By Caroline Shifke ’12
“Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out – here’s what you really need to know that nobody is telling you. Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.” Susan Patton, Princeton ’77
In 2013, Susan Patton wrote a controversial letter to The Daily Princetonian, in which she advised undergraduate women at Princeton to use their time wisely and find a husband while at school. The article, which gained national attention, sparked heated debates about gender equality on college campuses. A year later, President Obama released a public service announcement with a staggering statistic – one in five women on college campuses is sexually harassed.
Questions about gender and women at colleges are increasingly central not only to the national dialogue but also to undergraduates themselves.
When I visited Ivy in February for a Roundtable discussion, I spoke with a group of undergraduate members who were eager to raise important questions about female leadership on campus. I was excited by the vibrancy and energy the students brought to the conversation – and was more than a little nostalgic for the years I spent as an undergraduate member of the Ivy Club. “This year, there has been a lot of conversation across Princeton’s campus about the lack of women women in leadership positions,” said Eliza Mott ’16, newly elected Ivy Undergraduate President. “In that context, Ivy has been an especially active and open place for discussing issues of gender and leadership. I think the club’s fostering of discussion and personal growth, as well as our environment of acceptance, has made Ivy a leader amongst the eating clubs and at the University in general.”
It was clear to me that Ivy continues to foster a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect. The conversations in which the undergraduates are engaging are important, and the Board of Governors is as committed to the significant questions raised by the membership.
Ivy’s Board of Governors reflected on the recent harassment challenges on campus during its winter meeting, and affirmed its commitment to ensuring personal safety, equality and inclusion at the Club. Board and undergraduate officers are working together to identify preventative measures that deter harassment and strengthen the Club’s supportive culture. As Board Governor Charles Lowrey ’79 expressed, “Culture is everything. The tone of an institution is created by its members through a combination of their attitudes and the innate character of the environment. At Ivy, we attempt to create an atmosphere of mutual respect that discourages incidents of harassment and provides an open, comfortable forum for the discussion of issues.”
Ivy, like its namesake vine, is a living institution that constantly strives to adapt and grow. We might not have solved all the issues of gender equality in one fell swoop; we are, however, committed to ensuring Ivy is and continues to be an institution that all members – regardless of gender or sexuality – can call home.