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“Say Hey” campaign aims to end awkward campus encounters

A new student-run campaign hopes to create awareness about awkward social dynamics on campus by encouraging students to acknowledge other people.


Founder Joe Benun ’15said the idea came to him when he realized that familiarity was dictating whether students would greet each other in passing, which he said he believes leads to awkward encounters on campus.

“In order to flip the social dynamic, one individual cannot do it all, which is precisely why I thought to start this campaign,” he said.

The campaign launched on March 1 and has its first event this week.

Say Hey is organizing “Reclaim Midterms Week,” in which students are encouraged to wear a nametag on campus through the entire week of midterms. The goal of this is to create more opportunities for students to say hello to each other by name, Benun said.

Tigist Menkir ’18 said shethinks the campaign could be successful, but for the most part, “the kinds of people who will be doing this are doing it already.”

Justinas Mickus ’18 said hethinks that those who are already outgoing would most likely participate but that those who are not will probably not participate.


“It will be the same old same old, but maybe it will work if it is marketed well,” he said.

Both Menkir and Mickus said they planned to participate in reaching out and saying hello to other students.

The campaign hopes that the small conversations between acquaintances develop into caring and real conversations between friends, Erica Tsai ’16, a Say Hey ambassador, said.

“This campaign is also about deepening our already existing friendships and not letting them become superficial,” she said.

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Lessening awkward interactions is a goal of the campaign, but more of an importance is placed upon the effects that saying hello can have on individuals.

“It is not just about ending the awkward moments for you, but it’s also about the person on the receiving end who is waking up in the morning and having a person recognize who they are and saying hey,” Benun said.

The campaign’s ultimate goal is to help Princeton become a more welcoming place, Benun said.

He added that the biggest challenge that those spearheading the campaign faced was having too many ideas for promotions and initiatives right off the bat. Before deciding what to do next, Benun said he wants to see more input from the student body.

“We don’t have a specific path carved out, or a direction that the campaign will go,” Jessica Ma ’15, a Say Hey ambassador, said. “The student body will decide and change will come organically.”

The campaign plans to continue encouraging students to challenge existing social dynamics at the University, Benun said.

In addition to organizing “Reclaim Midterms Week,” Say Hey has also been selling T-shirts online.

“The T-shirts are a low-risk way of promoting the campaign vision,” Benun said. “I want to spread the message of making Princeton a more welcoming place, more vibrant place, more happy faces and smiles out there on the streets, [so] it will feed into itself to the point where it will just be a part of campus culture.”

There’s still a lot of work to be done to improve campus social dynamics, Fiona McKenna ’17 said.

“Sometimes things get awkward,” she said. “Really, really awkward.”