Still wanting to join Campus, Meisel sweated out the summer on the club's wait-list, along with a few friends. Through persistence – some might call it nagging – Meisel now finds himself a full-fledged Campus member.
His story is an example of how arbitrary and subjective wait-lists can be.
While the Bicker process is cut and dry – you get in or you don't – signing into a club can be a bit more complicated.
Since the early 1990s, all of the non-selective clubs except Cloister held sign-ins the Wednesday of Bicker week. Cloister held their sign-ins the preceding Sunday for the past several years.
This year, sophomores can sign into all six non-selective clubs – Campus, Cloister, Terrace, Charter, Quadrangle and Colonial clubs – the day before spring semester starts: Sunday, Feb. 1.
The six sign-in clubs have revamped and unified the sign-in process this year to combat the overall decline in club membership and to simplify the sign-in process, ICC president Jim White '98 said.
"If we continued the un-unified system we could lose sophomores by the confusion," he said. "We can reach a greater number of sophomores because this is a procedure that everyone can be a part of."
But former Campus Club president Kris Smith '98, said he is not wholly in favor of the new sign-in system.
"It has the potential to be detrimental to the 'Street's' overall numbers," he said, focusing on the fact that under the new system sophomores will have to make their club decision earlier.
"Now that sign-ins are four days earlier, sophomores will have to choose during exams, a time of much stress when they won't feel like dealing with this," he said. "The 'Street' doesn't have enough people to be able to turn away people because of something like that."
White, however, believed that the new system was a good compromise and would prevent some clubs from having unfair advantages.
"Some felt Cloister had an unfair advantage," he said. "I think everyone came away with the best possible agreement."
Cloister Inn president Luke Tallon '98 defended his club's sign-in system.
"We had a couple of bad years in the late '80s, and the club decided to hold early sign-ins," Tallon explained. "It helped us compete with the Bicker clubs."
This system made Cloister a very popular club choice, Tallon said. The club admitted 90 sophomores last February from a pool of more than 130 students who signed in, he said.
"The ICC members felt early sign-ins were unfair and confusing for sophomores to have different sign-in systems," Tallon said.
In retaliation, the ICC excluded Tallon's predecessor, McCall Guyton-Edmiston '97, from some of its meetings and placed sanctions on Cloister members that prohibited them from exchanging meals at other clubs, Tallon said.
This continued until February 1997, when the ICC dropped its sanctions against Cloister under the assurance that the club would work with the other sign-in clubs to redesign the sign-in system.
To meet this goal, each of the sign-in club presidents met numerous times last spring to discuss different options and formulated the system that will be implemented for the first time this year, according to Quad president Sean McLean '98.
Tallon, however, said he believes each club's independence should be maintained.
"Since each of the clubs is a separate organization, we felt the ICC had no right to punish us (with sanctions)," he said. "But for the good of the sign-in club system and the long-term of Cloister, we considered the merits of a unified system (because it) puts everyone on the same base and is less complicated for sophomores." Tallon said.
"The benefits of the system remain to be seen, but I don't think this unified process issue would have come up if no sanctions had been placed," he added.
Sep Kamvar '99 signed in to Cloister last February and said he was placed on a long wait-list after not getting in during the club's first-round sign-ins.
"I was told the that the chances of getting in off the wait-list were slim," he said, adding he still chose to remain on the wait-list all of last spring and for the first two weeks of fall.
"I was miserable eating out, but I didn't see too many options," he said. "(Finally) it came to the point where I needed a place to eat."
Kamvar ended his dining troubles by becoming a member of Ivy through fall Bicker.
Others, such as Craig Weaver '99, however, were taken off the Cloister wait-list immediately and offered membership.
"I was good friends with a lot of people and I'm on the women's crew team," she said. Weaver got off the wait-list after "a day or two," and said she did not think that getting off the wait-list was a random process.
According to Tallon, getting off Cloister's wait-list is "at the discretion of each year's officers."
Cloister has no set policy for admitting members off a wait-list. Other clubs randomize their wait-lists or implement a first-come, first served policy.
"We like to have the policy of not breaking up a group who sign in together, but that happened last year because all that were left on the wait-list were large groups," Tallon said. "Because we had one or two spots available, we tried to do it in a way that would cause the least amount of people to be upset."
Tallon added that it is not surprising that the members who got off the wait-list were swimmers or rowers, because "the people on the wait-list are predominantly swimmers or rowers."
Because of the new, unified sign-ins system, Cloister's first-round sign-ins will be identical to those of the other non-selective clubs.
As in the past, once the first round of sign-ins ends, all preference forms will be taken to one of the sign-in clubs and then "dumped out of the box," according to White, and sorted randomly by first choice.
Once the membership limit for each club has been reached, the officers look to see whether the wait-list option has been checked for a certain club, and if it has, the sophomore is placed on the appropriate wait-list. If the wait-list box is not checked and all of a sophomore's chosen clubs are full, the sophomore will be put on a waitlist, said Colonial Club president Jason Foley '98.
"There is no opportunity to do something unethical," White said. "The system is completely random – there are no restrictions, but it's just the luck of the draw."
"It's up to each individual club to determine how to take people off the wait-list," McLean explained. This past year Quad did not have a wait-list because the club could accommodate most sophomores interested in membership.
"We took everybody because we didn't want to have a wait-list," McLean said. "It was a little more than we wanted, but I don't like having to make people wait around."
He further explained that though the club didn't have a wait-list this year, the issue is one that changes from year to year depending on how many people sign-in.
"It depends on the officers and what they decide," McLean said.
Terrace keeps a year-long wait-list because many sophomores sign into the club each year, according to president Jason Williams '98. The club maintains a strict first-come, first-served policy in taking people off of its wait-list, he said.
"The number of spots we have is equal to the number our kitchen can cook for," he said. "Whenever a spot opens up, I call the next person on the list."
The order that students are put on the wait-list depends on the order they are drawn during the sign-in lottery in February.
For Campus, the club's "intent list" is randomized, according to Smith. "Nobody got in by favoritism," he said.
However, Meisel, who persevered and finally got in, said that favoritism might have gotten him and his friends into the club sooner rather than later.
"We felt we deserved to be in because we were practically bickering the club," Meisel added, describing the way in which he and his friends continually asked to be in Campus.
By the first week of September – eight months after Meisel first tried to sign-in – Campus let all those on the intent list into the club and extended membership to Meisel.
"We really wanted to be in Campus," he said. "It would be nice if they had had an essay section or something on the sign-in form to tell them how much I wanted to be in the club."