After more than four decades as a sign-in club, the Princeton Charter Club will re-adopt Bicker in the spring of 2021, according to an internal email sent to Charter members on Jan. 15.
This reversal will be made as part of the winning Charter takeover proposal, recently accepted by the Charter Board of Governors. The proposal was written by 11 sophomores and undersigned by 88 other students who have either committed to or are considering joining.
The club began soliciting redesign proposals in November following a five-year period of steadily declining membership. Among other changes in the accepted proposal are plans to restrict “Charter Fridays” to once per month, host various community-building events, and renovate the Charter property.
The Charter Board of Governors received several other student-written proposals, including one widely-advertised plan to turn the eating club into a student-run co-op, but chose the winning plan based on several criteria.
“All the proposals we received were really well thought out, and meticulous,” said Justin Hamilton ’20, former president of Charter Club. “As a board, we felt that this one was the most promising, and aligned with our goals as a business, and as a club.”
The winning proposal group envisions Charter as a new space on the Street for students to gather. They hope the club will place less emphasis on affiliations and prioritize accessibility.
“I think the main thing that we noticed was that there wasn’t a spot on the Street that fulfilled all our needs,” Makailyn Jones ’22, one of the sophomores who wrote the proposal, said. “And one of those reasons was having a spot where you can just chill, be with people that you really enjoy being around, no matter what affiliation you might have, or who you might know.”
Charter has been a sign-in club since 1977, when it eliminated its selective Bicker process with the goal of attracting more members. The sophomores who authored the proposal have adopted the opposite philosophy in attempting to sustain Charter’s dwindling membership.
This switch will skew the ratio of sign-in to Bicker clubs on the Street from 5:6 to 4:7.
“I'd say, I agree with my grad board in ... putting something like that up for grabs,” Hamilton said. “So if Bicker and that kind of selection process is really what they’re into, which is the main focus of their proposal, then we are happy to support it.”
Jones and Jazmine Smith ’22, who also helped draft the proposal, were quick to clarify that they plan on implementing selective admission differently than other Bicker clubs.
“It’s not gonna be like normal Bicker where people are using their relationships to get in, but they actually get in for who they are,” Jones explained.
According to the proposal, Charter’s Bicker and recruitment process will be “unlike those of any club on the Street.” Many aspects of the proposed process at Charter, however, resemble existing Bicker practices.
According to the proposal, bickerees will be evaluated by a variety of members through supervised group activities and two individual conversations. Members will be required to note whether they know any potential members beyond meeting them at Charter events and will not be able to observe or interview any bickerees that they knew previously.
This precaution is common practice among bicker clubs, according to several individuals familiar with the process.
Still, “members who know the bickerees on a personal level will be allowed to speak” about them during deliberations. Though required to “formally state how they know the bickeree,” Charter members could still theoretically push for their friends to be accepted under this system.
The resumption of Bicker is not the only major alteration proposed. Traditionally, Charter Club has been open to all University students every Friday night, with “Charter Fridays” becoming the club’s signature event. The proposal hopes to limit “Charter Fridays” to once each month, instead advocating for more themed nights, daytime parties, and for using funds to bring in live entertainment.
Smith and Jones indicated that this decision was made in order to prioritize the needs of members over the full student body and to “re-route” the funding that would typically be spent on beverages for the entire student body, instead spending it on members-only or other, more exclusive events.
“I know a lot of my friends who are sophomores are very hesitant about going to Charter, because for one, like, every Friday, they have Charter Fridays, and I think the conception is that most of the people who go are freshmen,” prospective Charter member Debby Park ’22 said. “So I think this will definitely make the pool of people going there wider and just [create] more options in general for people to … go and have fun.”
The proposal also includes plans to increase the average financial aid grant for members to $1250, expand on the number of vegan and vegetarian options available at meals, and introduce a “monthly cultural night” in the dining hall.
It also lays out plans for minor renovations to the club interior and exterior, including the building of temporary DJ stage for nights out, the installation of an outdoor fire pit, and a “Charter neon sign that acts as an iconic photo spot.”
“Their backyard is like so, so beautiful,” Jones said. “There’s so much land, a beautiful patio, and we think that that would be a really nice place where people could hang out, especially when it’s really warm in the fall and spring — really make use of it.”
Hamilton and current Charter president Jaren McKinnie ’21 stated that this proposal succeeded in part due to its broad and diverse display of undergraduate support.
“The group coming in is a really diverse group in terms of backgrounds, like race, class, the different clubs they’re involved with on campus,” McKinnie said.
The proposal lists 50 students “considering joining Charter” and 49 who have “committed.” Combined, the students hail from 23 states and 17 countries.
“I think what was so cool about this is that we’re starting something brand new and that like, there really aren’t specific qualities or there’s not a specific personality that Charter will have once everyone comes in, since we’re all so different,” Park said.
Hamilton indicated that he was unsure if all the changes outlined in the proposal would happen, and said he was “curious” to watch it unfold.
“It is a group of sophomores coming in, who haven’t been in an eating club before, so you have to think that the proposal was written from a slightly outside perspective,” Hamilton said. “But a fresh view can really add a lot, so I think it can be an overall positive thing. If they really settle into what they want the club in their community to look like, and create the environment that they’re going for, I think it can be super positive.”
It is unclear how the current members of Charter feel about the news.
According to Hamilton, Charter will have an all-club meeting on Sunday, Jan. 19, to “discuss everything,” but as both the old and new officer corps — “which actually makes up a pretty sizeable portion of the club at this point” — were involved in the process, the news is no surprise to most members.
“I realize this may come as a shock to you all, and I recognize your thoughts and opinions about Bicker,” outgoing Charter Vice President Brittany Grego ’20 wrote in the initial email sent out to club members, encouraging concerned members to reach out to club officers.
Interclub Council (ICC) president Meghan Slattery ’20, former president of the sign-in club Cloister Inn, said she is eager to see how the situation unfolds.
“It’s an unprecedented opportunity for a group of students to take a club to a whole new direction,” Slattery said. “That hasn’t been done before, so I’m personally very excited to see where it goes.”