As a first-year, I sat in precept, struggling to concentrate. I hadn’t been feeling well that day, but I dragged myself to class. I knew how painful it would be to try and catch up on missed work later. Just that past week, my roommate, who suffers from chronic migraines, forced herself to go to class, only to leave to throw up in a gutter. Another friend had stationed himself in Firestone Library for the past 10 hours — and hadn’t even left to eat.
We have many wonderful traditions at Princeton; we also have a legacy of racism, sexism, and crippling mental health. As students, we grapple with these issues daily, whether in protesting the notorious bicker process or requesting more Counseling and Psychological Services support.
These efforts have always been important, but this year, they are paramount. We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to re-do Princeton, reconsidering our traditions, resetting our expectations, and recommitting ourselves to a “people first” mentality. This year on campus, the Class of 2022 is the only class who will have spent an entire year on campus. Quite simply, we are the only class who has a true sense of what a “normal” campus looks like and the traditions that defined it. COVID has brought pain, but it has also brought opportunity.
Classes of 2022 and 2023, we don’t want to go back to “the way things were.” We want to redefine this campus to focus more on student well-being and inclusivity. This sounds like an abstract task — so how do we achieve it? We achieve it by rewriting traditions and by leaving behind the remnants of exclusion. We start new traditions — what if we lived in a Princeton where it was just expected that we get eight hours of sleep a night? Where eating clubs are welcoming to all? Where taking a step back from your studies and commitments is celebrated?
These are the rituals and traditions future classes of Princetonians will take for granted — and it is up to us to decide what those rituals are.
We are embracing this opportunity at the ‘Prince.’ Our newsroom has historically been dominated by white and male voices, and it has not always been a safe haven for students. We have a chance to create inclusive traditions and habits in our newsroom; we can rewrite what it means to be a part of this institution. We are creating our own new rituals, whether it’s committing to recognizing and greeting any person who enters or leaves the newsroom or routinely recognizing staffers who do the unseen work at our paper.
I encourage you: consider what you can change, and how you can set the example for your successors. This chance won’t come again.
Emma Treadway is editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.