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Letter from the Editor: What makes college meaningful?

Frist at night
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

Editor’s Note: This piece ran in The Daily Princetonian’s Sept. 2020 print issue.

In “The subtle in-between: a meditation on peripheral community at Princeton,” a column you’ll find printed in this issue, Remy Reya ’21 argues that the online semester imperils the “sense of a living community” we naturally find on campus, where we make acquaintances by chance.


“[F]aced with a fully virtual campus experience,” Remy writes, “we will likely find ourselves clinging to well-established friendships but failing to connect with the full range of people who make our lives at Princeton meaningful.”

In the absence of peripheral community, how do we make Princeton meaningful?

This issue, I hope, both poses that question and provides an answer. Princeton from afar: that theme runs through the stories featured here. In the pages ahead, you’ll read about the fewer than 300 of our peers who have returned to campus, student arts groups that have canceled auditions and suspended shows, and businesses in Princeton struggling without customers.

With so much of our undergraduate experience circumscribed, called off, and curtailed, we’ve been forced to question what college even means. In August, The U Experience, a company founded by Princeton alumni, promised to replicate college by purchasing “bubble” hotels, where students could “live out the college experience with total peace of mind” in Hawai‘i and Arkansas. As you’ll read here, appalled Hawai‘i residents compelled the company to relocate.

You’ll also read about the $80,000 the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) will spend on virtual Lawnparties, in the hope of making the event “as interactive as possible.” USG’s decision, however, drew outrage, as students pointed to the University’s privileges and responsibilities.

College continues, strictly speaking, but without the shared experiences, opportunities, and spaces that made it meaningful.


Yet, the stories compiled here also recount how our peers have stood by their convictions and helped one another. You’ll learn how student poets see the opportunities and obligations of their craft, after a Princeton professor published a poem with offensive and violent language. You’ll hear from the founders of Source of Knowledge, one of New Jersey’s two Black-owned bookstores, and from the students and alumni supporting them.

In Opinion, you’ll read how the media must confront racism in the newsroom and empower Black journalists and journalists of color. You’ll hear from eight students who urge Nassau Hall to prohibit the use of racial slurs. And from Remy’s column, you’ll discover why we can’t forget about the people whose paths we cross, especially now.

These efforts are anything but solitary. If we are to buoy and sustain the people around us, we have to listen to them and heed what they say. We have to take interest in their lives, their struggles and successes. Though we may be confined to our childhood bedrooms, caring about others can still give meaning to college. It always has.

Jonathan Ort is Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Princetonian. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @ort_jon.

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Editor’s Note: As of 7 pm EDT on Oct. 2, this piece was updated to include a clearer reference to Remy Reya’s Opinion column.