Weeks in Review 9/24-10/14/17

Tuesday— Butler College has started a monthly dinner series where it invites graduate students in the Woodrow Wilson School to talk with undergraduates about their work in politics. The series’ first speaker was Zach Wahls, an MPA student, LGBT activist, and co-founder of Scouts for Equality. He started by telling how he became famous overnight on the Internet for delivering a speech to the Iowa General Assembly in support of gay marriage. After gaining national attention, he wrote a bestselling book about growing up with two lesbian parents. While he continued activism, he started the Scouts for Equality movement which successfully ended the membership ban on gay Scouts and adult leaders. Throughout the talk, he emphasized the need for positive activism that does not necessarily lambast the institutions which it is trying to change.

Ten minutes later, I walked to the Nassau Inn for a Goldman Sachs recruitment event. More on that in a later post.

Thursday— I went to a coffee chat at Small World for Bain & Company, closing out my trips to corporate events. More on that in a later post.

In the afternoon, I went to a group information session about getting jobs and internships in the U.S. State Department. It was led by a Foreign Service Officer. She talked about her work in Panama when the U.S. transferred control of the canal, serving in an American embassy in Russia, and being one of the first diplomats to work in Cuba. She experienced a lot of espionage in Russia with people constantly following her home and asking friends about her work. When she transferred to Cuba, she said that the spying was even more intense than Russia. She did not experience hearing loss like recent diplomats.

Friday— Another op-ed war occurred in the Daily Princetonian. At the beginning of the school year, sixteen Ivy League professors released a letter through the James Madison Program that told students to, “Think for yourself.” Apparently, this is controversial advice in college. A series of angry op-eds ensued from “Prince” columnists, most notable of which was one claiming that free speech doesn’t exist. He received a flurry of rebuttals in response to his preposterous idea. They’re quite funny. I even jumped in to share my thoughts.

Monday— My history professor wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about Confederate monuments. The previous week, he joined a panel in Charlottesville, Virginia to discuss its white nationalist rally and its connections to the Civil War.

Tuesday— After classes, I went to a James Madison Program lecture about how colleges are handling sexual assault cases. It featured a panel comprised of Stuart Taylor, Jr. ’70 and Professor KC Johnson. Taylor is a Princeton alumnus who has written on a wide range of legal topic. Professor Johnson gained notoriety when he, correctly, publicly defended — along with then-student Stephen Miller — the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape in the 2006 case.

The Whig-Clio held a public debate on restructuring the Daily Princetonian editorial board. I voted with the Whigs.

Thursday— I went to a dinner discussion with Princeton physicist William Happer. He developed the techniques for developing artificial stars by bouncing light rays off of a sodium layer in the atmosphere. This helps adaptive optics — which are used in anti-missile defense systems — correct for turbulence in the atmosphere.

Friday— I delivered a presentation about my summer work in The Bahamas to some other interns for the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Saturday— The Conservation Society organized a whale watching trip in Cape May. It was paid for by Princeton. We saw a lot of dolphins but no whales.

Monday— Princeton is now paying for all of its students to have free subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal. I don’t know what could be any more “establishment” than an Ivy League school giving out the Wall Street Journal.

I went to a James Madison Program dinner discussion with a professor who does legal research on surrogate mothers. She concluded that while surrogate births in their best form seem okay to society, the vast majority of them are exploitative and dehumanize the mother and child. Here’s an interesting fact: the plurality of surrogate mothers in the U.S. are military wives.

Tuesday— Princeton won another Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Kip Thorne GS ’65 shared the Prize with two other physicists for detecting gravitational waves last year. Like last year, there was no mention of this in any of my science classes. I guess that people win Nobel Prizes around here so frequently that the professors simply shrug and say, “who’s next?”

Wednesday— Gina McCarthy, a former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator for the Obama administration, gave a lecture at the Woodrow Wilson School. Her speech was overwhelmingly positive. She said that while the Trump administration may undo some minor policies, it cannot reverse the major ones because the policymaking process and court rulings have made it difficult to do so.

I asked McCarthy a question about working in the public sector. After the lecture, the woman sitting next to me introduced herself and said that she was the former New Jersey Deputy Attorney General for the environmental division. Then, another person started talking to me as I was leaving. He had graduated in 2015 and is now working at an environmental nonprofit.

Thursday— Former President of the European Union Commission and Prime Minister of Portugal José Manuel Barroso spoke at the Woodrow Wilson School. He talked about the benefits of globalization and how Europe is doing well economically and politically despite media reports to the contrary.

Then, I went to a group dinner with economics professors Harvey Rosen and Nicholas Greg Mankiw ’80. Both held the position of Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Bush administration. Mankiw is one of the foremost economists in the country, second only to Paul Krugman and tied with Sir Angus Deaton. They talked about how the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 was inevitable. Mankiw said that even if the economists had seen it coming, prevention would have meant asking Congress to stop giving cheap loans to poor people. Generally, the country does not like it when Republican administrations stop giving things to poor people, so nothing would have been accomplished.

Friday— I went to a debate tournament at the University of Pennsylvania. My partner and I did not do as well as we had hoped. Our debate topics included: allowing NFL players to use drugs (opposition, won), having college rape cases tried in courts instead of on campuses (government, tight case, lost), ending flood insurance subsidies (government, won), pricing airline tickets according to a passenger’s weight (government, lost), and allowing video games to become an Olympic sport (opposition, lost).

It’s interesting how each Ivy League school has a different feel to it based on the campus. Cornell felt like a rural liberal arts school. Harvard seemed like a colonial school in the middle of a big modern city. The University of Pennsylvania was definitely reminiscent of the old-money urban elite. Its large Victorian, mixed with a few colonial, structures reminded me of touring Vanderbilt’s house on the Hudson River. The main group lecture hall, where all of the teams waited, had gold-encrusted lamps.

