After a year of everything from honor code reform to snow storms, the Daily Princetonian took a look at what left an impact at the end of the academic year.
During the first semester, the University unveiled the product of thousands of hours of work of reflection in the Princeton and Slavery Project, an academic exploration of the University’s historical engagement with slavery. The idea and ultimate result of the project was started by a class led by Martha Sandweiss, who went on to become its director. The final symposium featured professor emerita Toni Morrison as a keynote speaker and a variety of performances and conversations on the topic. The University continues to delve deeper and assess the impact of the research.
With the backdrop of the MeToo movement this past year, the ‘Prince’ revealed allegations against a professor in the German department, as well as the department’s alleged culture of gender discrimination. In the Department of Electrical Engineering, the ‘Prince’ also reported on the Title IX investigation into Professor Sergio Verdú, who was eventually found responsible for sexual harassment.
Student government experienced many important shifts over the year. After intense campaigning on everything from mental health to Lawnparties, Rachel Yee ’19 was elected the new Undergraduate Student Government . Her presidency marked the continuation of unprecedented female leadership on campus. Among the eating clubs, too, women took on the yoke of leadership; for the first time nine of eleven elected eating club presidents are women.
Student activism also heated up. USG members and other undergraduates organized and campaigned to reform the Honor Code, citing blatant misuse of power and unfair practices towards students. The elections saw four referenda to reform the Honor Code passed by the student body but stayed by the administration. Ultimately, the University recommended against two of the referenda, suggested revisions to another, while allowing the fourth, concerning how witnesses were informed of their status, to go through.
Immediately after intersession, Professor Lawrence Rosen created controversy with his decision to repeatedly use the word n****r in one of his classes as part of a pedagogical method. It prompted a visceral student reaction. Some students spoke back during the class, some dropped out, and still others joined, but eventually the class was cancelled.
Over spring break, Scott Mielentz entered the Panera at 136 Nassau St. with a weapon and prompted a standoff with police. After five hours of negotiation, Mielentz was ultimately killed by police. Following the shooting, further investigation found that he had only been armed with a BB gun.
“The most shocking thing [this year] was the Panera incident,” said Nadin Mukhtar ’21. “It was a moment of realizing that something like this can happen to anyone. I regularly eat at Panera, and it made me ask what if I had been there, or what if the situation has escalated even more.”
Natural events also heavily influenced the campus community and its response to them, with Nor’easters tearing through the state in March and leaving large amounts of snowfall and an unusually large number of fallen trees. The second semester also featured the second successful deer break-in within the past two years, with a deer crashing through a window in Wu Hall but eventually emerging unscathed.
On the more administrative side of campus, the University received significant student pushback against proposed amendments to the Dining Plan, which would require independent students to still have a meal plan. The plan to experience revision, the only portion being implemented being the requirement for all first-year students to be on the unlimited dining plan. The University currently is requesting further student responses, holding panels and other events for students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, to submit their input.
Of the academic decisions conclusively made this year, few others may be more impactful to future members of the University than that of the changes made to the University’s . The changes place fall exams in December and propose the implementation of a Wintersession, a flexible two-week space in January for students to work on independent work or pursue internships. The changes will take effect for the 2020–21 school year.
“I’m graduating in 2020, so I won’t be able to be reap the rewards of having exams before winter break,” said Rafael Tafur ’20. “However, I do feel like this is a great step forward in terms of being in line with other Universities and for scheduling for those who want to take internships or want to find work in the winter.”
The year also saw the implementation of new certificate programs in Asian American Studies and Journalism, after significant amounts of planning, advocacy, and hard work on the part of students and faculty alike.
Significant administrative changes such as certificate opportunities, calendar reform, and student advocacy on issues such as honor code reform will leave a lasting legacy for future students.