Over the course of the last year, the Opinion section has published 211 columns and guest contributions. Though there has been much opined, even more has been left unsaid. We asked our columnists to share their opinions on a topic of campus life that never made it into a full piece.
Greenlight a prox scanner rework
By Brian Hegarty, Contributing Columnist
Princeton has a color theory problem — and no, it’s not the squint-inducing orange wall of merchandise bearing down on U-Store entrants. It’s the color system displayed on prox scanners at the entrance to all University buildings. Prox scanners display green on locked buildings, present red for buildings that are not locked (think Frist during daytime), and flash between red and green after being unlocked via card. This system shatters every intuitive color sensibility and should, at the University’s nearest convenience, be amended.
Since 1912’s dawn of American stoplights, red has been paired to stop and green with go based on evidence that red, with its comparatively long wavelength, most easily attracts the human eye and signals danger or alert. Green, given its shorter wavelength and opposition to red on the color spectrum, has served as an inviting confirmation in perhaps every UI design I’ve ever encountered.
Of course, there may be logic to the University’s system. This senseless color reversal could signal the usefulness of your card rather than the status of the door: green could invite your prox while red means you do not need one. The eye-catching red green alternation might remind you to take action by opening the door. But even given this stretch, I’d genuinely prefer the University to use orange and black instead of whatever confounding logic informs the deplorable status quo.
I offer a simple solution. Green for unlocked doors, red for locked, and lights that turn from red to green with a prox’s authentication. I’m fairly confident of this option's plausibility as my high school used the same sensors but fitted them with these more rational color indicators. I might even add, if it’s not out of Princeton’s budget, a third color (perhaps blue to visually stray from the other two) to communicate, in areas such as foreign dorms or special-privilege practice rooms, that, yes, your prox has been recognized but is not accepted.
Brian Hegarty is a first-year from Milton, Massachusetts and can be reached at email@example.com.
The dining halls should serve weekend lunch
By Ava Johnson, Contributing Columnist
Between Monday and Friday, Princeton students work incredibly hard attending classes, doing hours of homework, and participating in extracurricular activities. It is understandable that on the weekends, these students are inclined to sleep-in and start their days later. The current arrangements for student dining on the weekends, however, are inconvenient.
Currently, dining halls offer brunch from 10 a.m.–2 p.m., and then dinner from 5–8 p.m., but there is nowhere on campus to eat meals between the hours of 2–5 p.m. For students who prefer to eat a later breakfast on the weekend, around 10 or 11 a.m. after sleeping in, there is nowhere on campus to eat lunch a few hours later. If students want to eat the NIH recommended three meals in a day starting at 10 a.m., they would need to eat lunch somewhere around 3 p.m. Their only hope to use their meal plan at that hour would be to eat at a place in town that accepts Pay With Points, which may be too inconvenient for students who live down campus, in Yeh or NCW, or who have run out of points.
The University should provide an on-campus dining option for students during these hours. Serving lunch in the dining halls, or even just opening up the Frist grab-and-go fridge would be a perfect solution to this issue, providing more flexible food options for students during the weekend.
Ava Johnson is a first-year prospective politics major from Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us heal our GPAs: Make an A-plus a 4.3 again
By Abigail Rabieh, Head Opinion Editor
Amidst national outrage at Yale’s liberal awarding of grades within the A-range — 80 percent of grades given fall within that category — Princeton students might be feeling injustice at the ease with which their peers can attain high GPAs. The perturbation at the injustice is righteous, and meritorious. Not only is Princeton famous for grade deflation, but its current weighting process unfairly limits the extent to which good grades can benefit a student’s GPA.
Since the 2000–01 academic year, A-plus grades have been limited to the same point value as their still-impressive-but-less-so counterpart, the A: a 4.0. Prior to the change of the millennium, an A-plus had been a 4.3, helping students rehabilitate their GPAs from the failures they might have received in other courses — the dreaded B+. But according to former Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel, the University eliminated this boost in an effort to standardize grading practices across departments. Since some departments never awarded the grade of A-plus, Malkiel and the college reasoned that it was unfair to give some students the opportunity to achieve this boon and not others.
But today’s Princeton is an utterly different landscape: Due to the extensive distribution requirements, students take courses across many departments, thus any student could take a course in a department which hands out A-pluses. Grading is left to the discretion of professors: no more departmental caps on As. And students are getting these grades. Valedictorian Natalia Orlovsky ’22 earned 10 A-pluses across 6 departments in the course of her studies. The A-plus is a grade available to students and subject to some restrictions that reflect its exemplary status. Instructors still must file statements justifying the grade. Clearly, it means something distinct and different from the A. Thus, students should be rewarded for their work: Return the point value of an A-plus to a 4.3.
Abigail Rabieh is a history major from Cambridge, Mass. She is the Head Opinion Editor at the ‘Prince’ and can be reached at email@example.com.
