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Opening Exercises kicks off awards season at the University. An administrator takes the stage to call up a half dozen students to receive prizes for reaching the top of their classes. Other awards are presented in the following weeks that include Shapiro prizes, Rhodes scholarships, and so on, until the senior class’s valedictorian is named. The competition for academic awards is supposed to be one of the most meritocratic processes in higher education, hence why their winners are revered. You’re either the best, or you’re not.
I performed a wedding on March 13 for two close friends in the living room of the bride’s childhood home. This was the Friday before Princeton University’s spring break and the last day the Center for Jewish Life building was open to the community.
I did not expect or want Bernie Sanders to drop out. I had anticipated voting for him in the general election. Until only a few short weeks ago, it seemed that Sanders would indeed be going head-to-head with our sitting President.
I must admit that despite my concerted efforts to ignore current events so as not to further upset me, I have found myself engrossed in the news about the coronavirus pandemic. As a budding mathematician watching the spread of disease unfold on television, my eye always arrives at the numbers ticking away at the corner of the screen. I examine the number of total cases in the United States, the number of new cases, and the number of deaths — all terribly unsettling.
In dealing with a public health crisis that has inspired reality checks of all sorts, we are devoted to the notion that this virus changes everything, not just now but forever after. To cope, after all, we must submerge and overcome the worst aspects of ourselves, and recognize that we are all in this together, bigoted tirades and class distinctions notwithstanding.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m scared and stressed. Many of us are. Things are happening right now that make me angry and uncertain, but more than that, I’m worried about my future. Every day I hear higher numbers of COVID-19 infections. I see more instances of racism towards my people. I count the weeks until summer and until our fall semester, and I worry.
Dear Dean Dolan,
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.