After returning to Princeton, I realized that it has a slower, more academic Oxford/Cambridge atmosphere. Forbes College and the golf course also gives it a country club feel. I now appreciate having a nice town surrounding the school instead of a decrepit inner city like Penn’s Philadelphian slums.


Some other op-eds that I have written: Affirmative Action #1, Affirmative Action #2

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Chairman of the Board, Do Not Pass Go: On Politics and Princeton Part VI

On September 12, the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Princetonian released a letter announcing the restructuring of the paper’s Editorial Board. It said that the paper, “has decided to return to a more traditional model that includes some of the most experienced members of the organization.” At the end, it mentioned that all members of the old Editorial Board were offered positions as opinion columnists.

Under the old model, the Editorial Board was a group of students who wrote opinions on a variety of school matters. It was independent, reporting only to the Opinion Editor and Editor-in-Chief. The Board chose its own members and edited its own articles. The new model will consist only of “Prince” editors and a few other students. Some major newspapers — like The New York Times — use the old model while others do not.

Understandably, this angered the old Editorial Board members, who were predominantly conservative. They were not involved in the decision-making process and informed of the change only hours before the letter was released. They accused the “Prince” of censoring viewpoints with which the editors disagreed. In the following days, they formed a new organization called “The Princeton Editorial Board.” The Board released its own statement recounting the events leading to its exile.

I am writing about this because word of the incident is getting out to national publications — including Fox News. But I have some inside knowledge about what happened that hasn’t been publicly shared. I won’t use any names, as this is still a hot button issue at Princeton.

Any campus observer could have seen this confrontation coming from a mile away. It all started last fall when the Editorial Board published an opinion that the Women*s Center should provide more programming for conservative women and refrain from using crass posters to advertise its sexual pleasure workshops. This triggered a firestorm of response letters defending the Women*s Center, pointing out that it did in fact have events for career-oriented and pro-life women. The Editor-in-Chief — who was an opinion writer at that time — also wrote a column criticizing the Editorial Board. Students disagreed with the Board, so the paper’s reputation suffered a bit.

Both sides were right and wrong. The Editorial Board didn’t sufficiently research their topic. A simple Google search would have shown that the Women*s Center has programs for women of all political affiliations. But the board was correct to criticize their posters. Princeton is a public campus that has small children regularly walking through it.

Until December 2016, the editorials had been the official opinions of the “Prince.” During the election for Editor-in-Chief, one candidate ran on the platform of revising the Editorial Board’s byline so that its opinions were separate and not those of the paper. The candidate won the election and quickly implemented the policy at the beginning of the year. Her strongly left-leaning beliefs were well known, as she had previously been a writer for The Princeton Progressive. I wasn’t at the elections, so all of this information is secondhand knowledge.

In the following months, the Board published a string of other right-leaning — in the liberal campus sense — editorials that said the University should not divest from private prisons, the swim team should not be punished for its misogynistic statements, and that the burden of proof in college rape trials should be raised, among others. Several “Prince” editors made posts on Facebook emphasizing that the Board didn’t reflect the paper’s views. But the majority of editorials were not political.

I heard about the plans to dissolve the Editorial Board one week before they were publicly announced because my Outdoor Action driving partner was one of the Managing Editors.  He said that there were three reasons as to why the Editorial Board was being restructured.

First, he said that the editors wanted to see more fact-based columns from their opinion writers. The Editorial Board wasn’t meeting the standard. This is partially true. I have noticed a greater push from my own editors to incorporate more statistics into opinion columns. Some of the editorials — like the Women*s Center and gender neutral housing articles — involved minimal factual evidence.

Second, the restructuring would allow the editors to better control the paper’s reputation among students. Most students believed that the Board wrote the paper’s official opinion.  They didn’t like some of the Board’s opinions, thought they were those of the paper, and became hostile to it as a result. The editors want to make the future editorials less political unless there is an issue of great concern to the student body.

Third, the Board was controlled by the College Republicans for the past five years, who had been using it as a bullhorn for their own political opinions all while maintaining anonymity under the paper’s name. I can confirm this. When I interviewed for them last year, I spent five minutes of my fifteen minute interview trying to explain why Princeton’s gender-neutral speech guidelines didn’t matter because they couldn’t be legally enforced. I remember this particular exchange:

Board Member #1: “So what is your opinion on Princeton’s gender inclusive language guide?”

Me: “I don’t think it matters. It works as a guide for people who want to use gender-neutral language without offending people, but it’s not very important.” 

Board Member #2: “But don’t you think this is a violation of the freedom of speech?”

Me: “No, I don’t. It’s only a guideline, and Princeton can’t fully enforce it. There might be an offensive way to use gender-neutral language, and the school should probably tell people how to use it properly so that it isn’t misused. But I don’t see how this violates the freedom of speech.”

Board Member #1: “So you don’t think that telling people to use the word ‘chairperson’ instead of ‘chairman’ is going to have negative repercussions?”

Me: “I doubt it. People can still say ‘chairman’ if they want. No one is stopping anyone from saying anything. This rule can’t be enforced. It’s impossible.”

The conservative members stared at me as if I had a third eye. As I previously wrote, I wasn’t selected. They chose new members in the same manner that Senators approve Supreme Court Justice nominees; it was nominally “apolitical.” While there were liberals who became members, the current Board was always careful to maintain a conservative majority.

On Tuesday night, the Whig-Clio hosted a public debate on the motion, “This House would not have restructured the Daily Princetonian Editorial Board.” The Clio speakers were former members of the Editorial Board while the Whig debaters were former opinion writers for the “Prince.” The paper’s editors couldn’t comment due to an ethics code that prohibits them from speaking on internal affairs.

The Whigs said that the paper was justified in turning to a new model. There was no censorship because all of the board members were offered columnist positions. It would be better that they signed their names at the bottom of controversial columns rather than hide behind anonymity. At the end, they said the fact that a new board was formed showed that no one was being censored and pulled a John Oliver-style stunt showing off the webpage of their own new editorial board.

