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.
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.