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The crumbling ivory tower

Ah, Italy enslaved, hostel of misery, ship without pilot in great tempest, no princess among the provinces, but a brothel!" I begin this column with Dante's great apostrophe to Italy in order to express what must be the sentiment of anyone who truly cares for this beautiful but seriously diseased and overrun university.

While all of its publications have remained strangely silent or unceasingly self-congratulatory, Princeton has become enslaved to the disease of corporate greed, home to myriad forms of boredom, misery, loneliness and discontent – a leaderless, purposeless place, and a sink of human cruelty and indifference. On almost every front there are serious problems.

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This is a university which turns away some of the nation's finest young minds while it lets in a flood of unqualified athletes; which takes 92% of its students from the wealthiest half of America, leaving 90 or so spots a year for a full 50% of this country; which has difficulty drawing minority students because they don't want to come here (is anyone going to ask fundamental questions about why minority students don't like it here?); which is academically astonishingly boring – as many members of the faculty will tell you – with students who are mediocre and unconscionably grade-inflated; which features a general philistine culture – most students' major social options each night basically being between sloth and inebriation; and which is characterized by a degree of personal frigidity and indifference of a disgustingly surpassing degree.

Janitors and other university staff are barely treated as human beings by the students (most of whom don't even bother to learn their names). Students on financial aid are often treated demeaningly on dining hall service lines. And though this is a small university, people won't even smile or make eye contact on campus, talk to their preceptors after class or bother to learn the names of people living on their hall or entryway.

All the things I have said are true; many of them have multiple causes, and all should be investigated. Yet something is certainly very wrong here. I am a senior, and have thus seen a great deal of this place; I see both sides of a lit of issues, but I still think that it is time people at this university started talking about these things and taking sides.

Why are so many people going to McCosh and elsewhere for antidepressants? Shouldn't these be the happiest times of their lives, their young years at one of the world's greatest universities? Many of them are incredibly bright students, yet these intelligent people are deeply miserable at this place. On the other hand, many of them are athletes, accepted here just to be put through a self-esteem grinder for four years, trying to do work for which they are ill-suited and ill-prepared. Quite possibly, decreasing the misery of both those groups can be accomplished by a single policy change in the admission office.

This column in merely striking the keynote for the tune I am going to pursue in a series of oped pieces. This university is caught up in an unending hymn of self praise; I intend to put a stop to it, and get people to start talking about how we are going to reform this place. I appeal in particular to the senior faculty to read my series of columns and ponder over their own derelictions. The sacred trust of this university is ultimately in their hands. The university will listen to them, if enough of them do something.

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