The Clios argued that the restructuring was a form a censorship. They were denied due process and should have been involved in the decision. The Editor-in-Chief, along with the other editors who are prominent leftist activists, were trying to push their own political agenda on a neutral paper. This is evidenced by the fact that the abrupt decision came in the middle of the year. As a result, the “Prince” can no longer objectively report news or show a diverse set of campus opinions.

I cannot emphasize enough how ironic it is that conservative students who advocate for greater employer control over hiring and firing workers — and some of whom plan to work for large Wall Street firms that are notorious for bloodbath layoffs — are complaining about the fact that the Editorial Board was dissolved without warning.

Eventually, the debate turned into a “Prince” roast where everyone made jokes about the paper. Being a current writer, I was not allowed to publicly speak on the issue.

When it came time to vote, I sided with the Whigs. The audience disagreed, voting 32-11 in Clio’s favor.

Most of Clio’s arguments were nothing more than empty rhetoric. No one is being censored. Although it might be true that the editorial board members weren’t personally notified by e-mail of the fact that they could stay on the paper as columnists, they all knew that it was an option because they saw the Editor-in-Chief’s public letter. Rather than take the high road by becoming regular columnists who are subjected to editing and deadlines like everyone else, they decided to throw a political temper-tantrum.

Frankly, the conservative voice in the paper could have been even stronger with multiple conservative columnists rather than a single conservative Editorial Board. One former member chose to stay.

The editors also aren’t actively rejecting conservative letters to the paper, as evidenced by columns from this week. While my own columns are neither distinctly liberal nor conservative, they all get published. None of them have been reputiated thus far.

Finally, the Editor-in-Chief had the power to make this change. There’s no question about that. Making any changes to a newspaper’s opinion section can be perceived as “political” because it involves messing with people whose only jobs are to write pointed opinions. If she wants an Editorial Board that consists solely of editors, so be it. The writers can elect a candidate in December who will reinstate the old model if that’s their wish.

Ultimately, none of this really matters. Very few Princeton students actually read the Daily Princetonian. This is just a bunch of squabbling between elite students over political peanuts. There are bigger problems in the world that need to be solved.

Weeks in Review 9/10-24/17

It’s different coming back to Princeton as a sophomore than a freshman. Last year, classes seemed to slowly sped up. This year, it has been a deluge since the first day, even though classes are supposed to be easy in the beginning. In spite of my workload, I have found some time to go out and see a few things that were happening around Princeton.

Saturday— Free food is an incentive that has drawn me to events on the opposite sides of the campus at all hours of the day. Tonight, it was worth it again. There was a party in the Dod Hall quadrangle that featured food trucks, inflatable games, and loud music. I went over to get free Jammin’ Crepes, snow-cones, and house-made donuts. The donut truck was my favorite. I could see them fry and hand-dip the donuts in the truck.

Later that night, I went to Prospect Avenue to watch the people streaming into Frosh Week parties. The temperatures were around 60ºF, so everything was toned-down. Fewer people were out this year than last year.

Sunday— I played in the Princeton University Band for the Pre-rade. When I went through it last year, it looked like there were a lot more students than there actually were. I guess that Princeton is smaller than I thought.

Monday— The debate team had an open house for interested freshman. I went simply to meet some new students. I would later learn that many of the people to whom I had spoken were chosen for the team.

I tried to attend Tiger Night. It’s the annual event where the all of the acapella groups perform to attract new members. Based on their recruitment efforts, I would have thought that they would want anyone who was interested in their group. But the people at the door didn’t let me in because of my sophomore status.

Tuesday— In the morning, I went to a debate prep session to help people with tryouts, especially if they hadn’t done debate in high school.

That evening, there was a glow party for the freshmen after the Clash of the Colleges. I went to mooch food off of the freshmen events again. There was a cupcake truck and fried Oreo stand. Both were unhealthily excellent.

Wednesday— Classes have started, which means that I actually have to work again. My schedule shifted around during the first few days as I picked the best precept times. The lecturer for my metaphysics class — Professor Gideon Rosen — was an excellent speaker. It will be fun to attend this lecture twice every week.

I noticed a huge difference between the humanities and STEM. On the first day in a STEM class, the professor talks about the syllabus for five minutes and then starts teaching. In the humanities classes, the professor talks about the syllabus, course outline, and housekeeping procedural matters for forty-five minutes before he starts teaching for the final fifteen minutes.

Students’ clothes are also different. In the southeastern STEM complex of campus, students wear casual clothes that include jeans, t-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, yoga pants, and hoodies. In the northeastern humanities hub, male students wear polo shirts, dress shorts, Vineyard Vines, khakis, button down shirts, and dress or boat shoes while the women wear dresses, buttoned shirts, and pants. There is some truth to the stereotypes.

Thursday— I went to a recruitment presentation by McKinsey & Company, Wall Street’s most prestigious management consulting firm. More on that in a later post.

Shortly after, I got into line at the Nassau Street Sampler. Virtually every major restaurant from Nassau Street set up a table in the Princeton Art Museum and offered free samples. I gorged on bread, donuts, hummus, ice cream, and spicy mac and cheese.

Friday— I worked at a booth in the semesterly activities fair in Dillon Gym to recruit people for Speak with Style.

Afterwards, I got free Nomad pizza at the Whitman Olympics.

In the evening, I watched the Triangle Club’s annual frosh week show. It was just as good as last year, reminding us that there’s plenty to do in New Jersey, you gotta have the Ivy League look, and everyone at Yale is an English major.

When I returned to my dorm, there was a loud commotion on the other end of the hallway. The Glee Club was picking up a freshman who had passed the tryouts.

