On Friday, Feb. 17, I observed the most exciting college tour of my life. As a prospective Orange Key tour guide, I must observe several tours of campus — a dull requirement, for the most part. On this day, I expected a simple stroll through the typical route — until Shrek interrupted my Princeton tour.
Yes, it was Shrek. The large green ogre of a fraternity pledge ran out from behind Witherspoon Hall wearing nothing but body paint and a pair of boxer, and singing, or rather screaming, the entirety of Smash Mouth’s “All Star.” The ogre didn’t know many of the words, and his improvisation, complete with mumbles and profanity, was horrific. The tour guide didn’t know how to react. He asked, unsuccessfully, for the ogre to leave, then fell silent for the rest of the performance.
But the audience loved it: cameras in nearly everyone’s hands, embarrassed smiles on nearly everyone’s faces. When the ogre finished, he departed confidently, letting the prospective students know that someday they’d make it to Princeton.
As a student, I found the performance hilarious. Aside from pity for the tour guide, I was flooded with positive emotions. But for prospective students, this first impression of Princeton may discourage them from applying or enrolling.
What went through the prospective students’ heads? What did their families think? Orange Key tours stress that fraternities and sororities are not recognized on campus and that no more than 10 percent of students participate in Greek life. Substandard first impressions — like rowdy students interrupting tours — can deter prospective students who value these claims.
Ultimately, Princeton is a university much like any other: Greek life exists. Pledging and hazing are bound to present themselves, but they should not be presented so forthrightly to prospective students and their families, who may leave thinking Princeton is an ogre’s swamp.
Jared Shulkin is a freshman from Weston, Fla. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.