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Princeton eating clubs?

collegebound123collegebound123 Registered User Posts: 419 Member
edited October 2005 in Princeton University
What are they exactly? The name seems to suggest some sort of club for people who like to eat... err but when I read the Princeton viewbook it said something else. Can anybody clear this up?
Post edited by collegebound123 on

Replies to: Princeton eating clubs?

  • philntexphilntex Registered User Posts: 3,186 Senior Member
    An eating club in its most basic form is a dining option for upperclassmen who have left the residential colleges. There are 11. More specifically, eating clubs are also social organizations in which upperclassmen either sign-in to or bicker (which is a selection process) to become a member of the eating club. Not only do the eating clubs offer different dining options, but they're also housed in some pretty big homes/mansions all along one street (Prospect St.). Each is supposed to have a somewhat different personality, and all host lawn parties, outdoor concerts, parties, and other social events. Some people love them, some hate them. It just depends on what type of person you are, I suppose. I think they're cool :)
  • whatscooking12345whatscooking12345 Registered User Posts: 69 Junior Member
    My daughter and I were treated to a private tour of Princeton a few weeks back, and we actually went into one of the clubs. I believe it was Towers. To step into one of these homes is to step back in time....in a good way.....The walls were all wood-paneled.....the dining room, well, a beautiful old dining hall. There was a big social room that had a baby grand piano and a large fireplace. I think I remember a sitting room with windows, with four senior citizens sitting and reading. I really don't know why they were there.

    In Towers, there is a "president" or something. He is the one responsible for the parties. In other words, if there is underage drinking or obnoxious behavior, he is held responsible. Some of the homes are sort of themed. Towers is mostly people related to music. I think you have to bicker to get into that one...I can't remember. Oh, the members have to clean up after the parties and stuff (OK, that makes sense actually).

    I asked if any were really snobby, and the reply was, "well, if I had to pick one, it would probably be Ivy". I don't know what kind of group that is made of.

    On another note:

    Also on the tour, on the far side of the campus way past the McCarter theatre, is the "Forbes College". It is pretty far off from the rest of the campus, but the common areas are beautiful. I remember a huge solarioum that looks out onto a golf course. Could you imagine sipping coffee and looking out onto that (by the way, I'm the mom, not the prospective student).

    Oh.....and Princeton has squirrels that are black. They are beautiful. They do, however, sometimes succeed in getting into dorm rooms. The dorms on the main campus have windows that actually open. If the squirrels are scampering on the side of the building....they just invite themselves in.

    I also remember walking past this hugh triangular monster of a building, and that is actually the dorms for "married" couples or something. They have huge windows, but it is sort of like living in a fishbowl.

    They are either still in the process, or maybe they were finished with this other new dorm building. I'm sure the rooms are great because they are new, but I think if I were the student, I would much prefer the coziness of the ones right in the heart of campus.
  • philntexphilntex Registered User Posts: 3,186 Senior Member
    Ahhh, I <3 Forbes. If I got in, I'd seriously hope I'd end up with it as my rescol, despite it being so far from campus. I mean, come on. It's like a country club or something being at the edge of the golf course. Plus, it seems to have the happiest students. But that's a topic that depends on a certain letter to be received two weeks from now...
  • gracilisaegracilisae Registered User Posts: 1,409 Senior Member
    If you're still curious -

    A History of Eating Clubs:


    From A Princeton Companion by Alexander Leitch, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

    A Walk Down Prospect Avenue:

    (mostly an architectural discussion of the clubs)


    Also, if you go to the CC boards archive (http://www.collegeconfidential.com/cgi-bin/discus/show.cgi?/) and search for eating clubs, you can get a lot of interesting commentary from Princeton students who belong to clubs (also independents), as well as parents and applicants. Go to "Message Search," and be sure to select "Ivy League Schools" as your search topic.