Saturday— I helped with the Princeton Debate Panel’s pickups. The people who passed were told that there was a second round in which they had to compete. An e-mail told them to write an essay about Ted Cruz’s scorpion comparison and memorize all of the past club presidents and vice presidents since the turn of the millennium. I was selected to pick up a freshman from Delaware. Once the freshmen were in Whig Hall, they listened to some music while in the dark, and the club president pretended to tell some people — who were actual current members — that they didn’t make the team. Then, everyone went to a party followed by a trip to the Tower Club.

I had forgotten how miserable eating club parties were. There were a hundred people drinking beer crammed into a small hot room as loud music played in the background. I left after fifteen minutes.

Sunday— Lawnparties came again to start the year. I stayed to get some club pictures, raided the food trucks, and then left. There were food trucks for tater tots, donuts, and ice cream.

Whitman College also had its free gear giveaway. This year, it was an insulated ski jacket.

Monday— Finally, I was able to meet up with Sherif Girgis for lunch. He was a fascinating person to talk with. But he asked me more questions than I did to him. He wanted to know how things were back in Dover and what the campus political climate was like for undergraduates. It sounded like he should be done with his Ph.D. within the next two years.

Tuesday— Career Services holds an annual jobs fair in Dillon Gym. I decided to go just for the sake of seeing what was there. About two thirds of the employers were from the financial services industry. I stopped at the ExxonMobil table to ask about field geologist opportunities. The recruiters didn’t know much about them. They were clearly there to attract students to their sales and financial divisions.

Thursday— I went to a presentation for the Boston Consulting Group in the Prospect House’s Garden Room.

On the way back to my dorm, I say two raccoons climbing up a tree. They were big.

Friday— The debate team went to the Swarthmore Novice debate tournament. My partner was a sophomore from Manhattan. He’s probably the person with whom I’ll compete regularly in future tournaments. Our debate motions and sides were:

  • This House wants the U.S. to dismantle its nuclear weapons and use the money saved from them to strengthen anti-missile defense systems. (Opposition, Won)
  • Second Round: Missed. (Government, Lost)
  • This House would end flood insurance subsidies. (Government, Won) This was a case that I wrote.
  • This House would require that private tech companies build in backdoors to their encrypted communications so that governments can obtain information with them provided that they have a warrant. (Opposition, Lost)
  • This House believes that the World Bank should purchase land on behalf of indigenous people and give it to them rather than permit outside investors to directly buy it. (Opposition, Lost)

We had terrible luck at this tournament. First, we didn’t hear the team pairings for the second round, so we arrived late. The judge didn’t think that we were coming, so he reported it as a forfeit. Second, our assigned judge did not come to the final round. Swarthmore provided a judge for us instead, but he clearly picked the wrong side as the winner. Even the other team agreed with us.

We didn’t make it to the elimination rounds, and I spent the rest of the evening doing homework. My partner and I went into the town of Swarthmore to eat dinner. It was a tiny village that was barely eight buildings long. All of the restaurants were closed after 7:00 pm on a Saturday except for a joint Dunkin Donuts-Baskin Robbins and a pizza shop. We went to the pizza shop. One Princeton novice team made it to the final four. We didn’t arrive back at Princeton until 11:00 pm.

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He’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain

In the spring, I took training courses that were required to become a group leader in Princeton’s Outdoor Action (OA) program. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the week-long backpacking training trip because it was in between my final exams and trip to The Bahamas. As a result, I settled for a position in Support, a group of people who drive vans to deliver backpacking groups’ supplies.

I moved into my dorm on August 31. My new room is in Whitman College’s Wendell B building. Although the double is smaller than my quad from last year, it has a much better view. That evening, I went to a brief training class before going to bed.

For the next three days, I went to more training classes and helped move supplies into Dillon Gym in preparation for the freshmen’s arrival. My partner and I were assigned to the backpacking groups in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

The drive was very long, so we were instructed to leave on Sunday afternoon. We traveled west to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and then south to our hotel in Luray, Virginia. Near the drive’s end, the roads winded through the mountains in the dark. OA had booked a room in a Days Inn motel near the park. It seemed like the place hadn’t been renovated since the 1970s.

I can’t say all of the details of what we did during the week because some of it involved confidential medical information when evacuating people from trips. But I will write around those events.

Monday— OA provided us with a per diem food allowance of $25 per person. We first went to the local Walmart to get cheap sandwich supplies for the week’s lunches. This allowed us to spend the full $25 on dinner each night. Then, we went into Shenandoah National Park. Our first task of the day was to shuttle OA buses with backpackers to trailheads. Skyline Drive — the road that snakes along Shenandoah’s ridge — was packed for Labor Day weekend. All of the drop-offs went well. We ate lunch at the Stony Man overlook. It had a spectacular view of the Shenandoah Valley.

In the afternoon, we went to the Virginia Military Institute’s Virginia Museum of the Civil War. Despite the tilt toward Confederate glorification (their map differentiated the “original” Confederate states from the rest) it was a good museum. The firearms exhibit was an all-encompassing display of every gun from the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the Shenandoah Valley was a lush agricultural region for the Confederacy. Additionally, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia used it as a corridor to invade the north, such as for the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863. By 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was placed in control of the Union armies. He dispatched William Sherman to wreak havoc in the south. Grant himself would face Lee near Richmond. Meanwhile, Franz Siegel marched down the Shenandoah Valley.

Siegel’s goal was to destroy the railroad hub at Lynchburg, Virginia. But Confederate General John C. Breckenridge intercepted him at New Market, Virginia. Breckenridge was desperate for soldiers, so he summoned the cadets at the Virginia Military Institute. In the battle that ensued, the cadets marched down a hill into Union fire, captured a house, set up a defensive line, and then led a charge toward the retreating Union soldiers. The farmland that they crossed was named the “Field of Lost Shoes” because many of their shoes fell off in the mud.

The Battle of New Market could have been a disaster for Siegel were it not for a quick-thinking Delawarean. Captain Henry A. du Pont decided to leapfrog his cannons. This meant that after one cannon fired it was pulled back to reload and make space for another, thus providing an unending stream of shelling on the Confederates. du Pont later received a Medal of Honor for his handling of the retreat at the Battle of Cedar Creeks. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel, worked as a businessman in Delaware after the war, and then became a United States Senator in 1906.

