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These past few weeks have seen radical social and political events on a monumental scale, but one would hardly know it from reading or watching traditional sources of media. While mainstream news outlets have preoccupied themselves with the iPhone 7 or Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia, historic strikes have occurred across India and within U.S. prisons, and Native American activists across the country have organized remarkable opposition to the North Dakota pipeline.
As I read through the fall semester program calendar for the Women’s Center, one event in particular caught my attention. For the first time since I’ve been a student here, Princeton University is sponsoring a discussion on female masturbation. I’ve heard of other schools hosting such talks for women students, but it’s a huge deal for Princeton.
The pre-frosh of last year are now officially students at Princeton and have been initiated into the Princeton experience: that magical four-year span of time in which you grow as a person and meet the wonderful people who will be your friends for the rest of your life. Along the way, you’re supposed to belong to a billion extracurricular clubs that will forever enrich the fabric of your being. I am no one to contradict this wonderful prophecy —I’m waiting for it to come true for myself. However, I’d like to add a grain of salt to the latter half of it. Equipped with all the wisdom accumulated over a year of being a Princeton student, I would like to address the freshmen directly when I say: extracurricular activities will be only as important in your life at Princeton as you make them.
Take a moment to answer this riddle: A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon says, “I cannot do the surgery because this is my son.” How is this possible?
Princeton needs to fix some seriously absurd rules. I think most students agree that the new $200 ($200!) fine for propping a dorm door is ridiculous. Also, if you’re anything like me, your first thought after you heard about the Nude Olympics was, “someone needs to bring this back immediately.” But Princeton isn’t going to change these things, so I’ll settle for advocating for an important change that I think has potential: removing the requirement to wear shoes in the dining hall.
As we were all packing to either first arrive or return to Princeton, fall semester had already begun at most other colleges. And along with the return of classes came the return of the debate over trigger warnings. This fall the debate was re-triggered, so to speak, by a letter to all freshmen against such notices from the Dean of Undergraduate Students at the University of Chicago.
This Olympic season was very much one of firsts — ranging from the to-be-confirmed retirement of the most decorated Olympian in history (Phelps may yet attempt another resurgence), to the first U.S. Olympian to compete in a hijab; from the first South American host city, to the first ever refugee team to compete in the storied Games. As classes at Princeton resumed, many of us still coasted on the excitement of the summer’s events, bolstered as we are by the presence of Olympians in our midst. Yet the Games aren’t over — not completely. In fact, they’re still ongoing, and the Paralympic Games conclude in just a few days.
Editor’s Note: This article does not representthe views of the ‘Prince’.
The discussion of cultural appropriation seems to have hit a fever pitch in American cultural discourse, with a flurry of outrage prompted by every alleged transgression. The discussion of food can strike a particular nerve with its intersection of race, culture, and prejudice, and that’s precisely what happened when last week, a Bon Appétit article originally titled “PSA: This is How You Should be Eating Pho,” kicked off a yet another controversy about authenticity and cultural appropriation, specifically within the Asian-American community. In its original form, the article showcased a white Philadelphia chef, Tyler Akin, discussing what he believed to be the proper way to enjoy a bowl of pho, a traditionally Vietnamese noodle soup. Among other things, he demonstrated what he believed was the proper way to pick up noodles with chopsticks and enjoy the rich soup broth. Following the ensuing online opprobrium, Bon Appétit issued an apology, changed the title of the article, and took down the accompanying video. Though the condescending tone of the original article was certainly objectionable, the much more interesting conversation that ensued revolved around the issue of cultural authenticity.
The first time I was given a trigger warning was as an admitted student during the SHARE-sponsored “Not Anymore” module focused on sexual consent. Prior to this time, I had little notion of a trigger warning and no idea that in this harsh and obscene world there were ways to not be constantly reminded of such grief, both physically and psychologically.
As I sat down in front of the television and prepared to watch the start of the Democratic National Convention with my family, I was worried. I never imagined that this election would evolve into such a disconcerting excuse for a race. Recent mishaps like the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and conflict within the Democratic party meant that I was not a casual viewer. I needed to hear what party members had to say about our aspirations for the immediate and the distant future. And I needed a bit of reassurance from the only candidates and the only party in this election that I feel represent American values.
One of the most striking speeches at the Democratic National Convention was delivered by a group called the “Mothers of the Movement,” some of the mothers of black Americans killed at the hands of law enforcement, official or otherwise. They spoke powerfully about the tragedy they lived through, watching their children lowered into a grave well before their time. They spoke of the promise Hillary Clinton represents, an advocate for black lives who will “protect our children,” and urged voters to support “the one mother who can ensure [their] movement will succeed.”
It is one thing to take to the streets in protest of social inequality, but another to advocate for change using existing institutions. Looking back at the Democratic National Convention, there seemed to be a lot of unhappy people on the floor of the DNC and in the streets of Philadelphia after Bernie Sanders conceded the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. In a recent New Republic article, Emmett Rensin wrote about how many of these Sanders supporters “valued something, and lost it. They believed in something, and have seen it frustrated. They now believe, and perhaps rightly so, that this loss will bring more pain to themselves and others, will make the world worse than it might have been.”
On the right wall in Courtney Banghart’s office is a framed article: Fortune Magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders from 2015. There, her name and accomplishments are listed alongside people such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Banghart’s lead of the Princeton women’s basketball team to a 30-0 regular season, and the first NCAA win in the program’s history, earned her a continuous spotlight all season long.
As I stood in the middle of the Wilson School’s Fountain of Freedom after submitting my senior thesis, I could not help but feel, hidden beneath the watery surface and among the cold stone tiles, a lurking sense of self-doubt.
When I first stepped on Princeton’s campus four years ago, I could not imagine all the ways I would grow before walking out of FitzRandolph Gate again. My expectations were that of any incoming freshman: I would learn from professors who were experts in their field. I would become a better writer and critical thinker through my academic and extracurricular work. I would gain a new sense of direction concerning my professional interests and pursuits. I did not, however, want Princeton to change me fundamentally. Hundreds of miles away from my family, friends and the only home I had ever known, I feared what would happen if I let Old Nassau erode what had grounded my identity — my Louisiana roots, my Jamaican and Ethiopian culture and the people I had loved from all these places.
The Office of International Programs at Princeton University posts lots of post-graduate fellowships. 54 to be exact. The fellowships provide potential opportunities for Princeton students to continue their education in the US or abroad in a wide range of topics, from studying the Senegalese language of Wolof to atmospheric sciences, oceanography or hydrology.
Editor’s note: The author of this column was granted anonymity due to the intensely personal nature of the events described.
April’s referenda came and went with no great shock to the University community. Neither the appeal to divest from private prisons nor the call to create a taskforce to reevaluate disciplinary action around the Honor Code succeeded. However, controversy has arisen over the fact that, in both cases, there was a majority in favor of change among students who voted. The referenda failed because, in both cases, they did not achieve the required participation of a third of the student body.