    (wow, what blatant procrastination! the eating clubs really interest me, so this thread was a good diversion. :) )
  • philntexphilntex Registered User Posts: 3,186 Senior Member
    Whoa, that was really interesting. Thanks, Lisae!
  • gracilisaegracilisae Registered User Posts: 1,409 Senior Member
    No problem! Now I've moved on to scouring the old CC threads for information on the clubs.... Looks like my Lit essay is never getting done at this rate; it's a good thing I do some of my better work under pressure. (And lots of caffiene late at night! ;))
  • KebreeKebree Registered User Posts: 2,564 Senior Member
    Hooray! We finally have a featured thread after over 10,000 posts! Go Tigers!

    This is the text of a great post on the eating clubs by Princeton alum "laughthink":
    I’ve read posts on CC accusing Princeton eating clubs of being elitist and divisive. But I’ve also noticed an interesting aspect of the criticism –- it all comes from people who don’t attend Princeton. The barbs seem to especially emanate from current Yale and Harvard students. Why they feel such a need to spread their negative view on eating clubs is curious. As one who did in fact go to Princeton and belonged to an eating club, I’d like to offer a more personal perspective.

    Like many CC viewers, I was fortunate enough to be admitted to Princeton, Harvard and Yale. I selected Princeton for academic reasons. It’s not that I didn’t consider a college’s social life to be important –- I very much believe it’s vital. I just figured that anywhere there were bright, interesting students, I would find my niche. And I still think that’s true. But in high school, I didn’t know an eating club from a secret society from a finals club from a hole in the ground. I congratulate those CC posters who have such fully developed opinions on eating clubs. They are much more knowledgeable and sophisticated consumers than I ever was back then.

    I absolutely loved my eating club experience and so did the vast majority of people I knew at Princeton. Why? Well, why do P, H and Y have residential colleges to subdivide their student bodies? To create smaller, more intimate communities in which students can feel more at home. I think residential colleges are a great idea. Eating clubs are a logical extension of the same concept.

    Residential colleges at P, H and Y generally have 400-500 students. Eating clubs have less than half that number of members, usually about 100-150. They’re even closer, warmer social infrastructures. The most descriptive word I can think of to convey my eating club experience is “comfortable.” I was very good friends with almost every single member of my club. (Yes, there were a couple of jerks, but you take the bad with the good.) It’s quite literally true that it’s almost impossible to be in an eating club and not have at least a hundred very close friends.

    Even a residential college of 400-500 students is large enough that you can’t know everybody well. It’s about the size of a typical high school class with many of the same social phenomena taking place. In particular, it further subdivides into the usual cliques. We’ve all been to high school. You know what I’m talking about. But once the number of people in a group gets down below 150, a different social dynamic takes over. At that size, you really DO know everybody well. You see them and eat with them every day. If your high school cafeteria is like mine, after you buy your lunch, you head to the same table every day and eat with the same 10-15 close friends. Well, in an eating club, that “same table” is the whole dining room. There’s no need to synchronize going to meals with your friends because some will always be there. You know EVERYBODY. It’s a fantastic social environment.

    Obviously, Princeton’s clubs are self-selected in a way that residential colleges aren’t. But the criticism that they therefore are divisive does not logically follow. By the time you join a club at the end of your sophomore year, you’ve already been in a residential college of roughly 450 randomly assigned people for two years. You’ve had a broad experience and made a variety of friends. Those friends don’t go away. You eat at their clubs and they eat at yours using meal transfers -- very simple. You spend time at all the clubs, especially on party nights. Junior year, my girlfriend was not in my club. Senior year, she was (different girlfriend, that is). No big deal. Of my eight roommates junior and senior year, only one was in my club. I loved the fact that I had a circle of friends from my dorm, a different group from my eating club, a third network from my academic department, and two further circles from my two major extracurricular activities. These various groups of friends overlapped, but were separate and distinct in a very healthy way.

