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Last week, in a piece for the Washington Examiner, Matthew Wilson ’24 breathlessly opined, “Princeton can’t have it both ways on racism.” In short, Wilson maintains not only that President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 is hypocritical in characterizing Princeton as simultaneously racist and anti-racist, but he even declares in no uncertain terms that Princeton is not racist.
Recently, it was announced that the Department of Education (DOE) would investigate Princeton’s self-admitted propagation of systemic racism. If the University has been racist, after all — throughout President Eisgruber’s tenure and before — then it is and has been undeserving of federal funds. At its face, this is clearly absurd, given that if this is the standard, the American government may just as well recall funds from virtually all institutions; this step by the DOE, whose secretary was appointed by the man who just went on a rant regarding the lack of patriotism in school curricula, is clearly an effort to single Princeton out for a long-overdue statement of basic historical fact.
Picture this: you open your latest email from a Princeton account, and you see a fellow student has chosen to address your entire residential college. The topic, this time, is academic standards; the email says the University hasn't held up its end of the bargain, so we are no longer bound, as fundamentalists by scripture, to its outdated, Boomer ethics! The email inquires what is so bad about plagiarism in the end? Of course, such a message has not been distributed among us undergrads. But if we were to receive such an email, there would be a common understanding that its contents are incompatible with how we are taught to carry ourselves and even to think as students in good standing at an elite university. The same is not the case, however, for something as simple as affirming the equality and humanity of all in our class.
In a recent column, Kate Lee ’23 rightly suggests that we as individuals should do everything in our power to protect ourselves collectively from the pandemic that has thrown an entire globe off-kilter. Centering her analysis on the United States, she advocates for a moral reset of sorts, in which we evolve beyond the narrowness of American individualism. She urges that a communal, utilitarian mentality should take the place of mere, unenlightened self-interest. From the outset, this is a commendable sentiment.
In dealing with a public health crisis that has inspired reality checks of all sorts, we are devoted to the notion that this virus changes everything, not just now but forever after. To cope, after all, we must submerge and overcome the worst aspects of ourselves, and recognize that we are all in this together, bigoted tirades and class distinctions notwithstanding.
Recently, The Daily Princetonian reported that over two dozen members of the class of 2020 are running for the position of Young Alumni Trustee (YAT). Yet, it doesn’t seem that many other people are paying this process much mind.
Last week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg participated for the first time in a Democratic Party debate. When asked about his racist policing policies, he disingenuously reflected that the way in which stop-and-frisk “turned out” was non-ideal.
On Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ’86 announced that he will donate 10 billion dollars in an effort to combat climate change. Properly identified as an especially abusive employer, according to reports by Amazon workers, Bezos now seeks to turn over a new leaf, or at least to take on the appearance of redemption and rehabilitation. We should, however, regard Bezos’s shallow attempts at building a shiny public profile with both apprehension and contempt. In making this pledge, Bezos claims that climate change is the biggest threat to the future of humanity. In reality, it is the capitalist system, responsible for Bezos’s financial clout, that represents the overriding obstacle to human well-being.
It’s easy to chortle dismissively at the verbal incompetence of Donald Trump. From his slurred words to his haphazard rants, he perfectly embodies the ineptness and bombast that liberal institutions have come to associate not only with him, but more generally with a lack of proper credentials and senatorial composure.
It is easy to forget that unlike the outside world, the weather conditions on campus are the products of conscious construction. Though determining the operational parameters of President Eisgruber ’83’s weather machine remains a daunting and neglected project — the silence in the referendum department is deafening — it remains the case that he could, on a whim, resolve the ecological matters that concern much of our campus community.
Recently, USG presidential candidate David Esterlit wrote a letter, to the editor of this paper, to be shared with the Princeton community. In this piece, he suggested that he would be especially equipped to pressure the administration to rectify injustices perpetrated constantly against the most disadvantaged among us. While correct about the University’s indifference to his prospective position and the need for sweeping change, Esterlit inadvertently demonstrated why he is precisely the wrong messenger for this less than instructive newsflash.
Recently, The Daily Princetonian interviewed Cami Anderson, the CEO of ThirdWay, an organization supposedly dedicated to a progressive redesign of discipline in schools, such that the most marginalized might be less disadvantaged by a system that emphasizes punishment over instruction. Insofar as it is true, this is a commendable project. But as those jaded enough to recognize the ominous character of a CEO in such close proximity to anything education-related might expect, the organization is perhaps less benevolent than its primary spokesperson would have us believe.
In the course of our education, employment, and lives in general, we are often encouraged to refrain from rocking the boat. If we become frustrated with the behavior of another, especially in the case of an institutional higher-up, we are told that we should pick our battles, that it is not worth the trouble of addressing the issue at hand.
To take advantage of opportunities for which this campus is especially noted, we are often encouraged to attend exclusive, high-profile, and high-brow events. The distinguished speakers likely attended the University, and they might have donated substantially. Regardless, take a look at your inbox for the past week; how many emails did you overlook or pay heed to, depending on your disposition, regarding the institutional ties held by impending guests, ties which we are taught relentlessly to covet and venerate?
Recently, in the wake of three institutional embarrassments, the campus community has been unusually and excitingly responsive. Attempts to cover up and minimize scandals have blown up, from the non-randomness of room draw, the structural inequality in the form of introducing the criminal history checkbox on the graduate school application, to the ineffectiveness of the Title IX office. Activists have held their ground in calling for the reform of a dysfunctional Title IX system. Unfortunately, the administration has been utterly condescending to some of its most courageous community members.
Recently, there have been objections raised to the punitive structure of the Honor Code of our grand institution. Critics contend that punishment is not only rigid and often excessive, but also is antithetical to the spirit of the code.
Across the United States, the utility and worth of a college education is being called into question. The tangible gains that it may afford seem increasingly fleeting; as the prospects for sustaining what remains of the relative prosperity that accompanied America’s dominance after World War II fade and recede swiftly into a morass of political nonsense, young people are rendered more dependent on their families for longer periods and denied the opportunities that seemed so abundant to our parents. Some among the older generations blame us for this retrogression, while others recognize, to varying extents, the deeply rooted forces at play.
As the flames of political tension are fanned all around us with increasing fervor, our campus is consumed with the seeming imperative of desperate resistance. Unfortunately, we reduce this engagement to the singular, and ostensibly all-important, action of casting a ballot. We judge people not only on the basis of their ideological assertions; more than that, the overriding determinant for our respectability is whether or not we’ve chosen to vote at all.
Taking a course at Princeton, conventional wisdom would have it, requires a commitment to intellectual life and academic output. Yet, it seems evident that our institution prioritizes rigor — or perceived rigor — over other considerations. This isn’t because rigor is required for understanding, nor because difficulty-for-the sake-of-difficulty is a pedagogical necessity.