Following the battle, the VMI cadets were hailed as heroes in Richmond and were paraded around the Confederacy. One of the cadets, Moses Ezekiel, became a world-renowned sculptor.

Although the VMI museum portrays the Battle of New Market as a pivotal Confederate victory, it was nothing more than a skirmish. The total casualties were fewer than 2,000, which pales in comparison to the armies’ overall sizes. After Siegel’s miserable conduct in the Shenandoah Campaign, Grant replaced him with General Phillip Sheridan, who annihilated the valley with his scorched earth tactics.

We went to a local Mexican restaurant, Rancho Viejo, for dinner. We stopped by Flotzie’s, a local ice cream stand, for dessert. Both were tasty.

Tuesday— We went to drop off supplies in the morning. Next, the OA command center instructed us to run errands in Warrenton, Virginia — an hour’s drive away. In the evening, we went to Dan’s Steakhouse to split a 32 oz. steak three ways. We didn’t finish it. Finally, we returned to Flotzie’s for ice cream.

Wednesday— It rained the entire day. The first group with which we rendezvoused looked miserable. No one had good rain gear, and they weren’t prepared for the chilly temperatures. At 5:30 pm, we received a call from OA Command saying that we had to take student to catch a train in Washington D.C. by 8:30 pm. My partner floored the pedal as we rushed to D.C., a two and a half hour drive away. I drove back through the winding mountain roads in the rain. In some places, the fog was thick and visibility was less than ten feet. Upon return to the motel at 11:00 pm, we collapsed on our beds.

Thursday— We went back to New Market to tour the Route 11 potato chip factory. I enjoyed the free samples. Route 11 specializes in thick kettle-cooked chips that have strong seasonings. Then, we returned to the VMI museum to walk around the adjacent battlefield. Before lunch, we stopped at Pack’s Frozen Custard for a treat.

In the afternoon, we hiked to Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park. After that, we went to Big Meadows. Later, we had two supply drops for backpacking groups. We went to the Pollock dining room at the Skyland resort in Shenandoah for dinner.

Friday— We transported a group from Old Rag Mountain to Thornton’s Gap in the park. During the drive back to Princeton, we hit the D.C.-Baltimore-Wilmington stretch at rush hour. After departing at 12:30 pm, we arrived at Princeton seven hours later. I ordered a salad and chocolate soufflé at Cargot for dinner.

*  *  *  *  *

While I wanted to be a group leader for OA, getting a free road trip wasn’t bad. I might do it again next year. It has the fun of being in a cool mountainous area without the responsibility having to entertain eight freshmen who didn’t know each other prior to the trip. Besides, I think I’ve had plenty of time outdoors this summer with a month of camping in The Bahamas.

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Guide to Princeton Restaurants

I stayed on Princeton’s campus in July while I worked in the lab. Due to an online error, I didn’t get a University meal plan. But everything worked out well. The dining hall hours were erratic, and individual meals had an average cost of $13.50 — an outrageous price for a cheap watery eggs and oily bacon breakfast.

Instead, I made my own breakfast and lunch then ate at a restaurant each night for dinner. Princeton attracts many weekend tourists from New York City. As a result, it has a mélange of restaurants. But few Princeton students ever eat at them because of their distance from the dorms and relatively high prices.

While this guide does not speak for every dish at each place and is by no means definitive, it should serve as a helpful guide to those who want to eat out one night but don’t have the time to look at each restaurant’s menu.

Restaurants’ scores are a combination of price and quality of food. A restaurant with good but overpriced food will get a lower score than a restaurant with only slightly less flavorful food with a cheaper price. $ = $1.00-13.50 per person; $$ = $13.50-20; $$$ = +$20 (Price score accounts for entree, drink, and tip.)

Editor’s Choice

  • Cargot Brasserie (10/10, $$$): Although this restaurant just opened this summer, it has already risen to the top spot. The gougères appetizer was fresh, and the steak frites was the best that I’ve had outside of a francophone country. Nearly all of the food is from local farms. If you’re looking for a restaurant to impress somebody — and don’t have to pay the bill — this is it. UPDATE (9/8/17) I just tried the chocolate soufflé, and it is the best dessert in town.
  • Despaña Restaurant & Tapas Cafe (10/10, $$$): This was my top pick until Cargot opened. The tapas and paella are savory and authentically Spanish. The bill can be kept low if you select your platter wisely and limit the amount of food that you order.

Top Honors

  • Agricola Eatery (9/10, $$$): It was an all-around good farm to table restaurant. Some of the dishes sound like they should be at a vegan hippie establishment; however, it’s all good.
  • Witherspoon Grill (9/10, $$$): This is the perfect steak and ‘taters restaurant. It offers a wide range of high quality American food that will satisfy almost anybody.
  • Yankee Doodle Tap Room (8/10, $$): The Tap Room is a branch of the Nassau Inn. Originally, I had low expectations for this restaurant, but they were quickly shattered. The Princetonian sandwich was mouthwateringly good.

Best Bang for Your Buck (i.e. The best cheap food in town)

  • Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company (7/10, $): I visited the Company the most during the summer. While you shouldn’t expect any kind of over-the-top gourmet food, they are solidly good. They offer a wide variety of soups and sandwiches. My favorite is the chicken parmesan. Their Belgium fries are the best French fries in Princeton.
  • Taste of Mexico (7/10, $): Few people other than the locals know about this place. It’s in a hole-in-the-wall building behind an alley off of Nassau Street. The prices are low, and the food is fresh. I prefer it over Qdoba for Mexican food.

