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Dear Princeton University Administration,
It’s funny how life can come full circle sometimes.
Princeton likes to pat itself on the back when it comes to the treatment of first-generation, low income students on campus. Just this academic year, the University has been featured in multiple Washington Post articles and a recent segment of CBS’s “60 Minutes” in praise of the work that is being done to improve FLI students’ Princeton experiences. Despite the positive publicity, the recently proposed and now largely discarded changes to the University dining plan were just the latest evidence of the University failing to understand the outsized impact of proposed changes on the FLI community.
We need more women like Cardi B. The first solo female rapper to top the Billboard 100 in 19 years, she has become a rare voice who is helping redefine #MeToo in entertainment sectors like hip-hop and the adult entertainment business. In those industries, the perception of gender power imbalance is inflated, which has been found to increase the likelihood of sexual assault by those in power. Cardi B is a rare representative for women in those industries who view themselves as taking control of their sexuality, although society may deem their occupations powerless. To shift the dominating perception of women having less power in those industries, we need more women like Cardi.
In early January, Asifa Bano, an 8-year-old girl in Northern India, was repeatedly raped and then murdered after being taken from a meadow where her cows were grazing. Bano was a member of the Bakarwals, a tribe of nomads who wander Northern India and purchase leases on land for their herds. In recent years, there has been a rise of anti-Bakarwal sentiment among the Hindu people in the Northern Kathua region. Police believe that the crime against Bano was perpetrated by at least three men in a nearby temple owned by an anti-Bakarwal leader. As a result, many sources have called Bano’s rape a hate crime against the Muslim Bakarwal people, meant to drive them out of their land. However, this label of a religious hate crime shifts focus from what the crime actually was: the rape of a young girl, in a country where this is far too common.
“God bless your dad.” “I feel sorry for your father.” “That must be hard for your dad.”
The feeling that nothing has been accomplished over the weekend haunts much of Princeton’s campus each Sunday night. There are endless declarations of “I didn’t do anything this weekend” or “I was so unproductive.” But if you ask almost any of the people making these declarations what they did that weekend, they will describe a weekend that is actually far from unproductive. Most people spend their down time attending talks, dance and theatre performances, or sports games. These events, though a distraction from schoolwork, add many important experiences to students’ time at Princeton, and allow students to form connections that cannot be found inside in a lecture hall. Perhaps it’s time for us to recognize that time spent building friendships and building community is just as productive as time spent working on schoolwork.
For a program that hosts some of the biggest global leaders of the field, the computer science department suffers from profound student dissatisfaction. Students are drawn in by the rewarding challenges of 126 and 226, both well taught and well organized. These introductory courses, both prerequisites for the COS major, are taken by a large portion of undergraduates inside and outside the department, with over 300 students enrolled in COS 126 most semesters. But as students move into upper-level classes, their academic lifestyle is too often defined by frustration.
I’ve been lucky to have an adviser who not only responds to my emails but also sets aside WASE appointments for his advisees and has made an effort to learn what I want out of my academic career. Most first-years cannot say that they feel they even know a faculty member, never mind have one that knows their name, hopes, wants, and dreams. Yes, Princeton prides itself on the focus on undergraduates, but I was not expecting that promise to be so fulfilled. I thought of anything I heard on a college tour as a campaign promise.
Genuine surprise is one of the rarest reactions to today’s current news cycle, but it was the only way to describe my response when I heard about the newly agreed-upon peace talks between North and South Korea late last month. As the first inter-Korean summit in 11 years, this groundbreaking meeting of the President Moon Jae-in and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un offered a glimpse of hope and an idealistic, albeit precarious, vision of international relations. Rather than tend toward force and violence as solutions to the world’s most glaring conflicts, we must move to embrace a new mode of thinking with regards to the world — one that upholds communication, discourse, and shared humanity between opposing sides in the quest for peace.
