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Un-justifications for Bicker

If you happened to sit within five feet of me in any public space during the last semester, you probably heard me agonizing about Bicker. I’m the most indecisive person in the entire world, and (similarly hyberbolic) I repeated the same arguments while my friends — used to this kind of behavior from me — told me to calm down, that I was taking everything too seriously.

Let me just say right now that I don’t think you can ever take anything too seriously, and I’m certainly not alone in finding Bicker a significant decision. I eventually decided not to bicker, and though I know that it will be impossible to explain this without making people angry, judging people who bicker is not my point. I think eating clubs are a good idea. Sharing every meal in a nice house with your best friends seems great.


The problem is the process of Bicker itself. I totally understand why so many of us do it, and I reproach no one for choosing to put themselves through three days of some social (and gastrointestinal) discomfort for two years filled with friends, food and fancy parties. It’s the price the Street demands of us, and I can understand why so many of us are willing to pay it. I mean, what kind of success would the human race have had were we not adaptable? We come to new places, we see how things are done, and we do them. It’s how we learn to walk and talk, how to be successful, how not to feel lonely all the time.

My choice not to bicker was not because I’m holier-than-thou. It was because I didn’t come back for reading period and, as I talked to my family about what eating club I would join, I heard myself saying words I’d never thought twice about before — “Bicker,” “discussions,” “hosed” — words that sounded flat, false and pretty awful when divorced from their context. The more I insisted it wasn’t as bad as it sounded, the more horrified my sister, who has applied to Princeton, looked.

It’s hard to deny that, at its core, Bicker is elitist, demeaning and sometimes shockingly cruel. Saying that Bicker is a necessary evil is one thing (though I disagree), but claiming that it’s not problematic is another. Seriously, bicker club members, you can’t honestly tell me Bicker is fun and welcoming, that you don’t get off on sophomoric desperation for your good favor and, most importantly of all, that you haven’t felt awful seeing that girl your club hosed around campus for the past year.

I think almost everyone who bickers recognizes they’re making some compromise for social gain, but frankly, I’m tired of the justifications that surround the whole process. I know them well: Generations of Princetonians have bickered, you say. By following in their hallowed footprints, we walk deeper into the crowds of students who came before. We know we love our traditions here, each of them equally and passionately, and we would never ever leave them behind, which is why we’re still a school of white males who gather every fall to beat freshmen with canes.

You’re also going to tell me that Bicker is a microcosm of how the real world works. Stop being naive, you say. People exist for you to climb over, and thank God we’re so used to it that by the time we enter the work force we know what we’re doing. We use people effortlessly and without second thought. This what makes us Princetonians, Titans of Industry, Leaders of the Free World. But if this is how the real world works, my parents should have understood what I was saying. My sister shouldn’t have been so shocked. The process shouldn’t sound so brutal, even to my own desensitized ears.

I’m glad the ICC did what it could to make Bicker less stressful this year. The idea that it’s not supposed to be painful was shocking to me; I thought feeling shallow, bewildered, insecure and a little nauseated was part of the process. I congratulate you if Bicker doesn’t make you feel this way: You are stronger than I, your spirits more robust, your insides less like Jell-O. I just can’t stomach it. I can’t handle how it made me feel about myself and about those around me. It’s true that the real world is tough and that we will be rejected more times than we would like, but this is exactly why we have friends — to hug us after a romantic interest turns us down, to eat meals with us after we get fired. Your friends are not your career. Being expected to treat the two the same way is not only deeply flawed, but a little heartbreaking. After all, if the real world is as hard as they say it is, your friend group should be the one thing you don’t have to fight to be a part of.


Susannah Sharpless is a sophomore from Indianapolis, Ind. She can be reached at

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