Yazigi - At Ivy Club, A Trip Back to Elitism

Yazigi - At Ivy Club, A Trip Back to Elitism - New York...

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May 16, 1999: New York Times At Ivy Club, A Trip Back to Elitism By MONIQUE P. YAZIGI SHOULD the members of the Ivy Club ever face the withering scrutiny of a Fifth Avenue co-op board or a Fairfield County country club, they will be well prepared. To get into Ivy, the oldest, most expensive and most patrician eating club at Princeton University, candidates must sit for 10 one-on-one interviews with members, whose attempts to plumb their souls touch on what their parents do, where they spend summers and who their friends are. Then the entire century-old club votes on prospects in all-night sessions. Like an English men's club, there is a blackball rule: if one of 130 members vetoes a candidate, he or she is rejected -- ''hosed'' in the tart campus vernacular. Lately, more and more students are being hosed who don't fit Ivy's image as a haven for Eastern establishment, Social Register types, what one former member called ''a club full of sons and daughters of C.E.O.'s.'' At Princeton, where more than 80 percent of juniors and seniors eat meals in one of 11 privately owned clubs on Prospect Avenue, known as ''the Street,'' the eating clubs dominate social life. They determine not only the students' dinner partners but also whom they socialize with on Thursday and Saturday party nights, and in some cases they can imprint a person's identity for life. A few years ago, in the wake of a widely reported 1990 court decision that forced Princeton's eating clubs to admit women, Ivy became more democratic and socially open. Not only women, but also students of different races and more diverse social backgrounds were welcomed during ''bicker,'' the yearly selection process. ''I remember meetings, open discussions about changing the perception of the club,'' said Sophie Glenn of Princeton's class of '92, who was one of the first women admitted to Ivy. ''It was brought up that it would be in the club's interest to be more diverse, especially in the backgrounds of people, because it was always perceived as a snotty place for rich white kids. ''There was a conscious effort to diversify,'' she said. But now the pendulum is swinging back, in part a reflection of an increasingly status-conscious, money-conscious era. The race for credentials and connections like an Ivy membership begins, at least in places like New York and Los Angeles, with selective nursery schools, and is incited by a culture that makes popular heroes out of Wall Street's winners. Today, Ivy has fewer members from minority groups and public schools than in the early 90's, present and past members say. Atu Darko, a senior who dropped out of Ivy in February, was one of four of nine black members who left the eating club in the last academic year, citing their discomfort. ''When I first got there, it was more international, but over the years it became very
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WASP,'' said Mr. Darko, who is the son of Ghanaian immigrants and graduated from the Bronx
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