About a month ago, I opened an email asking me, “What would you do with ten thousand dollars?” It wasn’t spam from Groupon or some Nigeria prince asking for a ticket to the states; it was our University Student Government telling me I could win ten thousand dollars if I went to a basketball game dressed up with school spirit and got picked to take a half court shot and made it. Then I would be a “Princeton legend,” not to mention $10,000 richer.
Obviously, the chosen contestant didn’t make the shot. The chances were pretty slim. Also USG would be kicking themselves pretty hard if he or she had. But the fact that there was even the offer of such an event is what gets me. It’s not about the amount of money. That money could have been hypothetically promised for other purposes, but it was never really going to exist anyway. The real question is, why have this entire event in the first place?
I understand the student government’s need, by nature, to spread school spirit and encourage us to support our teams. I don’t think this did that, though. Everyone probably read the email, like I did, and threw it straight in the trash along with most of the other emails that I receive and would unsubscribe from if I could.
Perhaps I’m coming off a bit cynical, but I don’t think I’m underplaying my reaction. If this were a singular event, I wouldn’t care. But this exemplifies this part of our culture here in which we sometimes do things just to do them.
To me, this is not an isolated type of occurrence. For example, Ronan O’Brien reported on March 7, 2013 about the new Princeton Tobacco Policy Group, formed in collaboration with the Pace Center, to raise awareness about secondhand smoking. Secondhand smoke has got to be one of the least important issues to address on this campus. And I can say with a pretty high degree of confidence that I’m not just unaware of some larger issue or that I’m ignorant to the effects of secondhand smoke. It is just an issue, if we want to call it that, which just does not warrant the formation of a group.
There are so many clubs, organizations and coalitions around campus like this. There are clubs that members could drop, replace with another, and not even notice the difference until officer elections came around and they wouldn’t know which person to vote for. I have personally witnessed a club meeting in which the members did nothing but discuss the t-shirt design for half an hour for a t-shirt that most people probably wouldn’t even buy.
The list of student organizations is long and somewhat blurs together; I couldn’t even get past the C’s without getting bored. I don’t need to see three different organizations doing slightly different variations on the same thing, be it fashion or health promotion or international relations discussion or business interaction, let alone see names of clubs that hardly exist seeing as they meet all of once a semester.
It’s easy to become a club or host an activity on this campus. I don’t mean to say that as necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, it’s a great thing. It allows us to form groups and communities of shared or potentially shared interests without roadblocks. It allows us to create groups that don’t have to be serious or to host events based partly on whim. But, it also allows for the creation of groups and events that are entirely surface. And I think this happens more than many of us would care to admit but enough that we are all aware of it. We all know that some, if not many, organizations or events that are nothing substantially more than a name on a paper or an e-mail that we’re going to immediately trash even if we are a part of the hosting organization.
The upshot is this: We have the opportunity to do a lot on this campus and, possibly, to get funding for it. Not only that, but there are people who share the same interests and are willing to create and be a part of something out of the ordinary. That is an incredible thing. But don’t waste that. Don’t devalue it.
Kinnari Shah is a chemical and biological engineering major from Washington, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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