Most Diverse

  • Princeton Pi (6/10, $): Holy cow! This place has a — in President Trump’s words — yuuuge menu. It took me at least 10 minutes to read it. Princeton Pi offers everything from pizza to burgers to sandwiches to salads and everything in between. The calzone that I had was fine, yet it doesn’t beat Nicola Pizza’s Nic-o-bolis at Rehoboth Beach.

Best Ethnic

  • Nassau Sushi (7/10, $$): I went here with my Freshman Seminar classmates and everything was delicious. I liked the fried pork dish.
  • Thai Village (7/10, $): I wasn’t impressed by the Village when I went here during the school year. But I returned to meet a friend during the summer and changed my mind. Their chicken dishes are well done.

Best Pizza

  • Nomad Pizza (8/10, $$): Hands down, it is the best pizza joint in town. If you say, “Free Nomad Pizza on the Frist south lawn at 3:00 pm” in an e-mail at Princeton, you’ll get at least 100 people show up at 2:50 pm.

Best Breakfast

  • PJ’s Pancake House (7/10, $): This is the quintessential Princeton restaurant. PJ’s offers every breakfast dish imaginable. Their chocolate peanut butter pancakes are my favorite. It also has a number of diner-style dinner options that are nice.

Best Ice Cream

  • Halo Pub (8/10, $): Most Princeton students will debate whether The Bent Spoon or Thomas Sweet is better. The Bent Spoon is known for eccentric mixtures and Thomas Sweet has a mixture of new delights and regular flavors. But Halo Pub mostly sticks to traditional flavors and does them well. Its chocolate peanut butter ice cream is rich. The hot chocolate is also wonderful in the winter.

Honorable Mention

  • Mistral (7/10, $$): Brunch is their best meal. I thought that the Brunch Burger had an interesting blend of ingredients and unique taste.
  • 30 Burgers (7/10, $$): This is my favorite go-to. I visit it every time I return to Princeton after a break. Everything is good.
  • The Bent Spoon (7/10, $): It’s very much a hippie ice cream joint. There’s a reason why thirty people will wait in a line for it on a Friday night. You can’t go wrong with any of their sherbets.
  • Triumph Brewing Company (7/10, $$): I can’t yet comment on their beer, but Triumph is a good meal on any day. Their hanger steak salad and pretzel appetizers were excellent. Yet I’m not ready to say that they’re better than Rehoboth Beach’s Dogfish Head brewpub.
  • Jamin’ Crepes (7/10, $): Everything is a crepe. Some of the options sound fine while others look weird. I’ve had several of their crepes and none of them were bad.
  • House of Cupcakes (7/10, $$): It’s part of a growing interest in gourmet cupcake restaurants. The taste is worth the price.

Regular Joe (i.e. good food but nothing special)

  • Thomas Sweet (7/10, $): While this is a Princeton stalwart, I don’t think it’s any different from a number of other ice cream places that I’ve visited on the east coast.
  • Mamoun’s (6/10, $): I go here for a gyro or shawarma.
  • Cafe Vienna (6/10, $): The hot chocolate tasted awesome on a cold day. I haven’t had any of their other food.
  • The Alchemist and Barrister (6/10, $$): The Alchemist serves typical high-end bar food. It’s good if you’re going to see a local band playing there or need a place to eat late at night. I enjoy the buttermilk chicken sandwich.
  • Olives (6/10, $$): I’ve heard a lot of students rave about Olives, and I eat it often at catered club events. Frankly, I think it’s overrated. As a Middle Eastern cuisine, it’s better than other catering services, but I don’t see what all of the rage is about.
  • Efes (6/10, $): Their gyro was comparable to Mamoun’s. I’ll have to revisit it in order to differentiate the two restaurants better.
  • Tandoori Bite Indian Cuisine (6/10, $): I thought this was solid Indian food, though I’ve heard some students say that there is better in town.
  • The Dinky Bar & Grill (6/10, $$): The Dinky is fine for a pricey snack before a show. But I wouldn’t recommend it for a full meal; go to Cargot instead.
  • Wawa (6/10, $$): I have been going to Wawa for the past 14 years, and their food continues to get better (for a gas station). This is a midnight favorite for students in Forbes and Whitman Colleges.
  • Tiger Pizza (5/10, $): This is a typical pizza joint.
  • Panera Bread (5/10, $): A national chain. You know what you’re going to get.
  • Qdoba (5/10, $): A national chain. You know what you’re going to get.
  • Dolceria (5/10, $$): I had high hopes for this place, but it didn’t meet them. My expectations for gelato are very high. The flavors weren’t as rich as I had wanted.
  • Starbucks (4/10, $$): A national chain. You know what you’re going to get.
  • Dunkin Donuts (4/10, $): A national chain. You know what you’re going to get.
  • Hunan Chinese (4/10, $): A typical Chinese restaurant.
  • Tiger Noodles (4/10, $): A typical Chinese restaurant.
  • Fruity Yogurt (3/10, $): The frozen yogurt here is the same as what you get in the dining halls. Save your money and go elsewhere.


  • The Peacock Inn (much anticipated): The Inn dates back to the 1700s and has a lengthy history to go with it. Members of the Continental Congress were entertained in it while Nassau Hall was the nation’s capital. One of its owners — Mr. Libbey — established orange and black as Princeton’s colors. Albert Einstein stayed in it when he moved to Princeton. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway are both known to have visited it too.
  • Blue Point Grill: This place was busy every time I walked past it. What’s drawing everyone to the Grill?
  • Trattoria Procaccino: It’s on the outskirts of town, but I always see a crowd in it.
  • Mediterra: This place is busy on weekend nights.
  • Winberie’s
  • Teresa Caffe
  • Mehek
  • Sakura Express
  • Tomo Sushi
  • Hoagie Haven: Yes, I know. This is a Princeton favorite, and, one year later, I still haven’t eaten there.
  • George’s Roasters and Ribs
  • Arlee’s Raw Blends
  • Ivy Inn: I usually see expensive old man cars out front. Lincolns, Mercedes, Pontiacs, Buicks, and Cadillacs are parked near it.
  • Mo C Mo C Japanese Cuisine
  • Kung Fu Tea and Noodle House
  • Chennai Chimney
  • Tortuga’s Mexican Village
  • La Mezzaluna
  • Soonja’s Cuisine
  • Ajihei

Drumthwacket and Northwestern Princeton

I took a walk to the northwestern corner of Princeton. Most of the area consists of residential space. Along the way, I stopped at Marquand Park. The nice little area consists of a playground, baseball field, wide open grassy fields and a forested pathway.