    I concede that eating clubs are probably most appropriate for people who by their personality are “joiners” and that not everybody is one. That’s why 25% of Princeton upperclassmen choose another option, whether it be staying in their underclass residential college for another two years, joining one of two student-run co-ops, or cooking for themselves. Some people just eat at the Frist Campus Center. No problem. Different strokes for different folks. But I submit that most Ivy League students by nature ARE joiners. And those people who want to be more “independent” have a wider range of options at Princeton than they do at almost any other school. If you’re a “joiner,” you win. If you’re not, you still win.

    Hey, eating clubs aren’t for everybody. But I think that the vast majority of the kind of high-achieving, sociable people who are drawn to the Ivy League would LOVE them. My point isn’t that everyone should attend Princeton or join a club. But if you’re thinking about Princeton for academic reasons (and, yes, I think I chose correctly), then don’t be dissuaded by any CC eating club nay-sayers.

    Think about it. Princeton and Harvard have the highest retention and graduation rates in the country. Princeton has by far the highest alumni donation rates. The totally unscientific and anecdotal Princeton Review lists Princeton in its “happiest students” category. If you’ve ever attended a Princeton reunion, you know that alumni are wacky in love with the institution. If Princeton students and graduates are THAT fond of the place, how could eating clubs be anything but a great experience for the vast majority of people who go through there?

    But don’t take my word for it. Visit the campus, talk to the students and form your own opinion. Just don’t take as gospel the word of anybody who criticizes the eating clubs from the distant vantage point of New Haven or Cambridge, okay?
  • philntexphilntex Registered User Posts: 3,186 Senior Member
    Where?! Where?! I see no featured thread!

    EDIT: Haha, never mind. I found it. It's on our own page. D'oh!
  • KebreeKebree Registered User Posts: 2,564 Senior Member
    Aww, man...you're right, phil...it's a featured Princeton forum thread..I didn't know they did that. I thought we would be able to debunk this "elitist eating club" myth for all of CC....
  • philntexphilntex Registered User Posts: 3,186 Senior Member
    Ahhh, I remember that post from laughlink (sidenote: wow, that seems long ago)! But yeah, that's what got me to looking at eating clubs and the entire social scene at Princeton differently. Way to go, laughlink, wherever you are...

    While sad that it isn't on the front page, it's kind of sweet that we can have our own "Featured Threads" section. Hehe, it's like we're superstars. Nice.
  • KebreeKebree Registered User Posts: 2,564 Senior Member
    Yes, it was a good post....

    Here's a response the same alumnus gave to several questions:
    Wow, thanks to everybody who replied and thanks especially for the kind words. I think your responses speak to the fact that, in contrast to many other schools, there are virtually no Princeton students or alumni who post here on CC about their experiences. I’d like to think that this means Princeton students are busy studying and/or enjoying themselves. I hope it’s a healthy (and mature) sign that so few Princetonians spend their time telling others how nice they have it. I’ll post more later and try to answer as many questions as I can.

    First, some facts. “Foreigngrad,” you have your facts straight. There are 11 clubs of which 5 are selective, 5 are not, and one seems to go back and forth. Collectively, there is comfortably more club “capacity” than there is student body to fill it. All of the clubs except one accept more students than not. (The one exception is the smallest selective club, which usually takes about 40% of students who try.) If you want to join a non-selective club, you WILL get into one. Students can sign up for the non-selective clubs in groups up to six. A computer picks the new members and, chances are, you’ll get into your first choice club with up to five of your friends. Even two groups of six trying together have pretty good odds of both making it into their top pick.

    “Philntex,” you summarize the Princeton social landscape very well. Residential colleges are a terrific idea and, at Princeton, you get two years of that experience. After that, if you like that concept of a smaller social infrastructure within a larger university, the eating clubs are the ultimate “personal comfort zone,” as “Foreigngrad” aptly puts it. If you want something less intimate, you can choose from a variety of options, whether structured (another two years of residential college), unstructured (cook for yourself or eat at the Frist Campus Center) or something in-between (joining a student-run co-op, where you plan your meals and cook together).

