Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Charter Club changed guest policy after conservative professor’s lunch. After headlines, the policy was reversed.

Front view of charter club, a three-story mansion with a grey stone exterior.
Charter Club.
Isabel Richardson / The Daily Princetonian

The guest policy changed at Princeton’s sole selective sign-in eating club. Days later, it changed again.

On March 26, Charter Club’s President announced a new guest policy in a club-wide group chat. Under the new policy, club members were required to inform the Club Manager and a student officer of guests they invite during meal hours who were not friends or family “for review.”


By April 2, the policy was reversed after an intervention from the club’s Graduate Board. In the seven days in between, debate over the policy rose from the club’s private GroupMe to the headlines of national right-wing publications. Club leadership maintains that the reversal was not due to national media scrutiny. 

The controversy, and the specific demographic to which the policy applied — visitors other than friends or family — traces back to a lunch in February.

Charter member, and member of Princetonians for Free Speech, Matthew Wilson ’24 brought his thesis advisor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Robert P. George, to lunch at the club on Feb. 14. George was named an honorary member of the Charter Club in 2012 — a status that enables him to dine and bring guests to Charter. In a column published in The Daily Princetonian on April 1 criticizing the ensuing policy change, Wilson described the lunch as “pleasant and uneventful” and says he followed the club’s procedure for bringing guests to meals.

Wilson is a columnist for the ‘Prince.’

More than a month later, Charter Club President Anna Johns ’25 announced the new policy.

In her message, Johns called the club a “sanctuary” for student membership and their friends and family. She requested that members “limit the use of [the] clubhouse space to this core group” and announced the new review procedure.


Johns did not reply to request for comment by publication time.

Immediately after, speculation stirred about what triggered this policy change. In his column, Wilson said that he heard from friends that the policy was a reaction to his February lunch. In a comment to the ‘Prince’, Chairman of the Board of Governors of Princeton Charter Club, Rodrigo Menezes ’13 confirmed that the policy was in response to members’ discomfort at the presence of Professor George, which they expressed to club officers.

“Some members wanted the choice to be absent from the Club around certain guests. The proposed procedure intended to give members that freedom by requiring a short pre-registration,” Menezes wrote. 

The announcement immediately caused confusion among members and alumni who were unclear on the reasoning behind the change. After Wilson circulated a petition to the club’s alumni board calling on them to revoke the policy, Johns sent another message in the group chat clarifying that “Charter is an inclusive private club that will never deny a member’s request to bring a guest to our sanctuary,” but maintained that prior review would still be required.

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

George is a well-known campus figure, partially due to his leadership of the James Madison Program. Vocally pro-life, George was referred to in a New York Magazine article from a decade ago as the “reigning brain of the Christian right.” In his scholarship, George has repeatedly argued against same-sex marriage. 

“It was a grave error for Charter’s leadership to bend to the demands of a few students who couldn’t stomach the possibility of being within shouting distance of someone whose views challenge their own,” Wilson argued in his April 1 column.

On April 2, conservative national news organizations caught wind of the story.

A Fox News headline read, “Conservative Princeton professor makes members of exclusive campus social club uncomfortable, student says.”

A National Review piece by Abigail Anthony ’23 was titled “Princeton’s Nurseries.” She argued that justifying the policy with the virtue of inclusivity is hypocritical given that “they want a carefully constructed community, presumably one insulated from people who hold different views.”

“I seriously doubt the new policy will be neutrally enforced with respect to political ideology; after all, it was precisely because of George’s conservative views that complaints were raised, since he wasn’t engaging in any disturbing conduct,” Anthony wrote.

Solveig Gold ’17, a former Postdoctoral Research Associate at the James Madison Program and former Princeton undergraduate wrote on X, “One of Princeton’s eating clubs (co-ed frats) has instituted a new visitors policy after a student brought @McCormickProf to lunch—because his very presence at the club made members feel unsafe!”

Professor George responded to the post, writing “So ... Students have to give notice to bring me as a guest for lunch at a club ... that I myself belong to? And, as a member, am entitled to use whenever I like, and bring guests of my own? (By the way, Solveig, when are you available to be my guest for lunch at Charter Club?).”

He later posted “I’m a member of Charter Club. I was made an honorary member in 2012 pursuant to Art. III, Pt. 3 of the Club’s constitution. I’m entitled to use the Club when I like and bring guests.” George is also an honorary member of Ivy Club.

While a national debate ensued, internal debate about whether to keep the policy continued within the Club. In an unusual step, members asked the Graduate Board to “arbitrate the situation and make a decision for the Club,” according to Menezes.

On April 2, at 11:05 p.m. Menezes wrote in an email to members that the Board “is leery of any process that could reduce the culture of civil discourse and camaraderie at the Club” and decided to reverse the policy. 

Menezes clarified in his comment to the ‘Prince’ that the board’s decision was based on “civil discourse within the community, not pressure from national coverage” and “The Board would have reached the exact same conclusion without national coverage.”

“Our members and alumni reached out, telling us that this procedure could discourage members from bringing potentially controversial guests, limiting the club’s capacity to act as a forum for civil discourse on campus,” he added.

Menezes also noted to the ‘Prince’ that he hopes Professor George or Wilson are not discouraged from coming to the club.

“They are still welcome at the Club, and we aspire to be among the most inclusive clubs on the street.”

Bridget O’Neill is a head News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]