Student-initiated campaign seeks to archive records of on-campus activism| Apr 18, 2016
Princeton University Archives acquisitioned records from 15 different student organizations after a week-long campaign to collect documents on campus activism, said Jarrett Drake, a digital archivist at the University Archives.
The initiative was spearheaded by Chase Hommeyer ’19, a student worker at the archives. Hommeyer explained that the project, which took place between April 7 and 15, was inspired by the notion that there is an absence of activism on campus.
“I think there’s this perception that Princeton students don’t act. People from outside [the University] don’t perceive Princeton as active on any issues,” she said.
However, Hommeyer noted that she felt the protests that occurred across campus last November were more in line with “Princetonian” values, such as being in the nation's service.
“I thought it was important that we don’t remain closed-mind when looking back and that we think about these protests with more respect,” she said.
Last semester, the protests by the Black Justice League drew a wide array of responses from students. The Daily Princetonian Editorial Board authored an op-ed arguing against renaming the Wilson school.
Hommeyer further noted that traditionally, University archives have only preserved official documents, such as records pertinent to the Board of Trustees and the administration. However, recently, more forward-thinking archivists have observed the importance of documenting student events, an aspect previously neglected, she said.
As a part of the campaign to garner student participation, Hommeyer wrote nine different emails delivered to listservs that drew attention to the history of campus activism in the last century.
In one email, Hommeyer wrote that in April 1970, “2,500 Princeton students gathered in the Chapel to protest war escalation. [And] almost 200 students turned in their draft cards in protest.”
Hommeyer worked with Drake to process the documents that were collected, she said.
Drake explained that during the acquisition period, the archives received photographs, email exchanges and many other mediums that are currently being processed and filed digitally.
According to Drake, the student organizations that submitted the records determine the time at which the records can be accessed by the public. While some records can be accessed immediately, others may not be available after some time, Drake said.
All archived records will be accessible through the Mudd Library finding aid, Drake said.
Though the official deadline for submission was last Friday, Drake said that her team will still accept student submissions, since they will not be processed until later this week.
Drake also explained that more and more records created by campus organizations are being recorded digitally. Notably, the Class of 2017 student records are all being made digitally, Drake said.
Briana Christophers ’17, who submitted documents from the Latinx Collective during the initiative, stated that she participated in the project “to preserve the work that many Latinx students have contributed in recent years toward making Princeton a more inclusive place.”
“Many of us wished that records existed of previous Latinx student activism, such as the ethnic studies sit-in in 1995, and therefore I wanted to be proactive in preserving our own work for the future,” she said.
The Latinx Collective is an unofficial student organization that was formed in the fall of 2015 to support Latinx students on campus, according to Christophers.
“Included in the submission are some of our exchanges with administrators, in addition to the document that was released in November 2015 titled, 'Latinx Students Calling for a Better Princeton,'" Christophers explained.
Additionally, Christophers said that she provided the records with photos of the Latinx Town Hall that was held on Nov. 18, 2015.
I believe it is crucial to preserve this information both in memory of current events but also to hold the University accountable for future initiatives,” she added.
In the coming years, the archives will explore possibilities of initiating other acquisition projects with diverse themes, Drake said. Next year, there may be a collection project focused on cultural identities, for example, he added.