    “Inhaven,” you ask a great question. In contrast to the stereotype, I think eating clubs are actually MORE inclusive than residential colleges. Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of residential colleges, both at Princeton as well as Harvard and Yale. But at 400-500 students each, compare them in size to your high school class. They’re still big enough that you can’t know everybody well. As a result, there’s still the phenomenon where the African-American students are more likely to sit at one table, the Latino students at another, etc. Similarly, the athletes and artsy types also hang out together. Name any standard high school clique and it probably applies to some extent. When you don’t know everybody, you tend to self-select toward those you know best. That’s simple human nature and true on every campus in America.

    But the eating clubs, at 100-150 members each, are small enough that you DO know everybody in your club. You see them every day. That familiarity makes all the difference in the social dynamic. The clubs are a true social mélange. If you visit a club during meal time, I GUARANTEE that you will not see the African-American students at their own table, athletes at another and so forth. (Parenthetically, even the clubs with the most aristocratic reputations have had African-American presidents in recent years.) Now, I’ll concede that, while each of Princeton’s residential colleges has almost exactly a 28% minority presence (the overall percentage on campus), the percentage at the clubs is generally lower than that. Critics like to seize upon this as prima facie evidence that the clubs are divisive. But I assert that, at the eating clubs, there is more GENUINE interaction between various cliques than there is in any residential college, at Princeton or anywhere else. Which is more important, having exactly the same 28% proportion in every single residential college or promoting STRONG bonds between people of different backgrounds?

    Here’s one snippet of perspective. When the eating clubs elect new officers every year (president, social chairman, dining chairman, etc.), in contrast to every other student election I’ve ever seen, there are no posters or speeches -- no campaigning at all, for that matter. At my club, we took nominees on a Wednesday, held a vote the following Friday, announced the new officers that night over dinner, gave them a standing ovation and threw a big party that night –- simple as that. The point is that there’s no need for campaigning because everybody ALREADY knows everybody as well as possible.

    It comes back to a point in my original post. If, as a minority student or anybody else, you want the eating club experience, you will find a warm, welcoming reception. If clubs aren’t your cup of tea, for whatever reason, Princeton offers more other options for you than any college I know of.

    “Inhaven,” I think you hit the nail right on the head. Your comfort level will depend on your open-mindedness. As with any human organization, if you EXPECT not to feel welcome, you probably won’t feel welcome. But if you come with an open mind, it’s quite likely that you’ll be very comfortable, I assure you.
  • astrixastrix Registered User Posts: 2,439 Senior Member
    eating clubs sound fun. okay, i just want a post in a featured thread...

    They should feature more threads. I nominate the ED Lounge. Are they looking for informational threads? Fun and games.

    And when the day comes, Astrix.
  • gracilisaegracilisae Registered User Posts: 1,409 Senior Member
    "Tempus fugit, darlings: The House Party season draws nigh.

    No, banish those reminiscences of the 1990 Kid n' Play comedy classic from your heads. It's time to get yourself a date; this is real upper class stuff. This is Princeton.

    College, the viewbooks tell us, is a romp through new ideas, horizon-broadening diversity, an awakening of the mind, the spirit, and the intellect in the face of things never before tasted. Well, I contend, the best way to get one's mind so bent * legally * is to hit the highways and watch other hapless undergraduates stagger through their own little worlds. After all, even if Cambridge is the center of the universe, we must remember that there are other institutions in our galaxy.

    Take Princeton, for example. The Princetonian lifestyle—a gin, rep-tie, and beavercoat c-cktail—is unique, surely, on this planet. You haven't been to College if you haven't partied in that enchanted and olive-garnished world of Scott and Zelda. And the best time to take it all in is during the House Party season.

    Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the Princeton campus and partaking in the biannual event they call House Parties. The high point of the Princeton social calendar, the House Party season consists of three-day bashes put on by the university's eating clubs, those élite institutions that feed by day and funnel by night. And if you're headed to a House Party, unless you're a member of the, ehem, alternative-flavored Terrance Club, you need a date.

    My date was a member of the Tower Club. If you'll recall, that's the same club I frequented during my much-celebrated spring break sojurn. Tower attracts Social Studies and Government types, Hillel and IGP sorts of people, with the exception that they like to hang out and get loose together. When in Rome...

