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I’ve been debating for a while whether or not to write this. In times of such extreme polarization, it seems like those who have already agreed with me will still agree and those who have not will not see it any other way. At the end of the day, nobody has changed their mind, so what is the point? Then I think to myself — this is the kind of mindset that results in dangerous inaction. So here I go, in the hope that this is not just me shouting into the void.
It’s the beginning of another year: doe-eyed frosh and self-assured seniors alike flood campus, bringing it to life. New friends are made, old friends are greeted, and everyone indulges in the buzzing excitement of being back again. In years past, at this point, many people would be heading to the eating clubs for a weekend of festivities and partying known as “Frosh Week.” Though technically the Interclub Council (ICC) policy has always stipulated that first-years are not allowed into the clubs during orientation period, this has never been actually enforced until this year.
Music groups are widely celebrated and loved on campus. From the department ensembles to niche performance groups, rock to a capella, it seems like we have it all. The University frequently uses these groups as a selling point, hosting “This Side of Princeton” performing arts showcases at each Princeton Preview event. For bright-eyed prefrosh, the musical opportunities seem so beautiful and boundless — it’s easy to be captured by the talent and mesmerized by the fun. One arch sing, and before you know it, you’ve committed.
It’s 2019. Whitewashing, tacky “Oriental” costumes, and the fetishization of Asian women just aren’t trendy anymore like they might have been back in the good ol’ days. But it seems like Princeton High School didn’t get the memo.
Around a month ago, a Duke University professor sent out an email to her graduate students warning them not to speak Chinese on campus. In her email, she cautions that her colleagues were “disappointed that [the students] were not taking the opportunity to improve their English” and “being so impolite,” even though the conversations took place in the student lounge/study areas. Furthermore, she states that students who continued to do so would, as a result, receive fewer opportunities for internships and projects.
Earlier this school year, in the spirit of sustainability, Campus Dining announced that Frist Campus Center would no longer carry plastic water bottles. Instead, it would opt for water in paper cartons — specifically the brand “Boxed Water Is Better.” At face value, it seems like an unprecedented and revolutionary change; one that combines both hipster style with environmental savvy. But the University’s switch to boxed water under the claim of sustainability distracts from the root problem: unreliable filtered water sources drive students away from using reusable water bottles and contribute to more environmental impact.
“College students are just so clean and tidy!” said no one ever. Just take one peek at any shared bathroom on a Sunday morning — there are crumpled paper towels overflowing trash bins and many on the floor as a result of poor aim. There’s hair on the shower walls, paint from last night’s big party splattered on the ground, and weird gunk in the sink that you really shouldn’t think too much about. That’s not even the worst: Butler, Forbes, and Rocky Colleges struggle with keeping human waste contained in the toilet — having personally lived in Campbell Hall last year where the “Campbell Crapper” reigned, I can attest that the whole situation was ludicrous.
“Legacy? What is a legacy?” laments Alexander Hamilton in the self-titled musical. “It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” Though profound, this revelation doesn’t convey all sides of the story — while you may not personally experience the effects of the marks you leave behind, countless others will. The pursuit of leaving an impression on future generations is probably what motivated, and still motivates, so many people to donate to the University, in hopes that a building, or even just a plaque, will preserve their name. But there’s a glaring issue: The people whose names are currently enshrined in brick and mortar do not represent the diversity of today’s student body. Rather, we are living in the legacy of white men.
As an Outdoor Action leader, I am a devout believer in name games. My personal favorite is asking the frosh for their names, along with spirit kitchen utensils. Although at first they might be confused or weirded out, by the end they can’t contain their laughter as they matter-of-factly say things like “I guess I’d like to be a spatula,” or “Maybe an egg whisk would be nice?” In a small group setting in which people are meeting for the first time, these personal introductions, or “ice-breakers,” serve a critical function of setting a precedent of openness and encouraging friendly relations among participants. Failing to do so creates the opposite: an unwelcoming and impersonal atmosphere — which is why I was appalled during the first week of precepts, when many of my preceptors didn’t even bother asking for names.
The restaurant was modern chic. Not only was it was illuminated entirely by dim “mood lighting,” the water was also served in prim little mason jars, and the menu had not a single capital letter, only variations of the same aesthetically pleasing, gentle font. It was my first Asian fusion restaurant. As I scanned the menu, the only hallmarks of purported “Asianness” were buzzwords such as ‘bok choy,’ ‘soy,’ or sometimes just the adjective ‘Asian’ itself. The entire food cultures of various Asian countries were condensed to a few descriptor fragments that sounded vaguely exotic — but not too exotic.
All throughout school, I always knew when the substitute teacher arrived at my name based on a pause and a somewhat sheepish look on their face. Once in a while, the teacher would ask me how to correctly pronounce my name. Most of the time, though, they’d give it a half-hearted attempt and move on, not bothering to learn how to say it as long as I was present to say “here,” even though I always made it a point to politely but adamantly demonstrate the pronunciation. They were, after all, substitutes. Why would they need to learn my name, if they were never going to see me again?
The COS 126 lecture on Mar. 6 was unorthodox to say the least. At the end of the lecture, the instructor directed our attention towards a stranger wearing a blue zip-up hoodie and jeans, who ascended the platform at the front of McCosh 50. The man was neither a professor nor a TA, but identified himself as a grad student. Speaking rapidly, he mentioned something about “student events,” then proceeded to explain that he was selling heavily discounted paintballing tickets to Cousins Paintball. He offered two tickets for $10, which wouldn’t expire for two years, and he said that we could buy paintballs on site which were “pretty cheap.”