Students, Alumni Push for More Discussion on Issues of Race and Ethnicity

Students left Nassau Hall after reaching an agreement with administrators on the evening of Nov. 19. (Mary Hui ’17)

Student demonstrators left Nassau Hall after reaching an agreement with administrators on the evening of Nov. 19. (Mary Hui ’17)

In the wake of the two-day sit-in at Nassau Hall last week by members of the Black Justice League, students, faculty, and alumni have publicly taken positions both for and against the group’s demands related to Princeton’s racial climate. At the same time, a group of Latino students has released a petition and report calling for greater support for and representation of the Latino community on campus.

Nearly 100 faculty members have signed a letter drafted by African American studies department faculty in support of the Black Justice League, urging campus-wide reflection on the issues brought to light. A student petition to counter the group’s demands has more than 1,300 signatures since Josh Zuckerman ’16 and Evan Draim ’16 launched it Thursday, while a similar alumni petition started by Darren Geist ’05 has 44 signatures.

A newly formed student group, Princeton Open Campus Coalition, also wrote an open letter Sunday to President Eisgruber ’83 opposing the Black Justice League’s tactics and requesting a more open campus discussion. “We are concerned mainly with the importance of preserving an intellectual culture in which all members of the Princeton community feel free to engage in civil discussion and to express their convictions without fear of being subjected to intimidation or abuse,” the letter reads.

Another petition has gained 540 signatures supporting the report “Latinx Students Calling for a Better Princeton,” which asks for greater campus representation academically and culturally (the group uses the non-gendered term Latinx to be “inclusive and supportive of all members of our community”).  The report notes that only 2 percent of full professors are Hispanic and finds a lack of cultural space and institutional support for Latino students. It requests that the University support and improve the experience of undocumented Princeton students.

In an email sent Sunday to students, alumni, and other members of the Princeton community over the weekend, Eisgruber acknowledged the concerns of underrepresented students, citing actions taken by both the Black Justice League and the Latinx community. He described upcoming initiatives to address these concerns, including the formation of a subcommittee of the trustees to re-examine Woodrow Wilson 1879’s legacy and his place on Princeton’s campus. Eisgruber stressed that the issues would be considered “through appropriate University processes – processes that allow for full and fair input from the entire University community.”

“Our students deserve better, and Princeton must do better,” he wrote.  “We must commit ourselves to make this University a place where students from all backgrounds feel respected and valued,” adding that hard work and good will are necessary to achieve further progress toward a diverse and inclusive community.  Continue reading

PAW Goes to the Movies: Princeton Grad Students Review ‘The Ph.D. Movie 2’

From left, Daniel Vitek, Congling Qiu, Alta Fang, and Florian Sprung spoke with PAW’s Mark F. Bernstein ’83 about their impressions of Ph.D. Movie 2. (Frank Wojciechowski)

From left, Daniel Vitek, Congling Qiu, Alta Fang, and Florian Sprung spoke with PAW’s Mark F. Bernstein ’83 about their impressions of The Ph.D. Movie 2. (Frank Wojciechowski)

Unless you are or recently were a graduate student, you may not be familiar with “Piled Higher and Deeper,” Jorge Cham’s comic strip about the ups, downs, and absurdities of grad school life that commonly goes by the much more grad student friendly name, Ph.D. Comics. Think of it as “Dilbert” for the dissertation set. Cham’s strip, which originated when he was a graduate student at Stanford, has been running in student papers and on the Internet since 1997. In 2011, it spawned the first film version, The Ph.D. Movie, which the Chronicle of Higher Education called “hilarious.” This fall a sequel, The Ph.D. Movie 2, funded in large part by a Kickstarter campaign, has been shown at Princeton and other campuses around the world. As in the original, several of the actors in the film are actual Ph.D. students.

In another installment of our periodic feature PAW Goes to the Movies, senior writer Mark F. Bernstein ’83 attended The Ph.D. Movie 2 at Frist Theater, and then asked four current graduate students — Alta Fang (fourth year, mechanical engineering), Daniel Vitek (second year, mathematics), Congling Qiu (first year, mathematics), and Florian Sprung, a mathematics postdoc — whether the film held a mirror up to their real lives.

MFB:  I heard a lot of laughter during the movie, but I couldn’t tell if it was nervous or sincere. Did it hit home?

AF: I think there were many things that were quite realistic, for example when they had trouble scheduling meetings because the professors were so busy, and the students just having a lot of work.

FS: All the bad jokes in the film are like the ones you hear in graduate school — you know, “Are you writing something novel or writing a novel?” That sort of thing.

CQ: It was very similar to Chinese universities. I understood all the jokes, too.

MFB: Florian, you’re the only one here who has actually written a dissertation. Did the film bring back stressful memories? Continue reading

Princeton Men’s Basketball Holds Off Saint Peter’s in Return to Dillon Gym

Princeton beat Saint Peter’s in the first game at Dillon Gym since 1969. (Beverly Schaefer)

Princeton beat Saint Peter’s in the first game at Dillon Gym since 1969. (Beverly Schaefer)

Princeton men’s basketball took a lead in the opening seconds against Saint Peter’s Saturday night and kept the edge for the rest of the game’s 40 minutes. But while the Tigers never trailed, they also never pulled away, holding off a series of late charges by the Peacocks to win 75-72 in the first game at Dillon Gym since 1969.

