Common Sense: On Politics and Princeton Part II

“Could the straggling thoughts of individuals be collected, they would frequently form materials for wise and able men to improve into useful matter.”

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

In some ways, Princeton’s political sphere has not evolved since colonial times: it is strongly based upon verbal debate and printed news. Television is a secondary source of information (though it is much larger if the Internet is included with it). In fact, I have not watched a full television program in over a week. It is reserved only for big political events, like the presidential debates. Also, Princeton is not a “protest school” like some of the other Ivies (looking at you Brown and Columbia). Political discourse is rather calm here…well, most of the time. I already wrote some about verbal debate, so now I turn to the latter.

Printed media is a big deal at Princeton. As previously mentioned, The Daily Princetonian is one of the gold standards for collegiate newspapers. I read every edition religiously during breakfast, except the sports section (do we even have sports?). It is printed during weekdays and gets distributed to every nook and cranny on campus. Additionally, the “Prince” is circulated across the country and the world as many alumni, some of whom are powerful business and political leaders, still enjoy reading it after graduation. Alumni also play a big role in most of Princeton’s newspapers and magazines in that they sit on the boards of trustees for them. It is kind of strange to think that some of our clubs are ultimately led by students that have already graduated.

The “Prince” is important in politics because of its opinion section. Various clubs and special interest groups use it as a pulpit to propound their beliefs. Currently, in the midst of the presidential election, there is at least one, if not more, political editorials per day. Sometimes, there are intense battles in the editorial opinion section that can become heated. There was an incident nine years ago because of what the conservative Anscombe Society wrote in the opinion section. Another article from three years ago started a firestorm on campus and went viral online across the country when a female Princeton alumna advised young women to marry a Princeton Man. As a Princeton Man (whatever that means) I do not object to this advice, but it is a classic example of how a newspaper article in Princeton starts vigorous campus debate and then advances to the national stage.


A newspaper distributer


Three years later fallout still lingers from the “Marry a Princeton Man” article, recent issue of Nassau Weekly

Another publication that I regularly read is The Princeton Tory. This newspaper enjoys bringing controversy to the campus with provocative articles. Just two years ago, a Tory article about “white privilege” went viral on social media. In the picture below on the left, it is trying to be provocative by using the word “freshman.” Princeton recently issued a guide for gender inclusive language, which promotes the use of the word “frosh” instead of “freshman” (it took me three weeks to figure why everyone says “frosh”) and advises faculty to not use expressions that may exclude genders (like foreman, forefathers, and manning the table). The Tory’s first issue of the year featured their response to this new guide. As one would expect, they oppose it, standing on the side of free speech (and I would have to agree with their argument). Their second issue had an article on the need for more fiscally conservative officers at the eating clubs. Only at Princeton…

There are some liberal newspapers at Princeton, but they do not seem to publish as often (or at all) as the conservatives. These include: The Princeton Progressive and Stripe Magazine. One regular newspaper that comes close is Nassau Weekly. As an alternative newspaper, it features stories on whatever the writers are thinking about for that particular week. However, when Nassau Weekly features political articles it usually takes a sharp turn to the left.

In all, printed media is an integral component of political discourse on campus. When a group cannot have a debate with the entire student body, they publish their views in a newspaper. Although newspapers may be dying in the rest of the country, they are alive and well here at Princeton.


UPDATE (12/15/16)— The Princeton Progressive does in fact print its volumes, however it does so less frequently than The Tory. I read all campus political publications regardless of ideology.


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