This year marked a landmark event in Princeton University’s history and the equalization of gender roles in leadership on Prospect Street. Nine out of eleven of the eating clubs voted to elect female Presidents.
It was just 49 years ago, the fall of 1969, when Princeton University began admitting women as freshman at the University. A video published by 1080princeton cuts together a history of the clubs since 1970, including footage of Sally Frank ’80 speaking on the importance of recognizing that just because the status quo has been accepted in the past doesn’t mean it should continue into the future:
“I have respect for good traditions, but there are a lot of traditions I have no respect for in this country. I don’t have respect for sexism, which is a tradition in this country. I don’t have respect for racism, which is a tradition in this country, or slavery, which was a tradition in this country. So, you know, there are traditions and there are traditions.”
It was not until 1991, a mere 27 years ago, that all eating clubs became coed as a result of a sex discrimination suit filed by Sally Frank, now a law professor at Drake University. The last holdouts were Cottage Club, Ivy Club, and Tiger Inn, who were forced by the suit to accept women. Even in 2011, a report by the Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership, published an extensive report that outlined a persistent lack of female leadership across campus. There was a surge of female leadership in the clubs in the early 2000’s, but graphs show that it then dipped drastically and hasn’t seen steady increase again since 2015.
The video includes interviews with each of the new female presidents, who are all as different as the clubs themselves. Recurrent themes emerge, however: being role models for women on campus and the University as a whole, reinforcing safety in the clubs, and being inclusive in club culture. While women have held many other officer roles at the clubs to date, the significance of this election brings these women together around the table to represent their clubs at the Inter-Club Council (ICC), where they can work together to develop consistent policies and practices across all clubs in addition to within their individual clubs.
Cannon President Julia Haney ’19 says, “I really want to work on… coming up with banners and policies that we can promote throughout the club regarding behaviors we want to endorse while we’re here, to remind people who visit our club, as well as our members, that these are the policies we want to abide by as Cannon members and really want to exemplify throughout the Princeton community.” Kimberly Peterson ’19, President of Colonial, echoes this statement in her embodiment of “the aloha spirit, which is essentially a culture of being extraordinarily friendly and welcoming and open and helpful to anyone that you meet, whether it’s a family friend or a complete stranger.”
In an age where the majority of America’s board rooms and political stages are consistently male dominated, this election looks not just towards the future of Princeton’s on-campus life, but towards a future where equality in leadership roles continues to expand and become more representative of our diverse nation.