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A window into the Princeton Perspective Project

Over the past week, USG has turned many heads — quite literally — with its latest campus movement: the Princeton Perspective Project. The project was organized by members of the USG, the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life. In support of the project’s campaign, many students have changed their Facebook profiles pictures to its trademark black-and-white, rotated photos that symbolize one of the project’s missions: to encourage students to look at themselves and others with a new “perspective.”

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The project was born to combat the notion that everyone at Princeton is academically, emotionally and socially successful. According to PPP committee member Mary Heath Manning ’17, the project aims to change the way we think about success and failure. Manning, a prospective Italian major, believes that the language used in our daily discourse is important to this enterprise.

“The ways in which students discuss these issues will play a huge role in the impact this project will have,” Manning said. “It will also allow Princetonians to embrace their imperfections."

According to the PPP website, the project focuses on “pushing back the idea of effortless perfection.” At Princeton, there is a pressure to appear in control of our social and academic lives and live up to high standards. Not only is this an unrealistic expectation, but it is also a destructive one. To address this, students and administrators came together to launch this campaign in an effort to highlight the less frequently acknowledged aspects of the college experience — failing, facing setbacks and struggling — and to affirm that these are normal. The committee wants to emphasize that there is no perfect student. The movement intends to change the culture at the University and encourage students to be more open and vulnerable with one another.

Brandon McGhee ’18, recently elected to the Class of 2018 class council and part of PPP’s social media campaign, thinks the project will change the way Princeton students define failure.

“The Princeton Perspective [Project] is a really unique campaign,” McGhee said. “No Princeton student should have to go through that failure or misery and think they are by themselves.”

The PPP website debuted on Nov. 3 and featured video testimonials from 14 past and current students. Their stories included thoughts on themes like “identity,” “rejection” and “self-discovery,” as well as their personal experiences with specific setbacks and times of struggle. In line with its goal to “invite all students to join the conversation,” the website also offers a platform for individuals to share their own experiences through videos, written stories, poems or photography. The website also encourages students to contact PPP to get their photo taken and join the social media campaign on Facebook.

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USG President Shawon Jackson ’15, who headed the committee that helped organize PPP, said that he felt the project would help to make the University a place where students could not only talk about their failures openly but also recognize that failure is O.K. and a natural part of growth.

As with any new initiative, there are areas for improvement and growth. Noga Zaborowski ’18, a participant in PPP’s social media campaign, thinks the program could be more active in its student outreach by offering strategies to address personalized concerns rather than just hearing other students’ testimonies.

“Hearing other students’ stories about personal struggles is not necessarily as helpful for them in learning how to overcome their own struggles,” Zaborowski said.

That said, Bruce Easop ’13, Leadership Fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life and a sponsor of the project, emphasizes the learning opportunities that can be gained from more open discussion on campus. He views collaborative sharing as a main goal of the initiative and the catalyst for personal and collective change.

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Contributor Tammy Tseng ’18 contributed reporting.

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