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Each morning when I go downstairs, I am met with the sounds of chattering from my television. It has become routine now: faces of news commentators and politicians joining in on our day. There hasn’t been a day in the past few weeks where my family has not watched the news. That’s never happened before.
In times of crisis, we see who we really are. In the past few weeks, we have seen the best of our country on display as millions sacrifice to keep each other safe. College students have returned home to the extent they are able. Much of the workforce has similarly shifted online. Healthcare and emergency workers have risked their lives to care for those in need and to ensure our ability to stay safely at home.
The first week of quarantine was blissful. After discovering unheard-of quantities of free time — a commodity for any Princetonian — I decided to make myself busy. Amidst a flurry of online courses and new projects, I decided to get back into the daily yoga routine I’d abandoned freshman year, pick up three new languages (two of which I, admittedly, already had a background in), read a book a day, and relax in the evening with the Metropolitan Opera’s nightly livestream. For the eternal overachiever like myself, quarantine was heaven: I finally had the time for all of the interests I had neglected for most of my Princeton career.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reckon with deep structural problems in our society, such as global climate change and economic injustice. To rectify those problems, we need to recognize that all of us hold responsibility for both these problems and their solutions.
Funnily enough, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some unexpected, if short-lived, news. Global carbon emissions have fallen (China’s by as much as 25 percent), toxic air pollution has declined in cities around the world, and places like the Venice Canal, which typically suffer from overcrowding and water pollution, are running clear and teeming with aquatic life. As governments move to shut down industrial and commercial activity, the environment appears to be benefitting.
The coronavirus has escalated to the point where it affects every single aspect of life. That’s not news, by now. For Princeton students, virus prevention measures have booted most of us from campus and forced all of us to attend class virtually. Consequently, the grading system for many classes has changed.
All around us, state and local governments are taking measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic. Schools are shutting down, leaving millions of children in the hands of parents for whom childcare, in the age of social distancing, is no longer an option. Small businesses are shuttered, straining our national economy.
Few things can pull a Princetonian out of bed before 9 a.m., but induction into Phi Beta Kappa is one of them. Each year, in the early hours of Class Day — 8:45 a.m., to be precise — about 140 seniors join the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society.
As coronavirus (COVID-19) ravages the globe, and thousands of human beings die from the harrowing infection, modern life has experienced an abrupt upending. Over the last several weeks, we have seen countless businesses, schools — including Princeton — and even parts of entire major cities become vacant across the globe.
At Princeton, few honors are more highly sought-after than the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence. Endowed by president Harold Shapiro GS ’64 in 2001, the awards are presented to 3 percent of underclass students for “outstanding academic achievement” in “intellectual pursuits that constitute the core of undergraduate education.”
In recent weeks, the University has not hesitated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with decisive action. From calling off Reunions, granting extensions for independent work, and sending students home, Nassau Hall has adopted drastic but necessary measures.
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.
As I returned home last week, Arkansas public schools announced they would close amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost immediately, high school classmates and community members posted on Facebook that they would be available to babysit kids whose parents couldn’t access child care. I even mentioned to my mother that I would like to do the same, because I knew the schools closing would wreak a devastating blow on parents who cannot afford to take time off from work.
Last week, this Board called on the University to reevaluate the weight given to midterm exams, in light of uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The editorial was one among several calls for action, including a widely-supported student petition. The University promptly responded to these concerns, asking professors to consider adjusting “expectations and procedures for mid-terms.”
After the kerfuffle that was the Iowa Democratic caucuses, the merits of placing one state in such an important position are increasingly questionable. The political importance of the votes in Iowa and New Hampshire seems outlandish, given their population size and overwhelming whiteness.
In the spring of 2019, students found similarities between the 2018 and 2019 room draw times, uncovering randomization errors in the University room draw process. An article published in the ‘Prince’ on March 3 addressed these issues, citing students’ “concerns about the draw,” but failed to acknowledge the changes that are effective starting this year. In reality, since the ad hoc data analysis, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has worked extensively in conjunction with Student Housing to fix randomization and improve Room Draw for 2020.
Just a few weeks ago several multi-way ties in multiple Iowa caucus districts had to be decided by coin toss. Two years ago, the race for the majority-determining seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates tied and was decided by pulling a name out of a hat. A randomly selected slip of paper determined the state’s entire legislative agenda for two years! Evidently, your one vote has the power to change history, and it ought to be a responsible one.
On Tuesday night, students distributed an online petition calling for the University to reevaluate this semester’s midterm exams, given that they coincide with drastic and ongoing efforts to mitigate the risks of COVID-19. We support this petition and enjoin the University to act on its demands.
Last Thursday, Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the presidential race, leaving two candidates in the Democratic field: Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Since many had seen her as the last “diverse” candidate on the ballot, this was an expected, but still disappointing, moment.