    Heading toward Friday night's formal, I confess I was impressed. Guys looked spiffy in their penguin suits. Their well-coifed dates dazzled in colorful gowns. Tender was the night. And we hadn't even arrived at the club yet.

    The warm-up began at six with a sushi bar and, better still, an open bar—the two sweetest words in a college student's vocabulary. There was mingling and much taking of pictures and then a sit-down dinner, several courses long. Dancing followed, with, of course, some drinking and an excellent live swing band mamboed the assembled as young men and women twirled in one of the club's spacious rooms.

    Swing being swing, and not to the liking of some, we also had a chance to "club hop," and see what was happening at the other eating clubs on Princeton's aptly-named Prospect Street. Each had an open door policy, any student from any club dressed to party could enter. I made the grand tour. In case you hadn't heard, the clubs have various characters.

    For example, if, at the Ivy League's southernmost school, it's Southern gentleman and ladies you seek, visit Cottage Club. Cloister Club, home to the aquatic athletes, is the place to go if you're hoping to walk through the looking glass and into the fields and football games of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. If John Belushi's portrayal of John 'Bluto' Blutarsky in Animal House is the most moving piece of cinematic expression you've ever seen, then it's Tiger Inn ("TI" in the P'ton lexicon) for you. Just drink a lot of water.

    At the parties, every club supplied its own band and the whole event made for quite a spectacle. Students-turned-socialites strolled up and down Prospect Street all evening, hopping from club to club, making merry withal, and even chatting with passersby. By 2 in the morning, things were winding down, because, frankly, you had to pace yourself and get some sleep before day two.

    Tower hosted a beautiful brunch on Saturday that continued on into the afternoon, followed by a few hours of dead time for recuperation. That, of course, was the time when a bad date's boorishness can really, well, bore. I recommend bringing a friend or two for just this reason. Eventually, however, the interminable must terminate, and we settled in for a carnival like dinner, with international cuisine served against the backdrop of a mariachi bank, a magician, and a 'helium artist' who made us all hats out of balloons.

    After chatting and changing for the evening's activities, we made for Quipfire, the campus' sidesplitting improv comedy group. Once again, we danced and replenished ourselves t the open bar, though in the second night the music seemed a bit more like typical dance music. The hemlines were distinctly higher. Tiger tiger burning bright.

    In the morning, not too many hours later, Tower's officers whipped up an amazing brunch, complete with infinite streams of champagne. A Springfest-like live performance followed on the club's lawn, which (unlike Springfest) was booze friendly. Local band Clad opened as caffeine or champagne was just kicking in. Dancing picked up as Agents of Good Roots played. If you're at all into the Dave Matthews scene, this band was well worth it.

    Oh, what a way to spend a Sunday—lolling around on cushy red couches on the lawn of an eating club, pleasantly tipsy and grooving to an amazing live band. A visitor's envy was by this point nearly overwhelming. Why is it again that Harvard doesn't have something like this?

    "If Harvard had a slightly different housing system and a slightly different range of student diversity . . . then, yes, we could swing a three-day party," comments the sage C.W. Cox '02. "We could set it up outside Nassau Hall near the eating clubs. And be Princeton."

    Ahh, for New Jersey."
  • gracilisaegracilisae Registered User Posts: 1,409 Senior Member
    Just wanted to explain the above post - the article was too long for an explanation to fit.

    Googling "Princeton eating clubs" because I am that lame on a Friday night, fantasizing about future night-out amusement, and this came up oh-so-entertainingly.... Thought you all would enjoy.

    I really, really need to get in to P-ton. *siiigh*

    Article Info:
    by Melissa Rose Langsam
  • philntexphilntex Registered User Posts: 3,186 Senior Member
    Ahhhh, and so my already infinite desire to get into Princeton is multiplied yet again...lol, I'd never realized Princeton was the southern-most Ivy. How fitting for me :)

    Many thanks as always, lisae
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