After eating club sign-in ceremonies at Cloister Inn and Charter Club on Feb. 6, 1988, 39 students ended up at McCosh Health Center with alcohol poisoning. Seven more were sent directly to Princeton Medical Center, now known as the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, with one sophomore in an alcohol-induced coma. Criminal charges were brought up against five officers of the clubs, and two were even initially sentenced to serve time.
In the almost 30 years following this incident, eating club officers have resigned for many reasons, included everything from criminal charges, to security breaches, to philosophical differences with the rest of the corps. Over the years, these resignations and security breaches have resulted in modifications to the structure of the ICC and eating club officer corps.
This calendar year alone, at least five officers have already handed in their resignations. Earlier this month, Trey Aslanian ’18 and Divya Mehta ’18 were asked to step down by Tiger Inn’s graduate board as TI president and safety czar, respectively. Around the same time, Kevin Liu ’18 and Alex Vogelsang ’18 voluntarily stepped down as Tower Club technology chairs, where they maintained the club’s computer cluster, entertainment systems, website, and listserv. David Crane ’18 stepped down voluntarily as Ivy Club intramural chair around April this year.
Matthew Lucas ‘18, current president of the Interclub Council, said that there are “many disparate reasons” for why an eating club officer might step down. Lucas is also Colonial Club president emeritus.
Lucas said that an officer might be asked to step down by the club’s graduate board of alumni, who oversee the management of the club, if it feels that an officer has “failed to fully exercise their duties with proper judgment and care.” Officers are also required to step down if they are “severely disciplined” by the University or by legal action. Finally, an officer may choose to step down voluntarily for personal reasons.
All 11 current eating club presidents either did not respond to requests for comment as of publication, declined them, or deferred comments to the ICC.
Lucas said that being an officer at any eating club carries with it “a similar weighty responsibility.” The officers have to take care of the current membership of each of their clubs, the clubhouses, and the club’s institutions, which include thousands of alumni and more than a century of history and traditions.
Former ICC president and Colonial president emeritus Christopher Yu ’17 added that the work of an officer can be incredibly time-consuming, given the cleanups following events like nights out, meetings with the rest of the corps and other stakeholders, mandatory event attendance, and everything else required.
According to the Statement of Principles on the ICC website, other responsibilities of the officers include ensuring that there is no gender-based discrimination, sexual misconduct, severe intoxication, or hazing in the club. Additionally, officers are required to attend several sessions of University-mandated training, such as for alcohol risk reduction, upon election.
Some officers’ failures to meet their responsibilities over the years has resulted in sentences to jail time and charges on several counts such as maintaining a nuisance on nights out. Some of those incidents, and the resulting changes to the ICC and club officer corps structure, are as detailed below.
1900s: Sign-in ceremonies result in jail sentences for officers
The sign-in ceremonies of Feb. 6, 1988, resulted in 39 students landing in McCosh Health Center with alcohol poisoning and seven more being sent directly to PMC. One of the seven students was in a coma, and the other six underwent treatment for alcohol poisoning.
Former Charter president Kenneth Simpler ’88 and social chairwoman Lisa Napolitano ’88 were sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for serving alcohol to student minors during the sign in ceremonies. Simpler and Napolitano had been in office for five days when they were charged — they had only taken office on Feb. 1.
The charge of serving alcohol against Kristin Seymour ’88, former social chairman at Cloister, was dismissed after fellow club members testified to her non-involvement in sign-in activities beyond booking the band that night. James Martin ’87, another former social chairman at Cloister, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace to avoid a possible jail sentence. Former Cloister president Jay Weiss ’88 was also served with the charges. Seymour and Weiss were charged even though they were former officers because Martin and the rest of his officer corp had only taken charge at midnight during the ceremonies.
After the month-long investigation and trial that ensued, charges against all the Cloister officers were dropped or plea-bargained, whereas the Charter officers were given nine months of probation instead of six-month jail sentences.
2000s: 13 eating club officers charged by Borough Police
Five of the 13 officers charged with serving alcohol to minors and maintaining a nuisance belonged to Colonial.
