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One Saturday in my sophomore year, I ventured all the way from my room in Whitman College to the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding (CAF) to go study with some friends. I was inconvenienced, to say the least. Walking the more than half-mile in the famously-brisk New Jersey November weather was suboptimal. But I went all the way to CAF to study because I wanted to do something that I hadn’t done since I got on campus: study in their African American study space. Once I got there, snacks and water with me as I arrived, I had an underwhelming feeling of the space.
In August, the University made the hard decision to switch to a fully online fall semester, as the health risk of bringing even just freshman and juniors was deemed too great. With the majority of students off campus right now due to COVID-19, everyone has shifted attention toward the possible return to campus for the spring semester. As such, the University needs to start thinking of what criteria need to be met in order for students to come back. The administration must also decide if it will allow all students to come back or only a portion, and, if it will only be a portion, which students get priority. Clearly, there are a lot of factors the University has to contend with in coming to its decision.
Under the current system that the University has in place, it is completely possible for a student to never interact with the history of a culture or place outside of the United States or Europe. Take, for example, students in the BSE computer science major. While it is an option for them to take a Historical Analysis (HA) class, it is not required, as they can fulfill four out of their six general education requirements in other ways.
Finally, after 80 years of post-winter break exams, Princeton will modernize its calendar and allow students to have exams before break. Instead of stressing over exams under the mistletoe or sharing a New Year’s Red Bull to get started on a Dean’s Date assignment, students can truly enjoy the holidays without the cloud of pressure that academia has placed on our lives. Going forward, this change will have myriad effects, including better performance on exams, true rejuvenation from the extended break, and an honest step towards improving the mental health of students.
Last year, Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) committed $28 million to pay reparations for its complicity in the institutions of American slavery. PTS’ steps include offering scholarships, fellowships, and resources to the descendants of those affected by its actions, as well as inhabitants of West African nations impacted by the slave trade.
Living in New Jersey, I had the convenient option of loading my car up, driving it to campus and unpacking all my stuff as I moved into year two of my Princeton journey. After a few hours of moving bags and boxes into my room and saying farewell to my family, I had one final thing to do: say goodbye to my precious Toyota Rav 4. Not yet belonging to an eating club and not having what the university calls “a compelling need” to have a car on campus, I had to watch as my family took my car back home, leaving me in the suburban bubble of central New Jersey.
At this point, I feel as if the University has gone overboard with the amount of stress it puts on students. The question is no longer “Are you stressed?”; the question is now “How stressed are you?” It is no longer a matter of if you’re stressed, but to what extent you are and what the cause of your stress is. While life isn’t all candy and roses and some form of stress will always be present in our lives, I think we can have some sort of happy medium: appropriate stress, but not to the point of sacrificing mental health.
During this midterm season, let us remember that grades are, of course, important, but if you must choose between your wellness or achieving high marks, choose your wellness every time. In light of a recent report of a student passing out in the dining hall due to stress and being required to go to Princeton Medical Center at Plainsboro, it’s time to say enough is enough; it is only a matter of time before something more drastic happens on campus due to academic stress. I know, I know, I am only a freshman, and I’ve only been on campus for four months (I did Freshman Scholars Institute, which started in July), but even in those four months, I can see that the University is an incredibly high-stress environment, and students all too often choose their academics over their well-being.