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Students complain about a lot of things that set Princeton apart from other colleges. We have finals after break, strange, archaic social hierarchies and independent research as a requirement for graduation. But this is an article about the joys of junior papers and senior theses. Often regarded as a monstrous task which locks us in carrels and siphons away our free time, independent work comes with some pleasant, if surprising, side effects. Undergraduates have the ability to leverage their JPs and senior theses to — counter intuitively — gain more free time. Yes, I’m telling you that independent work can actually allow you to have more control over your time than otherwise.
It’s a psychoactive drug with a molecular formula of C2H5OH which dissolves easily in human tissue, suppressing excitatory neurotransmitters while enhancing inhibitory ones. Humans have been making it for around 9,000 years, and Americans consume more than 2,100,000,000 liters of it every year. It has been prohibited and reinstated, loved and reviled. It constitutes one of the biggest headaches for administrators both at Princeton and in colleges around the country. I do not hyperbolize when I say that ethanol, or what we have come to refer to as alcohol, is a significant component of the American college, and therefore the Princeton, undergraduate experience.
The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the residential colleges spend tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of brainpower trying to promote the residential college system as an alternative to the dominance of Prospect Avenue. They hatch creative solutions — everything from study breaks, to college trips, to intramural sports. While all of these are perfectly valid approaches, far more powerful tools lie at their disposal: residential zoning and open-door policies. There are several fundamental issues with some zoning on campus, particularly in Whitman, Wilson and Rockefeller colleges. Addressing these issues could drastically improve residential college community.
I was talking to a senior friend at dinner last week who said that he’d learned more in high school than he had at Princeton. Needless to say this claim came as somewhat of a shock to me. As I was about to protest, another person at the table said that he had probably internalized maybe an eighth of what he’d been taught since enrolling, and that that was optimistic. The obvious explanation when students aren’t learning is that they’re just lazy or apathetic. But here, that is simply not the case. Princeton students are notorious for being among the least lazy people in the entire world. It is not the fault of the students that they are not grasping their course material, but rather, a critical flaw in the way classes are taught at Princeton: There is often just too much information. Too much material is presented without enough indication of, or emphasis on, the critical elements of a course.
Two days ago I was rolling around the Subalpine chains of Eastern France in a white passenger van with five other Princeton students, a Frenchman and a Spaniard. We were studying the evolution of carbonate platforms during the Cretaceous, an experience which proved to me that spending an extended amount of time with your classmates and professors should be an essential part of any academic course at Princeton. There are several reasons for this, all of which ultimately end in a more memorable, personal and stimulating collegiate experience.
This is the last in what has turned out to be a three-part critical analysis of diversity and its role on campus. Last Tuesday, I looked at the idea of diversity itself and whether the usual indicators of race, religion and geography really make a difference when it comes to life perspectives. Additionally, Philip Mooney wrote a piece on Thursday concerning the efficacy of cultural student organizations at encouraging cross-cultural dialogues and ethnic integration. This final installment sets a critical eye to the implementation of diversity programming on campus and the question of whether or not diversity can be compulsory.
When I ask you to think about diversity, a glowing picture of all the races of the world hand in hand singing Kumbaya in ethnic garb might pop into your head. I used to think the same before this past summer. I spent six weeks climbing ridges and jumping fences in Geological Field Camp, and the friends that I made on that trip have irrevocably altered the way I think about diversity.
This past friday afternoon saw the transformation of Dillon Gymnasium main floor from a quiet basketball court to a bustling nexus of student activity. The long hall stood lined with rows upon rows of tables, each teeming with students eager to see all of what Princeton had to offer outside of the classroom. Members advertised their groups, thrusting sign-up sheets and candy at passers-by as they expounded excitedly about everything from the wonders of Italian cooking to the virtues of playing squash.