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Sketching a comfort zone

While daylight hours at the 'Street' see men and women enjoying meals together and females increasingly filling leadership roles, the atmosphere of mutual respect between genders fades on Prospect Avenue with the setting of the sun, some students say.

"There have always been reports of harassment at the 'Street,' " Ivy Club vice president Liz Baker '01 said. "When you're in an eating club, you're in the middle of it all."


Some female club members say that at the 'Street,' sexual harassment sometimes helps create an environment where women are not treated with respect.

"I think that sketchiness contributes to the male dominance of the club. Women do not have enough self-worth to stand up and say, 'Look, I don't want to hook up with you,' " said a female member of Cottage Club who asked not to be identified.

"I have a lot of [male] friends at Cottage. That's because I haven't slept with any of them," she said. "Girls are treated that way because they have weird sexual tensions with the guys. It's not just Cottage — it's Princeton."

Melissa Waage '01, president of Colonial Club, said she worries the eating clubs may not provide a safe environment for women.

"Something that bothers me a lot is the way women are treated," Waage said. "Intelligent women bare as much skin as possible and make themselves objects."

Alcohol can also play a role in making a night in an eating club unsafe.


"I make a point of staying alert and aware and not getting too drunk," Waage said. "I could definitely see why a woman might not want to live in that atmosphere."

Waage added that male members and guests sometimes question her authority because she is a female officer. She described one incident when a group of males objected to her taking the club off tap. "One night at 3:30, I was getting really harassed by guys who wanted more beer," she said. "Perhaps if they're drunk, they're more willing to threaten me [than a male officer]."


Though safety concerns may deter women from running for office, many women agreed that the presence of female officers in eating clubs may be important for ensuring the safety of women at the 'Street.'

"Issues of security and visibility make it very important to have a woman as an officer," former Ivy Club vice president Norah Kelleher '00 said. "I understand that women might feel a little funny talking to a man about [sexual harassment]."

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"I think that would be extremely useful, just to have a female officer [in every club]," she added.

Cap and Gown Club and Terrace Club have strong female representation in their officer corps. Three out of five elected officers in Terrace are women, and Cap has a female president, vice president and social chair.

"I can understand where some women of clubs would be uncomfortable approaching a man officer," Cap president Dayna Federici '01 said. "I don't think [gender] is an issue within Cap. There's not really a problem between us, between men and women."

Baker said she uses her role as vice president and the only female officer at Ivy to provide support for female members. "If any woman was ever dealing with harassment, she could come speak to me about it," she said. "As a woman, it would be nice to seek out another woman."

Some clubs have formally appointed women to positions designed specifically to deal with the issue of sexual harassment. To address concerns of women during Bicker, Cottage officers appointed Ana Quesada '00 as "female Bicker liaison" last fall.

"The idea behind the female Bicker liaison was to have someone to whom female Bickerees could turn if they had concerns or complaints during Bicker," Quesada said in an e-mail. "Our officers last fall were all men, and they felt that women would feel more comfortable approaching a woman if they had any questions or concerns about sexual issues."

Quesada said, however, that her role as liaison was "never fully realized because there was ultimately no need for [the position] during the Bicker week itself."

"My main purpose was to help ensure that there weren't any problems," she said.

Cottage president Chris Wolff '01 said he also appointed treasurer Hallie Welch '01 to the position of sexual harassment adviser to help women in the club feel comfortable.

"Unfortunately, sexual harassment does exist on the 'Street,' " Wolff said in an e-mail. "[I] have sent numerous voice-mails to members reminding them that if they felt threatened they should approach any officer who will remedy any problem or threatening situation immediately."

Suggested improvements

In addition to providing female club members with a support network, students offered other suggestions for improving the environment for women at the 'Street.'

Ivy president Mark Reinhardt '01 said the number of incidents of sexual harassment could be decreased "by having more alcohol policies, making sure nobody gets out of hand."

"I'm not talking about broad University policies, but rather those at the club or individual level, and very often on a case-by-case basis," he said.

He also suggested that "University awareness groups" could visit individual clubs and give presentations to members about sexual harassment and other safety issues.

"It's very important that both women and men, as well as those in charge — safeguards and officers on duty — be aware of such problems and the precautions and actions to be taken against them," he said.

Waage said she would like to see a monitoring system coordinated by the clubs to protect the safety of women. "All the time, we see girls who are trashed and go home with a guy," she said. "Maybe he's her boyfriend or maybe it's a guy who's not so honorable and who's going to take advantage of her. I'd like to see specific people behind the bar watching to see if someone slips roofies in a girl's drink or keeps trying to get her drunk."

"If anything's going to be done, it has to come from the students," she added.

The problem of sexual harassment must first be addressed by a change in the attitudes of women, said a female member of Cottage who asked not to be identified.

"[Women] should be confident enough not to let these things get under their skin. They should crack a joke out of it, or just say no. That's what [men] respect," she said. "If we raise our standards — if we demand proper behavior — the men will follow."