Take the Ivy out of the Ivy League
By Leo Yu, Contributing Columnist
With its stone arches and storied history, Nassau Hall embodies the prestige of Princeton University. But perhaps the most noticeable facet of the building is the verdant green ivy that clings to its walls. As iconic and enduring as the ivy leaf is, its symbolism belies its harm.
English ivy, prevalent on many of the University’s oldest buildings, is not only invasive to New Jersey, but to the whole country. If it escapes into the wild, it can strangle native trees and other species by crowding their branches and blocking out light. It can grow so quickly that it makes trees unstable, unable to support their own weight, and susceptible to blowing over in storms. It is a prolific and formidable enemy; even during the low-light fall and beginning of winter, English ivy can continue to spread. Come spring, it can expand enough to block the light to new saplings. Its tactics can be insidious. The leaves hug trees so tightly that they trap water on the bark, an ideal environment for growing fungi, bacteria, and other pathogens. Eventually, the ivy can cause the whole structure to rot from the inside out. (Yes, there are parallels between this plant and the system of elite higher education.) Over time, these plants die, leaving fewer resources for the creatures that rely on them and harming ecological diversity.
Princeton needs to recognize this English ivy for what it is — not a harmless ornamental plant, but an invasive one that poses a real danger to ecosystems and wildlife. The University needs to rip out the ivy.
Leo Yu is a first-year student from New York intending to concentrate in SPIA.
It’s time for proxes to be on Apple Pay
By Preston Ferraiuolo, Columnist
As Princeton students, we have become accustomed to listserv emails about lost items, but rarely, if ever, have I read one about a lost cell phone. Our generation may go somewhere without shoes but never without our cell phones. It is time for Princeton to allow students to connect their proxes digitally to their phones.
Princeton students are tethered to their proxes. That powerful orange card allows us to eat, sleep, and go out. Some students keep their proxes in a phone wallet adhered to the back of their cases, but this is ineffective as the card’s near field connectivity (NFC) often interferes with our phones’ NFC connectivity. When this happens, you have to remove your prox from the phone wallet and hope it works, adding an extra step to what should be a thoughtless process. And in the event that you misplace your prox, you have to go through the onerous process of replacing it. There is an easy digital fix for all of this.
Both Apple Wallet and Google Pay have features where campus IDs can be stored on phones, much like credit cards for digital payment. Duke, Clemson, Auburn, New Mexico State, Alabama, and more universities allow students to access buildings, dorm rooms, and dining halls, and make purchases (their equivalent of paw points) using Apple Pay or Google Pay. Princeton should adopt technology since the NFC technology utilized in Apple Pay is already similar to the NFC technology used for our proxes. This transition might be seamless. It would be like using Apple Pay instead of tapping with a credit card. This is a small but feasible change that would make student life more manageable. Imagine just using your cell phone to get anywhere on campus. OIT and the Service Point should investigate making this change a reality. Then one day we can move past proxes towards a more sustainable campus without the thousands of pieces of plastic in our pockets. Imagine never having to walk to New South to replace your prox again!
Preston Ferraiuolo is a sophomore from Brooklyn, N.Y., intending to major in the School of Public and International Affairs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The plague of the (potentially deadly) sesame bagel
By Eleanor Clemans-Cope, Associate Opinion Editor
I started noticing something strange in the late meal cookie area earlier this year. Among the picked-over cookies, a lone sesame bagel lingered.
I notice it because I’m mildly allergic to sesame, and my awareness is high because my younger sister has a severe sesame allergy. A pizza crust with a little bit of sesame or a cookie that was next to a sesame bagel could, and has, sent her to the hospital. Cross-contamination is a matter of life or death for my sister.
Consider the data: One in 13, or just below eight percent, of children in the United States have a food allergy. Almost one percent of people have a serious or severe sesame allergy. At Princeton, with an undergraduate student population of around 5,000, that extrapolates to 28 people with a sesame allergy, 14 of whom would have a severe allergy. Food allergies are a deadly serious threat on college campuses: One year ago, a first-year student at Bowdoin College died of a severe allergic reaction.
Since it’s visible, the sesame bagel is probably not going to kill anyone. But the casual approach to how allergens are handled, creating environments rife with cross-contamination, is ubiquitous at Princeton. When there are bagels, there are usually sesame bagels. There is often an open bowl of sesame seeds in the Yeh/NCW dining hall. When there are deadly allergens around so casually, it makes certain experiences, like late meal cookies, inaccessible to people with severe allergies.
Princeton has a long way to go to be truly allergy-friendly like Cornell, but an easy way to start would be to eliminate casual cross-contamination. No more sesame bagels at late meal.
Eleanor Clemans-Cope (she/her) is a sophomore from Rockville, Md. intending to study economics. She spends her time making music with Princeton University Orchestra and the Triangle Club and good trouble with Divest Princeton. She can be reached on Twitter at @eleanorjcc or by email at email@example.com.