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With ‘Princeton Promise’ video, U. had a myriad of options, but still chose wrong

<h6>Sydney Peng / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Sydney Peng / The Daily Princetonian

I’m a little more-than-perturbed regarding Princeton University’s recent choice to include “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin in their recently released video asking students to take the “Princeton Promise”: to socially-distance, wear masks, practice acceptable hygiene, and join the fight against COVID-19.

Baskin’s — or any other star’s — presence was completely unnecessary. It seems Baskin was only included so that Princeton could flaunt the money and notoriety that comes with the University’s name — to emphasize that they could afford such useless niceties despite desperate pandemic times. Princeton, in a sense, failed its students by including a star in its video and sent a veiled message that nobody would have paid attention to the video had it only featured students.

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I know two of the three students in the video. One is the high-achieving president of the Undergraduate Student Government. She is a diamond. The other is just as notable: a dedicated athlete and a concentrator in economics with lofty goals and the kindest intentions. She too, is a diamond. Yet,  because of Baskin, nobody can focus on those incredible students and those students alone.

At Princeton University, or any university for that matter, every single member of the enrolled student body, undergraduate and graduate, is a special person who carries a spectacular story. College students have defied the odds, persevered through adversity, and blazed trails of their own. Every single person I’ve met at Princeton has impressed me. There are first-generation students, Olympic and Paralympic athletes, geniuses at the top of their field, international students who had to travel 10,000 miles from home to attend Princeton.

These students will graduate and join the ranks of the tens of thousands of alumni who will flood back to Princeton Reunions every June — global health permitting — and line the pockets of Princeton for the next several decades. They will do astonishing things, ranging from medical, technological, archaeological, architectural, or historical discoveries to negotiating the next global peace treaty to changing how we treat the environment to becoming great parents. Some of us will go on to take glitzy, affluent jobs; others will impact thousands of lives through ministry, non-profit, and education work to serve the impoverished and the mistreated.

Princeton students are activists and experts, movers and shakers who have accomplished the impossible. Every single one of us beat the 94.8 percent odds just to be accepted into Princeton in the first place. But instead of focusing on and spotlighting the students and only the students, the University chose a reality television star.

In the wake of controversial monetary decisions that have sparked questions as to whether Princeton has lost touch with its students, the University should take more care and accountability by recognizing and featuring its own talent. 

That video did not require any superfluous fame. To recognize our hard work and dedication, the University should highlight its students to the fullest extent. 

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The “Princeton Promise” video had enough power and prominence on its own without Baskin — she should have never been included. Over 8,000 of us have remained committed to Princeton; it would be lovely to see Princeton return the favor.

Sally Jane Ruybalid is a junior in the School of Architecture from Trinidad, Colo. She can be reached at sjr4@princeton.edu.

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