The final few weeks of a Princeton semester feel like a mad rush to the finish line. I usually walk to the Princeton Theological Seminary’s library, turn off all electronics, hide my watch, and spend countless hours studying. It’s so quiet in there that the only sound is the hum of electricity. Despite this self-exile into hermitism, I found a few opportunities to go to some events.
Monday— The Faculty Room of Nassau Hall was open to students as part of a “last lecture” series for seniors. I listened to a historian and University vice president talk about the school’s establishment and history during colonial times. There is still a visible dent in the side of Nassau Hall from when the Americans shot a cannon at it as the British troops took refuge inside.
My FRS class went to dinner at Nassau Sushi in the evening. The fried pork belly was good.
Tuesday— Former Secretary of State James Baker ’52 gave a lecture for the Princeton Environmental Institute on a conservative proposal for addressing climate change. He outlined a four point plan that he had developed with former Secretaries of State George Shultz ’42 and Treasury Hank Paulson.
Thirty minutes later, I watched a lecture by world renowned writer Salman Rushdie. The lecture hall — Princeton’s largest room — was packed. He has written extensively in his satirical books about the dictatorships in Muslim countries and even has a fatwa on his head from the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran for his book Satanic Verses. In his lecture, he talked about the importance of exposing the truth despite tyrannical governments that want to contain it. His entire talk was laced with ironic humor as he drew comparisons between the Trump administration and his observations of Muslim dictatorships.
Wednesday— The first of my four articles on alcohol use in college was published in the Daily Princetonian. Compared to my other articles, these received a lot of feedback in the form of e-mails and online comments. I think that the responses to them show exactly where we’re at in terms of enforcing alcohol laws in colleges: parents and health officials praised them, alumni and current students attacked them, and the school was strangely silent.
One commenter, a parent, said, “‘I’ve been following your series of articles on this topic — I read #1, then #3, and am just now reading this, #2. As soon as I saw the title I thought “my God, this kid is either fearless or crazy or both.”
My second article drew criticism from at least a dozen female students online. A friend later told me that one went on a Facebook rant about how I’m a terrible human being despite the fact that we have never met in person.
I started on this topic by writing an unbiased investigative article that shows how the University and eating clubs enforce — or rather ignore — alcohol laws. My editor said that I could not contribute a news article to the Daily Princetonian. It violated the separation between news and opinion. While I did not like this decision, I understand that the rule prevents Breitbart-like articles that pass off opinion as news. My original article will be published this fall in a different outlet.
Friday— A Cinco de Mayo party held by the hockey team sparked outrage with the Princeton Latinos y Amigos. It restarted debate about whether it is permissible for students to hold ethnically-themed parties. Several days later, a Mexican student wrote a letter saying that he was not offended by the party. His response was promptly swept under the rug by campus activists.
Saturday— I went to a concert at Richardson auditorium. It featured Princeton’s student jazz band, which is quite good. The program director even joined the band with a few saxophone solos. He was an outstanding musician.
Sunday— In the morning, I went to Hopewell, New Jersey to help the D&R Greenway with their trail work. Word about the trail work has spread to other groups, so I took some members of a fraternity along with me.
Monday— As with the last semester, I joined the Princeton University Band to play in the libraries on Dean’s Date Eve. Everyone seemed to be appreciative of the break that it gave them from their late night Red Bull-fueled studying.
Later that evening, I went to Holder courtyard to watch the Holder Howl: a biannual event where students scream in pain from their Dean’s Date assignments at midnight. It had many more students in attendance than the Whitman Wail. Next semester I will go to the Wilson Whimper.
Monday— I was invited to the Quadrangle Club for dinner. The interior of the building looked like that of any other generic clubhouse with high ceilings, carpeted stairs, and a gallery dining room. My expectations for the food were high, but it fell short of its mark. Most of it was on par or below dining hall food.
Wednesday— Whitman College has experienced a strange set of fire alarms recently. On the morning of Lawnparties, one sounded off around 11:00 AM just as I was returning from my weekly Forbes brunch. Several others had occurred in the afternoon since then. Around midnight — a couple hours after I had gone to bed — another alarm rang through the gothic dorms. I marched outside to wait in the cold for ten minutes while the staff tried to turn it off. Which drunk student couldn’t cook dinner this time?
Thursday— A consultant for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration read my articles on alcohol use and recommended that I watch a webinar on how colleges can improve their substance abuse programs. The webinar confirmed my previous findings from other experts that a combination of enforcement, education, and alternative programming is the best solution to this problem.
Friday— Both of my exams were scheduled for the same day. My calculus exam was in the morning while physics was in the evening. Princeton math exams are much more difficult than those of the Advanced Placement program in high school.
The end of the school year is finally approaching. Even though I am ready for the semester to end, it does not feel like an entire school year has passed.