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Last week, I nervously waited for an allergist to prick my back with 37 possible food triggers, any one of which could cause my skin to react in hives. I couldn’t help but laugh at the Atlantic article that popped up on my phone, entitled “Pimples Could Be Good for Your Grades.” The too-good-to-be-true title speaks for itself. Although writer Alia Wong takes a fairly balanced approach to discussing evidence for the correlation between acne and strong academic performance, her words still project a patronizing tone of faux sympathy for acne sufferers. By positing the correlation — that is inconclusive at best — as some sort of boon for the acne-plagued, her words diminish the debilitating trauma that acne causes its victims.
I slid the word “empowerment” into a conversation I was having with a friend this summer about feminism. She rolled her eyes and groaned, “What does that even mean?” After getting tossed into a few too many headlines, buzzwords have a way of losing their kick. But we should still care about this one.
The buzzwords “Brett Kavanaugh” have been ubiquitous as everyone outspokenly offers their own opinions and insights on what is happening and what will happen and what should happen. We talk about the hearings not like an issue of partisan politics but instead as an issue that is intensely personal. Of course, the hearings are part of a monumental, impactful, and semi-permanent decision regarding one of our nation’s highest positions. But why are we, Princeton students, really watching?
“It’s my fault.”
Sometimes, the bravest thing I’ll do all day is put my arm on the armrest of my chair. Surrounded on both sides, I often feel forced to make myself as small as possible. I don’t want to bother them. I don’t want to be a burden. I don’t want to take up space. But I’m a living, breathing human being, and I have no choice but to do so.
Have you seen the zombies walking around campus? As workloads begin to escalate, I’ve noticed more and more students turning into sleep-deprived zombies, staying up all night to try and finish their readings and p-sets. In high school, I tried to sleep eight hours every night. The least amount of sleep I could get to still function the next day was about six hours, and if I got any less than that, my productivity level would drop drastically. Honestly, I am terrified for what the next four years hold in regards to my sleep schedule. I have only been at Princeton for about a month, but I have noticed that staying awake until the early morning is something fairly typical for students here, even those students who excel in time management. So why exactly are Princeton students sleeping so little, and why has no one confronted this issue?
Like many students, I spent Sept. 27, the day of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the U.S. Senate, on edge. I checked my phone at every break between classes, opened my laptop at every chance, and tried to decipher which professors would let me watch the hearing while sitting in seminar. At the end of the day, despite the evidence that Kavanaugh was not fit to be a Supreme Court justice, the national conversations surrounding both of the Kavanaugh hearings were not as punishing as one might have expected.
The last time a Democrat won any statewide election in Texas was 1994 — the longest stretch for Democrats to go without winning an election than in any other state. For 24 years, longer than I’ve been alive, my home state of Texas has been under a sea of red. While the metropolises of Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas consistently support Democratic mayors and candidates for president, the tides of the state of Texas rush to the right and continue to support Republican congressmen, elect Republican senators, and electorally back Republican candidates for president. For over two decades, the Democratic Party in the state of Texas has been a powerless straw man, one that falls time after time at the hands of its conservative counterpart. But this political cementation crumbles today because of one man.
In the days and weeks after the 2016 presidential election, our campus was witness to waves of intense initial activism and civic engagement. I was proud to see scientists in particular (many of whom had previously considered themselves apolitical or even indifferent to political events) organize together in an extraordinary effort, rapidly educating themselves and others on civic topics. I was impressed at how quickly and effectively groups on campus were able to train themselves in advocacy and activism principles. I was most inspired by how many of us took action in the months following the elections by engaging with our elected representatives, attending or organizing protests, or otherwise participating in the civic sphere. However, as we approach the 2018 midterm elections, I notice that our community is becoming desensitized to our present politics.
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.