Former Colonial president Chris Langhammer ’03, and former Colonial officers Anna-Rachel Dray-Siegel ’04 and Justin Mirabal ’03 were each issued a summons for serving alcohol to minors as a result of the undercover investigation on Feb. 4, 2003, when the Borough Police sent undercover officers posing as students into clubs to watch for underage drinking. Later that year, former Colonial president Ben Handzo ’04 was charged with the same two counts when an intoxicated underage female was transported from the club to PMC.
Finally, members of Colonial Club spent 2007 completing 500 hours of community service as a result of a plea bargain by Colonial president emeritus Tommy Curry ’08 in May. The charges of maintaining a nuisance and serving alcohol to a minor were first brought up against Curry and then transferred to the club as a collective entity.
The remaining eight officers charged belonged to eight distinct eating clubs.
The only officer to hand in a resignation immediately upon being charged with making alcohol available to a minor was former Tower president Cullen Newton ’04, who resigned in December 2003.
Tower vice president Matt Nickoloff ’04 was then appointed president. However, on Jan. 26, 2004, the Borough Police dropped charges against Newton due to lack of evidence.
“I was extremely saddened to have to step down as president of a club I love so much. The knowledge that there was no evidence behind the charges was, needless to say, very frustrating,” Newton said in an earlier Daily Princetonian article.
Terrace Club and TI presidents, who were also charged on counts of serving alcohol to minors and maintaining a nuisance, had their charges transferred to their respective clubs’ graduate boards. Terrace president emerita Patti Chao ’07, who was charged when student fell during initiations, was cleared when the club’s graduate board pled guilty and paid a fine of $664. TI president emeritus Chris Merrick ’08 was cleared when his charge of serving alcohol to a minor was transferred to the TI Graduate Board and later dropped.
Charter, Cloister, and Cottage Club presidents at the time were cleared of their charges for events that occurred in 2007. Charges against former Charter and ICC president Will Scharf ’08 for a minor altercation that ensued between two junior female students after one poured beer down the other’s back were dropped after an investigation found lack of direct involvement. Cloister president emerita Savannah Sachs ’08 and Cottage president emeritus Vince Ley ’08 were also cleared of their charges due to their non-involvement with the nights out in question.
Charges brought up against former Cap & Gown Club president Matthew Groh ’03 and former Quadrangle Club president Rolando Amaya ’03 that resulted from the Borough Police’s undercover investigation on Feb. 4, 2003, were later dropped as well.
The 2010s: Nine officers removed among other voluntary step downs
Earlier this month, Aslanian and Mehta were asked to step down by TI’s graduate board of governors as a result of “the actions and/or inactions” of TI officers on Dec. 8, the night of the club’s sophomore semiformals party, according to a ‘Prince’ article.
The lack of extra levels of security at semiformals led to an unsafe environment at the club with excessive levels of alcohol, vomiting, and physicality, according to an email sent by TI’s graduate board to its members on Dec. 11.
Aslanian and Mehta did not respond to requests for comment. Current vice president Allison Lee ’18 will be TI’s interim president until officer elections in the spring.
Aslanian’s and Mehta’s resignations add to the two waves of TI officer resignations in 2014, which were also requested by the club’s graduate board.
Former TI president Ryan Cash ’15, house manager Dror Liebenthal ’15, treasurer Will Siroky ’15, and safety czar Victoria Majchrzak ’15 offered their resignations in March 2014 to the graduate board after a 21 Club party took place at TI, according to ‘Prince’ reporting.
The 21 Club is a semi-secret heavy drinking club whose membership consists of 21 juniors and 21 seniors, mostly coming from Ivy, Cap, Cottage, and TI, according to further ‘Prince’ reporting.
Robert “Hap” Cooper ’82, TI’s graduate board president, who received the officers’ letters of resignation, was president of the 21 Club during his time at the University.
Later in fall 2014, former TI vice president Adam Krop ’15 and treasurer Andrew Hoffenberg ’15 were fired from their positions following emails they sent to the club membership. Krop was fired for circulating a photo of a female student performing oral sex on a male student, while Hoffenberg was fired for an email proposing that TI membership “boo” Sally Frank ’80, whose activism was instrumental in getting the clubs to start accepting women.
