Princeton Grad Charges Eating Clubs With Discrimination Against Women

Princeton University's three all-male upperclass eating clubs may soon be forced to admit women, if a sex-discrimination complaint filed by a female former student is successful.

Sally Frank, a 1980 graduate who is now a fellow at Antioch Law School, originally filed her administrative complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights in December of 1979. She claimed that she was denied membership in Princeton's all-male clubs--the Cottage, the Ivy, and the Tiger Inn--on the basis of her sex.

The Civil Rights Division originally ruled that it had no jurisdiction over private eating clubs because they are not "public accomodations," but Frank appealed and the ruling was reversed last May.

Now Princeton and the three clubs will be the defendants when the complaint is heard by an administrative law judge in December. Besides her goal of forcing the clubs to go coed, Frank is seeking damages, attorney's fees, and admission to the clubs.

"I want membership as an alumna," she said.


Princeton spokesman Justin Harmon said that while the university is opposed to any kind of discrimination, it has no jurisdiction over the privately owned and managed eating clubs.

"They are private social clubs over which the university excercises no control," he said.

But Frank sees the university's connection with the clubs as being far more significant.

"We did a tremendous amount of research and uncovered a tremendous amount of regulation of the clubs by the university," she said.

As an example, Frank cited a 1972 memo from the university to the clubs stipulating that sophomores could not be made full club members. Princeton also advertises the clubs, she said, discussing them prominently in the "social life" section of its recruiting materials.

Ivy Club Social Chairman Lewis A. Lukens would say only that, "We are fighting the case and plan to continue fighting it." He added that the club's undergraduate members vote every year on whether to admit women.

Tiger Inn officers had no comment, and Cottage Club officials were not available for comment.

All but five of Princeton's 13 eating clubs are now completely open, Harmon said, and two of those that do still use the selective "bicker" admission process are coed. About 70 percent of upperclassmen are members of eating clubs.