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- PRINCETON CRITICAL OF FRATERNITIES, BUT RECOGNIZES RIGHT TO JOIN
Newsletter > November 2006 > "PRINCETON CRITICAL OF FRATERNITIES, BUT RECOGNIZES RIGHT TO JOIN"
PRINCETON CRITICAL OF FRATERNITIES, BUT RECOGNIZES RIGHT TO JOIN
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
“I pledge myself, without any mental reservation, that I will have no connection whatever, with any secret society in this institution as long as I am a member of the Princeton University; it being understood that this promise has no reference to the American Wig & Cliosophic Societies. I also declare that I regard myself bound to keep this promise and on no account whatever to violate it.”
In 1855, that pledge was required to be signed by each student at Princeton University and remained required, according to the University catalog, until 1939-1940.
This summer, in recognition of the growth of fraternities and sororities among Princeton students, the University took steps to discourage membership but not to prohibit it. In July, the Vice President for campus life and the Dean of undergraduate students sent a letter to the members of the Class of 2010 and their parents and guardians, specifically addressing the role of fraternities and sororities at Princeton. University officials voiced a particular concern that students were being asked to choose a fraternity or sorority very early in their freshman year.
“Princeton does not officially recognize fraternities and sororities because we do not believe that, in general, they contribute in positive ways to the overall residential experience on campus. They can contribute to a sense of social exclusiveness, and in the cases of some fraternities, they detract from the quality of the residential experience by placing an excessive emphasis on alcohol. We are especially concerned when students elect to participate in fall rush their freshman year, thereby restricting themselves to one set of activities and acquaintances before they have had a full opportunity to explore a variety of interests and develop a diverse set of friendships.”
While making it clear that they strongly discouraged membership in fraternities or sororities, the letter also made it equally clear that the university does not prohibit membership in fraternities or sororities.
Princeton argued that the university offers an extensive array of extra-curricular activities which they encourage their students to take part in. The letter specifically referenced the long history of independent eating clubs which have been associated with Princeton for well over a century. University officials neglected to point out that some of the eating clubs refused to accept female members until required to do so by the New Jersey Supreme Court.1 Most juniors and seniors associate with one or another of these clubs and apply for membership at the beginning of the spring semester of their sophomore year.
Princeton’s position of discouraging fraternity membership but respecting a student’s right to choose to join a fraternity anyway contrasts sharply with the position taken by Dickinson College which has led to litigation. (See accompanying article for an update.)
1 Frank v. Ivy Club, 576 A.2d 241 (N.J. 1990).