Princeton Women Were Once Barred From These Clubs – Now, They Run Them

Princeton University’s eating clubs are important social events for many students – and despite a history of sexist behavior and barring women, Princeton women have recently been in the spotlight for securing leadership roles in them.

Tiger Inn via Joe Shlabotnik
Tiger Inn via Joe Shlabotnik

Currently, four of these clubs are headed by women, which is the highest total since 2002. “I think the consensus that the club came to this year is that we’re establishing a culture where women are running, and women are winning,” Liz Lian, a 22-year-old senior in Princeton’s Ivy Club, told The New York Times.

Tiger Inn elected Grace Larsen president this week, making her the first woman to head up one of the university’s oldest eating clubs. The club isn’t without its own internal gender discord: two officers were removed last fall for sending sexist emails, and someone spray-painted the words “rape haven” on the club’s stone fence late last year. Princeton began admitting women in 1969, but Tiger Inn and another group named Ivy Club only began admitting women after a 1990 court order demanded it.

Sally Frank, a 55-year-old alumna of Princeton, took on the lawsuit that eventually made Tiger Inn admit women. Frank was one of the people targeted by the sexist emails sent by the now-removed officers. Frank is glad to see Larsen elected as president of the club. “It’s extremely gratifying,” Frank said. “The election isn’t going to end all sexism on Princeton’s campus. But it can help.”

Ivy Club also recently elected a female president, Eliza Mott. She’s the second in the club’s history. Mott, who studies art history and is president of SpeakOut Princeton, a student group that addresses sexual violence and encourages consent, says she is excited that there is more female representation in these leadership roles on campus.

“It’s an important thing to have female representation,” 20-year-old Mott told The New York Times. “Perceptions change and new precedents are set.”

These gains for women in leadership at Princeton have not been consistent. A 2011 report showed that despite a relatively even division of the student body between men and women, “there has been a pronounced drop-off in the representation of women in these prominent posts since 2000.” The report found that women are often discouraged from leadership roles or undersell their own abilities. And, last fall, Princeton was found to be in violation of Title IX regulations due to the way administration dealt with sexual harassment and assault complaints.

Media Resources: The New York Times 2/20/2015, 12/1/2014; 11/13/2014

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