Across Washington Road, there is another center of power that has significant influence over students’ social life, the Interclub Council (ICC). The Daily Princetonian looked at the history of the body and its role on campus today.
History of the ICC
In 1896, five of Princeton’s current eating clubs — then just called “the clubs” — signed the first Interclub Treaty, a set of regulations that would govern their admissions. From this emerged an “Interclub Committee,” a coalition of one junior and one senior from each club, which continued to collaborate regarding club matters over the years. Over a century later, this committee still exists under a slightly altered name: the ICC.
The five clubs that signed the first treaty were Ivy Club, Tiger Inn, Colonial Club, Cap and Gown Club, and Cottage Club.
In the years after the ICC was formed, the treaty was adjusted and amended. An 1899 update outlined how sophomores were informed of their invitation into a club and how they were to properly accept the invitation. The clubs were permitted to invite a maximum of eight sophomores at any point following the second Thursday after Easter each year.
In 1905 the treaty was formalized and signed by eight clubs. It contained 11 articles on rules, elections, pledges, publicities, and investigations and penalties for infractions.
As more clubs joined the committee, much of the undergraduate population expressed a desire for a modification of the “method of elections” into the clubs. In December 1914, the ICC suggested a facilitated week of “free club discussion” between the upperclassmen and the sophomores, and in spring 1915, they introduced the first “bicker.”
Throughout the years, various events have resulted in fluctuating numbers of bickering sophomores.
In January 1917, five sophomores wrote to ‘Prince.’ They claimed they would not join a club, because the “Princeton club system operates against the best interests of the university” with regards to friendship restrictions, diversion of alumni funds, and the overwhelming focus on “social enjoyment” over “suitable eating places for upperclassmen.” This protest picked up campus-wide support, with over 100 students of the Class of 1919 petitioning against joining eating clubs.
Club membership increased after World War I, with the 1930s bringing about the “golden era of Club life.” The 1940s then brought a number of petitions for membership of all sophomores, which was achieved in both 1941 and 1942. During World War II, club activity briefly slowed until the return of veterans and the regular class in 1946. Membership in the clubs well exceeded their physical capacity, with over 1500 students belonging to eating clubs. Through a petition by the Class of 1951, 100 percent membership was achieved from 1950 to 1953.
Today, only around 70 percent of Princeton juniors and seniors are eating club members, a figure that would have been considered shocking in the postwar period.
What is the ICC?
The ICC is now composed of undergraduate presidents of Princeton’s 11 eating clubs. The council manages and coordinates the yearly bicker process to clubs in an effort to ensure that “all sophomores who would like to join a club have the opportunity to do so.” The council meets weekly to “discuss club policies, student life projects, and best practices to ensure a safe environment for all members and visitors to the clubs.” They also discuss events, dining, and social opportunities for upperclassmen.
The current ICC President is Mia Beams ’24, also the president of Charter Club. The Vice President is Josh Coan ’24, president of Cannon Club; the Communications Chair is LaJayzia Wright ’24, president of Cap & Gown Club.
The ICC also works closely with three advisors who serve as liaisons to other concerned parties. One is a member of the Graduate Interclub Council (GICC), currently Carol Cronheim ’86, who advises the ICC on important initiatives. The GICC is composed of eating club alumni who help fund the clubs and manage financial decisions. Jean-Carolos Arenas ’16 is the current ICC advisor, a recent graduate and former president of Charter Club whose job is to make sure that clubs prioritize student safety. Lastly, Bryant Blount ’08, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students, advises the council on University affairs.
All ICC members and two of the advisors referred to Beams for press communications. Beams declined a request for comment from the ‘Prince.’
What is the ICC’s relationship with the University?
Though the eating clubs are and have always been organizationally separate from the University, the two are deeply intertwined and have a close working relationship. Blount explained in an interview with the ‘Prince’ how the ICC works with the University to communicate with the student body and collaborate on policies.
As an invited guest at the ICC’s weekly meetings, Blount said that the council uses meetings to “share updates and advance mutual projects that benefit all the clubs, and help advance things that are of mutual interest.” The council tends to focus on club admissions, but it also works on community service projects or health and safety. A member of the Alcohol and Drug Alliance in town also often sits in on the meetings as a community representative.
Blount also remarked an increase in positive collaboration between the University and the eating clubs in recent years. “The University and the club system have a long history, and there are moments that are not great,” Blount said. “But … the clubs are a reflection of Princeton’s student body. As Princeton’s admissions look different, so do the clubs.”
In particular, Blount noted the positive transformations brought about when Princeton began admitting women in 1973. “Something there’s a real appreciation for on the University’s side is that there are clubs which, until the late ’80s and early ’90s, were not admitting women, and within 20 years have female leadership on graduate boards, female undergraduate presidents,” Blount said.
Blount also expressed appreciation for the eating clubs’ sense of community outside of programs offered by Princeton. “When people look back on their Princeton experiences, they often found their communities there [in the eating clubs], so that can be a really powerful thing,” he said.
What is the ICC working on now?
Currently, the ICC is wrapping up its fall bicker for juniors and seniors, and the eating clubs are finalizing their rosters for this semester. The clubs coordinate their periods of admission and are focusing on improving communication with the student body through Undergraduate Student Government (USG) alerts with policy updates, events, and initiatives. The ICC has also recently collaborated to implement composting systems in many of the clubs.
According to Blount, the clubs do not have any particular plans to handle the anticipated busier bicker season for the large Class of 2026 this fall. Class sizes have significantly expanded multiple times over the past few decades, leading the ICC to shift to an electronic system for registration; the process is therefore already designed for growth and expansion.
Why doesn’t meal exchange begin until October?
Students have been questioning why meal exchange will not open until October 2023. There are two forms of meal exchange: eating club to eating club exchange, and eating club to dining hall exchange. According to Blount, club-to-club exchanges exceed club-to-dining hall exchanges by four to five times.
The University and ICC once used physical cards, blue for the eating clubs and yellow for the dining halls, which were manually matched and counted. A few years ago, the University created an electronic system to better keep track of the eating club to dining hall exchanges, and the ICC requested that eating club to eating club exchanges be included in that system.
While according to Blount, there’s nothing stopping the eating clubs from beginning exchanges earlier and keeping track on their own, the University does not activate its online system until the eating club rosters are finalized in late September or early October. If the eating clubs decide not to keep track of inter-eating club meal swaps on their own, they will need to wait until the University launches its online tracker.
Raphaela Gold is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’
Victoria Davies is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
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