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As an anthropologist teaching in the Princeton Writing Program whose courses regularly involve offensive material, I would like to weigh in on the recent controversy surrounding Lawrence Rosen’s use of the N-word in his class. In short, I write in support of the students who walked out on Rosen.
In her Feb. 8 letter to the editor, Professor Carolyn Rouse offered a pedagogy for Rosen’s class as contextual background for why certain students should not have walked out. Unfortunately, her letter entirely misses the point as to why the students walked out of class. There is no pedagogical purpose to using “n****r” versus “N-word” or some other euphemism in any class. What are the pedagogical reasons for using “n****r” repeatedly in class if your goal is for students to be able to argue why hate speech should or should not be protected? Can this discussion not take place without the full pronunciation of the most incendiary and racially divisive word in our lexicon? To argue that there is educational value in this line of thinking is at best, disingenuous and at worst, something else entirely. This is one of the many red herrings Rouse offers in her recent letter to the editor. The examples provided regarding a student wiping her feet on the American flag may not elicit the same response because one cannot conflate the 400-year history of the word “n****r” with those upset regarding desecration over the flag. Has anyone offended by flag desecration been oppressed, discriminated against, or systemically denied civil rights? In fact, both flag desecrators and those offended by them have been offered more protections than those called “n****r” by their oppressors. Should we also argue a pedagogical reason for using the word “f**got” or “homo” so that gay people can move beyond their emotions, too, and make an argument about why hate speech should or should not be protected? Certainly not!
Carolyn Rouse, chair of the anthropology department, pictured above. Courtesy of Princeton Alumni Weekly.
Love saves lives. This was the theme of the 45th annual March for Life in Washington D.C., which drew tens of thousands of pro-life activists — including 40 students from Princeton Pro-Life — to protest the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade. Though four and a half decades of marches have not overturned Roe, we persist in joyfully and peacefully witnessing to the sanctity of all human life.
There is something sacred about eating, about the basic act of breaking bread with another. It is one of the rituals of human history, the sharing of a table. It sits alongside other sacred rituals of humanity — passing time together, praying together, mourning together — that are all, at their heart, forms of togetherness.
Last month, the feminist website Babe ran an article recounting the traumatizing sexual experience that a 23-year-old photographer, writing under the pseudonym “Grace,” had with comedian Aziz Ansari. While this comes during a time when sexual assault awareness is at a record high with the rise of #MeToo, many are quick to dismiss the victim’s allegations as an unviable part of the movement.
One year ago, I asked a sophomore friend about eating club initiations. I questioned him further about the specifics of the centuries-old rites and rituals surrounding these infamous events, so he showed me firsthand what they were like by whipping out his iPhone and scrolling through posts on social media. As he flipped through them, I was appalled at what I saw.
In 1977, the movie “All the President’s Men” won the Academy Award for Best Sound. There’s a reason for this. At the end of the film, after Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein painstakingly uncover the Watergate scandal, footage of Richard Nixon’s second inauguration appears on a TV in The Washington Post newsroom. The movie pans toward Woodward and Bernstein clacking on typewriters.
“You were never the problem, but you are so much the solution,” said Judge Rosemarie Aquilina to Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman after she gave her heart-wrenching testimony at Larry Nassar’s sentencing. Aquilina allowed more than 150 women to speak their truth and reveal their scarring experiences with Nassar, who had abused his power as the USA Gymnastics national team doctor and Michigan State University physician to molest young girls during treatments. She went on to directly tell Nassar, “I just signed your death warrant” after sentencing him to 40 to 175 years in prison. Many people have criticized Aquilina, accusing her of crossing a line by overtly showing support for the Nassar’s victims and harshly condemning Nassar. However, I believe Aquilina’s statements were not only acceptable, but also necessary, providing more hope to the gymnasts, as well as to the current #MeToo movement and Time’s Up initiative. By allowing the women to gain the closure they might need to heal and criticizing Nassar face to face, Aquilina set a precedent in the courtroom that demonstrates complete intolerance of sexual assault. This is especially important considering the outcome in many other high-profile sexual assault cases. In 2016, Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Brock Turner, a former Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious girl, to only six months in jail, worried about the effects prison might have on Turner’s psyche. In 2013, before sentencing former bishop Keith Vallejo for rape, Judge Thomas Low called Vallejo an “extraordinarily good man.” When judges show sympathy for men who have hurt women both physically and mentally, they send a message to other victims that their stories do not carry much weight and they are better off silent. By giving all Nassar’s victims a platform to speak and thanking them for their bravery, Judge Aquilina told victims everywhere that their voices matter and are welcome. Instead of silencing the victims, she silenced the perpetrator, throwing away Nassar’s letter expressing his difficulties listening to the women.
I had just hopped on the treadmill when three of the TVs in Dillon Gymnasium lit up with the exact same press conference. President Trump’s doctor had just started answering questions about the President’s mental and physical health, and all of the major cable networks gave this press conference priority over other news.
“That sucks.” “Thank you for sharing that with me.” “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.” “How can I be here for you?”
A few weeks ago, I came across the first hard copy of The Daily Princetonian that I’d saved. (For reference, my bookshelf is now overflowing with copies.) It was from October 2014; I was a first-year, and I’d written my second-ever column for the ‘Prince.’ It was a piece on the official repeal of grade deflation, and a columnist from the Yale Daily News had even quoted me, complimenting my writing. The Prince had been the first extracurricular I’d joined, and I already had two print bylines. I was so proud.
The backlash to the University’s decision on the Honor Constitution referenda has been growing since the January 4 announcement. There are now calls for protests in February by the Honor Code Reform campaign, and the USG Executive Committee has vowed to “[actively pursue] other avenues of action available to us.” These responses demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding both of how the University operates and of the relationship between the faculty and the Honor System. The University’s decision is consistent with its authority over academic policy and was a prudent response to a highly flawed attempt to alter the Honor System. Going forward, students should focus on participating in the work of the Honor System Review Committee, not protesting a legitimate exercise of authority.
So your administration decided to shoot down your school referenda. Now, I’m sure much analysis and frustration will follow the referendum rejections; we’ve already seen some of it. But there is one silver lining to the whole debacle. After all, there are four referenda, and the fourth made it through the gauntlet. In my opinion, the fourth referendum is the most important: This is the referendum that required the Honor Committee to tell you if you are under investigation or not. Ultimately, this is a really good change; other Princeton students ought not be able to lord it over their peers with power in situations that affect their peers at a fundamental level. In the real world, the police are required to tell you if you are under arrest. Why shouldn’t we have the same policy here?
Five months, three days, and 22 hours after I got into college, I realized that I had not written a single poem. There was one exception: a night when I wrote what it meant to be a young, young 18-year-old waiting for 19 and all of its independence to rocket me away from my parents. That night, words poured forth in a tirade. I remember one word I had used, a sweet word, corpuscle (which means minute particle) that I realize now should have been crepuscule (meaning twilight).
In our conversations about the University’s suspension of Honor Code referenda, we have overlooked one crucial fact: The administration has offered no timetable for its internal deliberations. Although we cannot change the decision to stay the referenda, we should press administrators to establish an operable time frame to which they can be held accountable. As citizens, we would expect nothing less from our government. We should hold our University to the same standard.
Holiday party small talk can be summed up in three questions: Do you love college? Do you know your major yet? And how long are you home for?