‘Prince’ reporting shows this wave of officer removals in 2014 led to a letter signed by more than 100 TI alumni members condemning the recent behavior of the membership.
However, TI is not the only club with officer resignations in the past decade. In the past two calendar years alone, Tower has seen three of its technology chairs step down voluntarily. Aside from the position of treasurer, Tower’s two technology chairs are the only appointed positions on the club’s 12-person officer corps.
Liu and Vogelsang stepped down voluntarily from their appointed roles as tech chairs on Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, respectively, according to resignation emails sent to the club membership on those dates.
Vogelsang deferred comment to her resignation email sent to the club on Nov. 2. Liu declined to comment.
According to Vogelsang’s email, she resigned as tech chair due to “a sometimes disrespectful environment and unreconcilable philosophical differences” between her and other officers.
Vogelsang did not respond to request for further clarification as of press time. Tower president Christopher Jagoe ’18 declined to comment.
Liu’s and Vogelsang’s resignations followed that of former Tower tech chair Maddie Clayton ’17. Clayton resigned from her position last year because she dropped out of Tower to join another eating club, according to Graham Turk ’17, who took on the role of Tech Chair after Clayton dropped.
Indeed, several voluntary officer resignations have stemmed from purely logistical reasons.
According to Crane - who stepped down as Ivy’s IM chair around April - Ivy Club has seen voluntary step-downs and turnover in some of its officership, since positions like IM chair are typically “handed down.”
“My predecessor, whom I was close to and who knew I would be active in the role because of my previous attendance at numerous IM sporting events, handed it down to me even though I already had a 'fake officer' role [community service chair],” Crane explained.
According to Crane, “fake officers” are Ivy officers who do not live in the club, including IM chair, food chair, community service chairs, and tech chair.
“It would have been irregular for me to hold both [IM and community service] positions, even though I probably could have handled the time commitment and didn't mind, so I, in turn, passed the IM chair position down to a current junior who I knew would fill the role well,” Crane said.
Crane remains Ivy’s community service chair, as of publication.
Ivy president Folasade Runcie ’18 did not respond to a request for comment.
On the sign-in club side, Samuel Smiddy ’17 stepped down from his positions as Cloister and ICC president after he was found to be in unlawful possession of a handgun during his stay at Cloister Inn, according to a ‘Prince’ article published last year.
Smiddy did not respond to a request for comment.
Yu said that when the position of ICC president became vacant, he was elected by a vote of the other eating club presidents in November 2016. Yu was the only candidate who ran for the position, since the presidency was viewed as one that detracts from the attention each president could give their own clubs.
A look around the Street today
Officer resignations and charges brought up against the officers have helped catalyze changes both to the structure of the ICC and to distinct clubs’ officer corps.
According to Yu, the ICC has grown “closer and more cooperative than in the past,” especially in light of increased interest among club presidents in contributing to combat Street-wide issues. One of the main changes to the ICC’s structure has been the introduction of the post of vice president, as opposed to just one ICC president as in the past decades. This new post would allow smoother functioning if an ICC president were to step down from eating club officership again.
Lucas added that the eating club presidents also recently collaborated on adopting a shared statement of principles to address Street-wide issues such as recruitment, diversity and inclusion, safety, alcohol use, meal exchange, and the clubs’ relationship with the University.
In terms of individual club officer corps, there are currently 107 eating club officers distributed among the University’s 11 eating clubs, according to the counts on their websites. This does not include some appointed positions and other chairs such as community service, alumni relations, and sustainability.
Quad has the biggest officer corps, with 19 members, followed by Cap with 14. Colonial has 13 officers. Tower and Charter each have 12 officers. Cannon Club has 10. TI and Terrace each have six officers. Cloister, Cottage, and Ivy each have five officers in addition to their other Chairs.
Several of these clubs have designated officers for safety and security — for example, Tower’s security chair and TI’s safety czar.
While the size and composition of officer corps fluctuates both between and within clubs each year, all officers work together to uphold the clubs’ collective statement of principles.
According to Lucas, eating club officers are also currently engaged with various members of the University administration and community in a year-long task force to address collaborative initiatives toward community-building and diversity and inclusion in the clubs and on campus as a whole.