After walking another one hundred yards, I arrived at Drumthwacket, the official residence of New Jersey’s governor. It’s much bigger than the governor’s mansion in Delaware, Woodburn. Drumthwacket’s land was once owned by William Penn. It was passed along to the Olden family, and a man named Charles Smith Olden was born on it. He became a businessman, trustee of Princeton, and then Governor of New Jersey in 1860.

The Oldens sold the house to the Pyne family, who also donated a lot to Princeton. Then, the Pynes sold it to the Nathaniel Spanel, the founder of what became the Playtex Corporation. Finally, the Spanels sold it to the State of New Jersey for the purpose of becoming the governor’s mansion. Governor Chris Christie currently resides in it. Fun Fact: Governor Christie lived in Drumthwacket while his son went to college just down the road at Princeton.

Drumthwacket is one of four governor’s residences outside of the state capital, along with Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. It is open for public tours every Wednesday.


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Out and About: Mountain Lakes Open Space Area

On Saturday, I walked northward for thirty minutes and arrived at the Mountain Lakes Open Space Area. It is a small preserve of land nestled halfway between Princeton and the Rocky Hill Ridge. I came in through the auto road before turning onto a narrow footpath that winded through the woods.

The trail emerged at the tip of a dammed lake. Like most lakes in the mid-Atlantic, it was covered in a thin sheen of green algae. A gaggle of geese were milling about along the shore. Some signs said that the lake was created in the late 1800s for ice harvesting. As Princeton’s only mountain-fed lake, the water was clean enough for consumption.

I wandered further up and saw the Lake House, a building that can be rented for private events. The water was sufficiently still to reflect the image of the treetops next to it. I continued north into the woods. Everything was quiet. Parts of the path looked like the Appalachian Trail. I crossed through a boulder field and looked at “Devil’s Cave,” though it was covered in graffiti.

I walked past the house on the way back, noticing that there were people preparing for what looked like a wedding reception. When I returned to Princeton, people were going into the chapel for a wedding with two black limousines parked outside.

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The Battle of Princeton

In the opening months of the American Revolution, the colonists were losing. While the British had retreated out of Boston on March 17, 1776, they invaded New York City five months later. The battles of Long Island and White Plains were humiliating defeats for General George Washington. The British ousted the Continental Army from New York City. They continued to pursue his army through New Jersey until it crossed the Delaware River into Pennsylvania.

By that time, General Washington was planning a counterstrike. On the night of December 25, he ordered the army to cross the Delaware River. In the morning, they attacked Trenton while the Hessians were unprepared. General Washington then moved his army back to Pennsylvania in the afternoon.

After hearing news of the defeat, General Cornwallis advanced his forces to the south. General Washington crossed the Delaware River again to meet Cornwallis’ army at the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2. A group of Americans created a small skirmish northeast of the town that delayed the British army’s movement. At night, Washington secretly moved his army around Cornwallis’ redcoats thanks to a spy who had mapped the area’s roads.

On January 3, General Washington attacked Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood’s garrison stationed at Princeton. Unbeknownst to Washington, Cornwallis had ordered Mawhood’s soldiers to join him in Trenton, still thinking that the Americans were in the area. As his forces marched westward, they were surprised to intersect the Continental Army.

The ensuing battle occurred on the farmland of Thomas Clark. Mawhood sent his soldiers to attack Brigadier General Hugh Mercer’s forces. They quickly overran him. Mercer was surrounded by British troops and bayoneted. Delawarean Colonel John Haslet — Mercer’s second in command — was shot in the head.

General Washington’s forces arrived at the battle and pushed the British further back. They lined up on a northern field, a mere thirty yards apart in Maxwell’s Field. Washington rode in front of his soldiers to yell “Halt” and “Fire.” The British fired at the same time. One officer, John Fitzgerald, lowered his hat over his eyes to avoid seeing Washington fall. But Washington remained there unscathed and ordered his troops to advance. The British forces collapsed under the Americans’ ensuing charge.

Some of the British took refuge in Nassau Hall. Alexander Hamilton set up cannons at the present-day location of Blair Arch and ordered them to fire at the building. When the Americans charged in, 194 British soldiers surrendered. It was a decisive victory.

Cornwallis pursued them northward to little avail. He retreated to New Brunswick.

A British cannon was left near the school — called “The College of New Jersey” at that time — until it was moved to New Brunswick during the War of 1812. After the war, the army brought it back to Princeton’s armory. Some Princeton students took it and planted it in the ground behind Nassau Hall. The space is now called “Cannon Green.” Rutgers students claim that the cannon is theirs and have painted it red many times over the past decades. A smaller cannon sits by Whig Hall.

The Battles of Trenton and Princeton were the first major victories for the American forces in the Revolutionary War. They showed that the colonists could be a formidable force against the British army and kickstarted a year in which they would go on to win the Battles of Saratoga, thereby securing French support in the war.

Today, Princeton Battlefield State Park preserves the land for public use. I arrived at it following a hot 30 minute walk from the University. A colonnade stands at its northern end. It was designed by Thomas Walter — the architect of the U.S. capitol — and was part of a mansion from the early 1900s. Ten yards behind it lies a circular memorial to the American and British soldiers who were buried nearby.

A single oak tree grows in the middle of the southern field. The “Mercer Oak” had stood for 300 years until it died in March 2000. The current oak is from one of its scions. The Clark House Museum is at the southernmost end. In it, Dr. Benjamin Rush — who graduated from Princeton in 1760 — unsuccessfully attempted to save Hugh Mercer.

