This December, a handful of Bicker club presidents and grad boards voiced support for allowing students the option of bickering more than one club. While the potential good of giving prospective Bickerees more choice in the process - and perhaps a better-educated choice at that - is alluring, a behind-the-scenes perspective on the current Bicker process gives reason to believe the disadvantages of the proposed change would far outweigh any benefits to Bickerees, members and the 'Street.'
Open Bicker would favor flash over substance and connections over character even more than the current process does. One of the most frustrating components of the current Bicker process from a member's perspective is superficiality. Trying to get to know any fraction of the Bickerees in any meaningful way is difficult enough as is. Armed with only a 20-minute vignette of interaction and a few testimonials by other members, I sometimes cringe when vote-casting time comes and hope that my decisions are less arbitrary than the paucity of my knowledge suggests. If students were to Bicker more than one club, this situation would grow worse, as the number of students each club had to get to know would swell, and opportunities to meet Bickerees would grow more scarce as students shuffle from one club to the next.
Contrary to claims that open Bicker would decrease "pre-Bickering," the newly impersonalized system would benefit the well-connected who have made their impressions the previous fall, not students who abstained from social climbing. This quashes any benefit of having increased and better-informed choices. The Bickerees would get to know about more clubs, but time constraints would impart that knowledge in an increasingly superficial manner.
Moreover, even if open Bicker gave Bickerees a more-educated choice, the members bickering them would be forming less-educated opinions about them. The only way the clubs could avoid this plunge into frivolous selection would be to extend Bicker to two or three weeks, but that would be intolerably long for members and Bickerees alike. One week of schmoozing, games and conversation is tiring enough, and any more time would shift an inordinate amount of focus and energy on club membership.
Open Bicker would do more than turn an already difficult process into an even more trying social gauntlet. It would also weaken the clubs it seeks to serve. How exactly the system would work is not clear, but logistical difficulties abound. Open Bicker would create serious yield complications for the clubs: if a club were overly conservative and offered too many bids, it would have to face either overcrowding or turning away new members it had previously accepted. On the other hand, if a club overestimated its yield and too many members chose other Bicker clubs, it could face operating budget problems that entail financial risk or tapping into endowments.
Finally, open Bicker would harm the social dynamic of the 'Street.' While bickering only one club creates an element of risk for the Bickeree, it ensures that the club's membership is composed of students who are really enthusiastic about being there, a quality that enhances the eating-club experience.
If open Bicker were in place, this excitement would ebb, and there would be an increased tendency for clubs to lose their particular character. While individual clubs' identities may in some ways divide the 'Street,' they provide a range of options students would not enjoy in the monolithic social setting open Bicker would create. Tying the Bicker clubs together as a block would also widen the social gap between Bicker clubs and their sign-in counterparts, paving a two-lane 'Street' that discourages cross-club interaction.
More like fast food than home cooking, McBicker would offer the student a few menu items, but also long lines, impersonal service, less variety and meager substance. For these reasons, the eating clubs should take a pass on drive-thru Bicker. Jeff Pojanowski is a Woodrow Wilson School major from Ramsey, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.