Reading Week, Dean’s Date, and Exams: Social Life (or lack thereof) at Princeton Part VI

Princeton has an academic calendar that is different from the majority of other colleges. We start classes in the middle of September, have a three week winter break at the end of December, and then return for exams at the beginning of January. It has been this way since the 1940s. All of my friends already took their exams before winter break. Consequently, this results in a strange limbo period for students.

Dean’s Date is the semesterly day on which all final papers, projects, and assignments are due. Exams start after it. The week preceding it is known as “Reading Week.” It allows students to have time for studying. There are no classes or other activities happening during this week.

As I write this, the campus is a monastery. Everyone is holed-up as they study for final exams and work on their projects. I was walking around last night, a Friday, at 11:00 PM and there wasn’t a single dorm party. Nearly all of the eating clubs were closed with the exception of the Tiger Inn. Firestone Library was packed. It is always busy, along with the other libraries, during Reading Week. It’s quiet around here.

I study in a different area that few know about: the Seminary Library. It is always extremely quite and almost deserted. It is a long walk, but it is worth it.

As a science major, Dean’s Date won’t be that bad for me. I have to write one paper, for a Spanish class, and submit an assignment for geosciences. Other than that, I only have to study for final exams. Some of my humanities friends are swamped with papers and essays.

More will happen around Dean’s Date. I will continue to update this post and its photo gallery throughout the next two weeks.

UPDATE (1/15/17)— The students are packed like sardines in the libraries for the final 36 hours before Dean’s Date. I walked around Firestone and Marquand Libraries at 9:00 PM. There are more students in them now than I have seen the rest of the semester. Everyone is in a last minute crunch. I added some photos to the gallery.

UPDATE (1/16/17)— I joined the band for a semiannual Princeton tradition. Every Dean’s Date Eve, they walk through the campus’ libraries in uniforms and play a few tunes. We all gathered at Woolworth Hall at 8:30 PM before walking toward Frist Student Center. The band opened with “Tequila” on the ground floor followed by a lobster performance in the cafeteria where surprised students were dining on their late meals. Then, we traveled to the lobby of Lewis Library. A few computer science majors were not amused. Firestone Library was the main act. As we circled around the inside, students rushed out of the Trustee Reading Room and down the stairs to watch us. Their were +50 onlookers. The security guard didn’t look too happy. Our show ended with a performance outside the glass windows of Marquand Library. Overall, it was a terrific experience that I was happy to be a part of.

The residential colleges also have their own traditions. Tonight, they served late night breakfasts to help nourish the minds of panicked students who are cramming in their final papers during the wee hours of the night. There were A LOT of people in line for this. The photo gallery has been updated.

Also, I can’t cover all of the Dean’s Date activities. Fortunately, the University Press Club has multiple writers around the campus who are covering all of the events on their live 24/7 blog.

UPDATE (1/16/17)— About 40 students gathered in the south courtyard of Whitman College at 11:59 PM for another semiannual tradition called the “Whitman Wail.” This provides for a designated time for all students to voice their suffering from Dean’s Date assignments in a singular primordial cry of pain. As soon as the clock struck midnight, a student let out a yell and was soon joined in by a chorus of others. Slowly, windows opened around the courtyard. More and more students joined in on the Wail until it abruptly stopped.

I quickly raced northward towards Rockefeller College in the hopes of also witnessing the Holder Howl. Alas, a rabid rabbit in the middle of the sidewalk delayed my arrival, and I just barely missed it. Along the way, I could hear the cries emanating from Butler and Wilson Colleges. At that moment, I realized that we were all in this together.

A video was added to the photo gallery.

UPDATE (1/17/17)— Happy Dean’s Date everybody! Today is the day where papers go to die. Nothing fuels quality work like a can of Red Bull and the sense of imminent failure in life if its not submitted on time.

I went to breakfast at my usual time of 8:00 AM and realized that the dining hall was a bit emptier than usual. Only six to eight people were eating in there. Afterwards, I looked in two nearby libraries to monitor their activity. The Whitman Class of 1963 Library (called the Cry-bary by Whitmanites) was mostly devoid of students. There was one person, though, who had obviously pulled an all nighter. Next, I strolled over to the Julian Street Library in WuWilcox Hall. This one had possibly fifteen to twenty students. Someone was sleeping in the back corner. My friend, who was laying on a couch outside of the library, said that he had been there for twelve hours and that some in “J. Street” had been in there longer.

Eight hours remaining until everything is due!

UPDATE (1/17/17)— An e-mail was sent out to the students saying that the Dean’s Date celebration was moved to the Campus Club at 4:30 PM. Band was cancelled due to the possibility of rain, so Yours Truly went to investigate.

There was a very long line around the corner. I went to the back and didn’t get inside for 15 minutes. They were giving out free Princeton beanies along with pizza, Krispy Kreme donuts, cookies, hot cider, and hot chocolate. To my dismay, nothing exciting happened at 5:00 PM, not even a countdown. Dean’s Date was sadly anticlimactic. But, there’s another one in May.

UPDATE (1/17/17)— To celebrate the end of the Dean’s Date deadline, several eating clubs are having parties tonight. I can already hear the drunken students walking into the courtyard on their way to The Street. Also, I can’t go to sleep because the strong base from a stereo is propagating through the walls.

UPDATE (1/26/17)— All of my exams are done! Yay!

UPDATE (1/28/17)— Reading week and exam period is a pretty boring time at Princeton. Not much happens other than studying and writing. Some people leave campus after Dean’s Date. Others stay through intersession. I would recommend that students plan a few activities during this time to prevent getting cabin fever from studying all of the time.

Photo Gallery


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