In "This Side of Paradise," F. Scott Fitzgerald celebrated the old all-male Princeton, the college of rich boys and exclusive eating clubs along Prospect Avenue.
Now the graduate board of Cottage Club, once Fitzgerald's hangout at Princeton, has voted to admit women as members. Undergraduates in the club voted against Wednesday's measure by a more than 4-to-1 margin but were overruled by the alumni.
Fitzgerald's club of "brilliant adventurers and well-dressed philanderers" will never be the same.
For 99 years undergraduate men have gone through an admission process known as "bickering" to gain entrance to Cottage. "Bickering" is a sort of high-flown version of fraternity rush. Young men sit through long interviews of questions about what they think of this and that, what their fathers do and so on. Now young women will have the chance to do likewise.
The eating clubs along Prospect Avenue in Princeton, N.J., are a study in the evolving sociology of the college. Some, such as Campus and Colonial, are "open" and coed, depending on lotteries for admission. Cap & Gown is "selective" -- using the "bicker" process -- and coed. With Cottage in a mood to blend the sexes, Ivy and Tiger are now the only clubs left that are still all-male and "selective." Tiger has long been known as a club for flaxen-haired jocks, while Ivy has had a more genteel, Anglophilic air.
"I hope it doesn't happen here," said Ivy Club treasurer Richard Baxter. "As an Ivy man, I'm upset. We have a lot of camaraderie here, and it's a delicate relationship. If you change things, you might ruin it all."
The all-male clubs have been a source of controversy since the college began admitting women in 1969. The situation reached a peak in 1978 when student Sally Frank "bickered" at the clubs as a protest against their policies. She was rejected by the clubs, and at Cottage some members poured beer on her head. She received dozens of obscene phone calls.
After graduating in 1980, Frank pursued both a law degree at New York University and legal action against the clubs. The university contended that the clubs were private and not within its jurisdiction. But in a lawsuit, Frank pressed her claim in the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights that there was, indeed, a strong tie between the university and the clubs, and that therefore the clubs had to abide by more stringent civil rights guidelines. Further hearings in the Frank case are expected next month.
"I'm thrilled that Cottage has decided to join the 20th century and go coed," said Frank, who teaches at Antioch Law School. "I hope other clubs that discriminate in Princeton, in Washington and elsewhere will follow suit. They'll find it's not so bad to have women as members."
This year Princeton sophomore Katharine Greider helped intensify the issue, starting a movement of about 20 women on campus. Her plans to "bicker" next month at the all-male clubs were printed in the Daily Princetonian. Now that Cottage has opened up, she said, "I expect a lot of women are going to join me in 'bickering.' "
Bob Shepardson, president of Cottage, said, "We're going to do our best to attract the best women on campus."