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Amid an international reckoning over racial justice in the summer of 2020, several hundred Princeton faculty signed a letter delineating University-wide changes. One professor offered criticism of the letter, faced serious condemnation, and then published a piece about “[surviving] cancellation at Princeton.” Without dredging up the original debate, the events surrounding the letter certainly showcase a high-profile instance of “cancel culture” on our campus.
“Choose yourself” — the advice given by one professor after hosting a brief listening session with students before a weekly seminar class. After validating student critiques of certain University policies, this professor (who will remain nameless) acknowledged that it was up to students to assert the importance of their well-being when the University does not.
On Tuesday, March 16, a 21-year-old white man shot and killed eight people, including six Asian American women, at three massage parlors in the Atlanta, Ga. area. As has been widely reported, this was a violent case of what has been a rising trend in racism and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the beginning of the pandemic. Though the gunman has been charged with eight counts of murder, officials have yet to charge him with a hate crime upon the perpetrator’s dubious insistence that his sex addiction, not racial bigotry, was the motivation behind his attack.
One of my best friends has a great memory, and, over the years, she has become the de facto historian of our friend group. She can remember all the important things: the shenanigans, where we were, who we were with. That kind of memory is a gift to all of her friends, and it demonstrates an important lesson for a year as tumultuous as 2020. With two vaccines for COVID-19 entering new phases of testing, a semester on campus, and a new year fast approaching, some people are justifiably itching to move on. These developments should undoubtedly be celebrated, as should the prospect of a fresh start. But, just like my friend, we cannot forget everything we have been through: Instead, should find creative and healthy ways to catalogue all that has happened in 2020.
A few weeks ago, I hustled to one of my lectures — as much as one can to a Zoom call — where we discussed ancient Chinese philosophical texts. In one of the works, there was a story about a carpenter passing by a massive, ancient tree and remarking, “It has no use; that is why it has been able to live so long.”
After days of waiting, the American people have elected Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris as our next Vice President. The palpable anxiety and tension from an admittedly, but justifiably, lengthy process of counting votes has been alleviated. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be tasked with governing an economically crippled nation still in the throes of a pandemic and one that is bitterly divided politically. They will need to make their victory a victory for all Americans by uniting the country and facilitating a cooperative, principled, inclusive, and free political culture — a culture that young people like us now have the numbers and willpower to build. The days and weeks ahead will give us opportunities to shape and strengthen our democracy but only if we make crucial decisions. This path is not a given; it must be chosen.
With less than a month before the presidential election, executives at Twitter and Facebook have made national news for unveiling several measures to combat misinformation, block voter suppression, restrict political ads, and even prevent premature victory declarations. The viability of some of these measures will only be determined after we finish what is going to be a bitterly contested election. Given the flaws within some of these policies, however, there is no certainty they will prevent the disinformation or exaggerated claims that often unduly influence young voters who are increasingly informing themselves via the internet.
With the recent passing of American icon and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the upcoming Presidential election has taken on a new intensity, as both political parties gear up for a confirmation battle in the Senate, and millions of voters decide whether the Supreme Court’s leaning is a ballot-box issue.
Most of those familiar with our University know its informal motto, “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity.” Coming from a Catholic high school whose motto was “Men for Others,” I understand the power that a commitment to service has in the direction of an institution. Yet Princeton has failed to capture the full potential of the promises of this motto by not implementing a curricular service requirement.