What do vehement vegetarians and chastity champions have in common? Surprisingly, many people I know on campus belong to one or both of the aforementioned categories. Life at Princeton sometimes feels bloated, buoyed by an eleven-figure endowment, rife with waste and unnecessary things, overwhelmed by opportunities to pursue success and wealth. Yet I think most people don’t want to live in a world where all there is to life is ambition, self-promotion, and gratification of desires. In various forms, I have seen people embrace practices of asceticism like vegetarianism and celibacy to testify to higher values and ideals.
As I walk through the tourist-heavy north side of campus, there’s always a decent chance that my ethnic identity will invite people to speak to me in languages that I am unable to understand. The interaction typically starts with an inquisitive remark in a foreign language and ends in an embarrassed shake of my head. Every once in a while I get a pitiful laugh in response and a look that implies, “It’s a shame that he can’t even converse with his own culture.”
The restaurant was modern chic. Not only was it was illuminated entirely by dim “mood lighting,” the water was also served in prim little mason jars, and the menu had not a single capital letter, only variations of the same aesthetically pleasing, gentle font. It was my first Asian fusion restaurant. As I scanned the menu, the only hallmarks of purported “Asianness” were buzzwords such as ‘bok choy,’ ‘soy,’ or sometimes just the adjective ‘Asian’ itself. The entire food cultures of various Asian countries were condensed to a few descriptor fragments that sounded vaguely exotic — but not too exotic.
When another admission cycle came to a close last month, I felt a familiar sense of unease with my place on campus, as it brought back memories from the first few months after I was admitted to Princeton. My father is a professor here, and my uncle was an undergraduate student, so my admission was almost guaranteed, so long as I maintained a good academic record in high school.
Princeton University’s inspiring informal motto, “In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity,” challenges the University’s students, faculty, and administration to pursue a higher purpose in life and broaden their perspective from personal gratification to the well-being of all members of the human community.
Princeton University is world-renowned. Our endowment, at $23.8 billion in 2017, is bigger than the GDP of Iceland in 2016. Our students are increasingly diverse and hail from all 50 states and many different countries. Our alumni include presidents, astronauts, authors, and royalty.
Every time I attend a senate debate hosted by the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, I’ll sit on the side opposite the one I agree with. Senate debate tradition calls on attendees to pound their fists for arguments they like or hiss at comments they disapprove of. It’s a rare opportunity, in an ideologically polarized environment, to force myself into others’ shoes and question my own opinions, without fear of backlash or judgment.
This May marks the 40th anniversary of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. It is our time to focus on not only the successes of Asian Americans but also the overlooked barriers they continue to face. Asian-American women face unique challenges. They are victims of both glass and bamboo ceilings — invisible barriers that prevent women and Asian Americans, respectively, from advancing in their careers. While it is tempting to lump Asian American women in with either all women or all Asian Americans, this approach is shortsighted. Instead, we need to consider how the stereotype of Asian femininity compounds with the “model minority” myth, the stereotype that all Asian Americans are hardworking and successful without requiring help. The complex interplay of these stereotypes generates unreasonable expectations of extreme compliance and unquestioning service for Asian-American women. And it is these expectations that can severely restrict them from moving forward.
My blood ran cold as I watched the man smash his fist into his victim’s face. The other man crumpled to the floor, but the assailant continued to strike. I was terrified. This was neither a scene from an action movie nor a training simulation. It was real-life violence, unfolding before my eyes.
The precept system is a central aspect of Princeton’s educational philosophy, one that is designed to allow discussion of lectures and readings with our peers and to deepen our understanding of the relevant class topics. Considering the goals of precept are to hear other perspectives and to think critically, it is understandable that some have criticized precepts for becoming echo chambers where students speak only to appear knowledgeable or gain credit for participation, ignoring other voices to focus on their own insights. However, this criticism ignores another problem with the current precept reality — in practice, female students struggle to express a thought at all without being interrupted, ignored, or overshadowed.