To the east is the Institute for Advanced Study — the place where Albert Einstein worked when he came to the U.S. It owns the small tract of land where Washington rallied his army to attack the British. The IAS wanted to build houses on all of Maxwell’s Field but reached a deal for the Civil War Land Trust to buy two thirds of it at $4 million, which would then be added to Princeton Battle Field State Park. The Civil War Land Trust is still raising the money needed to purchase it. When I walked by the field, I could see that the IAS had already started its construction.

I ate lunch under a shady tree and watched the road. A lot of people use the park for cycling and frisbee. Student runners also frequently come out to the park. Unfortunately, the majority of students don’t make the trek out to this historical jewel or even know that it exists.

I then walked around to the IAS. This time, I did not going inside after remembering what happened the previous time.

The Battle of Princeton Memorial is at the intersection of Nassau Street, Mercer Street, and Bayard Lane.

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Summer: The Aesthetics of Princeton Part XXIV

When I left Princeton on May 30, it was cool and overcast with a heavy drizzle, hardly a beautiful summer day. But when I returned at the end of June, it was hot and humid just like any other day in the mid-Atlantic states.

After spending a lot of time here in the middle of winter, it is strange to see the foliage of the trees. During the school year, I could easily take a lot of photos of only the buildings because there are certain hours of the day when students aren’t outside, either due to class or their propensity to sleep late into the morning. Now, it is difficult to do this. There are always tourists walking around — at all hours of the day — and many of the buildings have scaffolding around them.

Each evening, I walk along Nassau Street to watch the people. On any given day, about one third to one half of them are speaking a foreign language. From my observations, the biggest contributors to tourists, in order, are: China, India, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and eastern European countries.

The school feels devoid of students. I have seen fewer than 30 students in the month since I returned. Only 3 of the 50 dormitory halls are being used by students who are on campus for research or work. The rest are used for summer programs. The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and Golandsky Institute are two of the numerous programs that come to Princeton. I have also seen sports camps for high school women’s lacrosse, elementary school boys’ lacrosse, and high school men’s baseball.

Even though my castle-like dorm is hot during the day, I try to find air conditioning in another place whenever possible.

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A Princeton Away From Princeton

One of Princeton’s greatest perks isn’t at the actual school. It’s not the seemingly unlimited research funds, world class faculty, or intelligent classmates. Instead, it is its vast alumni association. The alumni’s great loyalty to Princeton and its students are what usually place it at the top of the U.S. News and World Report annual college rankings.

The mecca for these alumni is an exclusive organization in the middle of Manhattan that is appropriately named “The Princeton Club of New York.” Only Princeton faculty, students, and graduates can join. It serves as the chief social outlet of everything Princeton for the many alumni who live in the city.

The Club often hosts numerous events throughout the year for those in the east coast’s upper echelons to mingle. Vanity Fair documented how investor Andrew Caspersen used one of these events to recruit fellow alumni into a scam from which he stole $95 million.

Summer weekends at Princeton are rather quiet, so I traveled to the Big Apple this past Saturday to visit the Club and see if it lived up to its reputation.

My trips to New York City aren’t small forays. They’re more like expeditions. I walked ten miles around the city. Before going to the main destination, I went to the New York Historical Society’s museum. Then, I took a train to Williamsburg in Brooklyn, wandered around for two hours, walked to the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally arrived at Grand Central Terminal. Outside, I was amazed at what I saw.

There is a quadrangle in midtown Manhattan that is bounded by 6th Avenue to the west, Park Avenue to the east, 43rd Street to the south, and 45th street to the north in which the Ivy League alumni have maintained posh clubhouses for the past century. These clubs occupy prime real estate between Grand Central Terminal, Times Square, and Bryant Park. In between them lie the nation’s top financiers; the towers of Bain & Company, BlackRock, MetLife, and J.P. Morgan dot the skyline.

As soon as I left the train station, I saw a large blue flag sporting a white “Y” waving in the wind. That was the Yale Club of New York. I turned westward and found the Princeton Club.

New York was hot. The Club’s chilled air was a welcome relief. When I walked towards the back, signs sat on each table that said, “Cell phone use prohibited.” A small library was located on the first floor. It was deathly silent. Only the clacking of a patron’s keyboard broke the air conditioned stillness. The bookshelves were stocked with novels and nonfiction alike. Statuettes of sportsmen lined their tops.

On the second floor, I peaked into the James Madison Room. Brown wooden panels decorated a beige wall. Portraits on past university presidents — and one of current President Eisgruber — hung adjacent to bookshelves. Cream-colored cloths lay on the tables.

The restaurant and Nassau 1756 Room were on the third floor. According to the Club’s website, it should have been open on Saturday night for those without reservations. It was deserted. Shiny black tables tables and domed lights made the room look like a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Two old oars along and a scull were in the back. The Nassau 1756 Room — called the Woodrow Wilson Room until recently — was another stately venue like the James Madison Room for holding private events. I also couldn’t help but to notice the fanciness of the bathroom with its marble stalls and vintage photographs of past football teams. There were bottles of cologne and other fragrances next to the sink. This place seemed too fancy for a commoner like me.

The fourth floor had more private dining rooms and a terrace for outdoor events. Everything above this level consisted of hotel rooms, none of which had any distinguishable characteristics. Throughout my entire survey of the Club, I saw landscape paintings of Princeton. These alumni were very fond of going back to “Old Nassau.”

I walked down to Times Square, returned to Bryant Park for a rest, and then went to Penn Station where I caught my train to New Jersey.

I will continue to return to the Princeton Club during my subsequent trips to New York City. While it was nearly empty when I went, I got a glimpse of life for the successful alumni of country’s most prestigious colleges. From gothic castle dorms to swanky Manhattan clubhouses, they live a different world.

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