Forward Henry Caruso ’17 scored 20 points in the second half, tying a career-high of 23 points in the game, on 7-for-9 shooting. He added eight rebounds as well. Starting in place of Hans Brase ’16, who suffered a season-ending knee injury just before the Nov. 13 opener at Rider, Caruso showed a knack for working his way inside against the Saint Peter’s defense.

“Henry saved us in a lot of different ways, getting to the rim,” head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said. “Our defense has been very good so far but tonight let us down a little bit, just lapses — but overall, happy to get a win.”

Princeton (2-0) scored more than half of its points in the paint, a significant development for a team that launched 46 percent of its shots from behind the three-point arc last year.

“We’ve got to go inside, because eventually you’re going to play some ugly games,” Henderson said. “Last year we got a little perimeter happy, so we’ve put a lot of emphasis on that.” Continue reading

Professor Michael Wood Fends off Conspiracy Theories to Award a Highly Regarded Literary Prize

Professor Michael Wood

Professor Michael Wood

Every year a panel of five judges spends the better part of a year reading, analyzing, and debating the best literature that the English-writing world has produced in the last 12 months. At the end of that year, the judges award the Man Booker Prize for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom. For years, this process has been the center of intense scrutiny.

This year, the chair of judges was literary critic and Princeton professor of comparative literature emeritus Michael Wood. On Oct. 21, a week after the winner was announced, Wood hosted a public conversation at Princeton about the judging process, telling his audience that it involved a lot more reading — and a lot less excitement — than people like to believe. “The more interesting aspect of the prize is not what actually happens, but what people think happens — the conspiracy theories, who bribed who, theories about passing on drugs. Actually, we had this fairly boring meeting by those criteria. No promises of future employment, no twisting of people’s arms,” Wood said. “It’s less like a conspiracy theory than game theory.” Continue reading

Administration Reaches Agreement With Student Demonstrators

Students celebrate the end of the 33-hour Nassau Hall sit-in. (Mary Hui ’17)

Students celebrate the end of the 33-hour Nassau Hall sit-in. (Mary Hui ’17)

The #OccupyNassau campaign ended Thursday night, 33 hours after it began, with student protest leaders exiting President Eisgruber ’83’s office suite with a signed document that addressed their demands and contained a guarantee of amnesty from disciplinary action.

According to the agreement, Eisgruber will ask the University’s Board of Trustees to initiate discussions, collect information, and make a decision on the Black Justice League’s request to remove Woodrow Wilson 1879’s name from campus buildings — and more broadly, to examine the present legacy of Wilson, a former president of Princeton, on the campus. Eisgruber will also ask Professor Eduardo Cadava, head of Wilson College, to begin the process of considering the removal of a mural of Wilson from the Wilcox dining hall — an action Eisgruber said he supported.

Members of the Black Justice League will also begin discussing with residential college administrators “the viability of the formation of affinity housing for those interested in black culture.”

The protesters’ demand for mandatory “cultural competency” training for faculty was not met. Members of the student group will discuss the possibility of a diversity course-distribution requirement at an upcoming meeting with the General Education Task Force, a group formed as part of Princeton’s ongoing strategic planning. And four rooms will be set aside immediately in the Carl Fields Center for “cultural affinity groups” on campus.  Continue reading

Students, Administrators Discuss Demands in Second Day of Nassau Hall Sit-In

Check PAW’s Facebook page each morning and evening for updates on the sit-in in Nassau Hall. Our updates are provided by Princeton University Press Club members Mary Hui ’17 and Gabriel Fisher ’17.

Students inside Nassau Hall’s atrium Tuesday morning. (PAW/Allie Wenner)

Students inside Nassau Hall’s atrium Tuesday morning. (PAW/Allie Wenner)


On Wednesday night, some protesters slept inside President Eisgruber’s office while others camped out on the steps of Nassau Hall or in tents nearby. (Mary Hui ’17)

A consistent group of at least 100 students have been stationed inside the Nassau Hall atrium since this morning, with deliveries of bagels, coffee, cereal bars, and pizza fueling them through the day. A town-hall style meeting was held about 10:30 a.m., facilitated by a protest leader. In small groups, students shared their personal experiences in an attempt to articulate what the sit-in means to each of them. Students produced a video detailing their personal motivations for supporting the cause; this video was later shown to President Eisgruber ’83, Dean of the College Jill Dolan, and Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun.

While Eisgruber was seen entering Nassau Hall this morning, he did not appear in his office until the afternoon. Just after 3 p.m., Eisgruber, Dolan, and Calhoun entered the president’s office to meet with the students camped inside. The students restated the three demands they presented the day before. As of 4:30 p.m., Eisgruber had agreed that a mural of Woodrow Wilson in the Wu-Wilcox dining hall should be removed, and Calhoun said it was viable to create a cultural space for black students in the Carl A. Fields Center. They were continuing to discuss the issue of mandatory cultural competency training for faculty and staff. “You’re all talking about love, this is the language you all talk in. I think it’s very hard to put that language into a mandatory context,” Dolan said.

Update: At 8:45 p.m., the University announced that it reached an agreement with the demonstrators. Text of the agreement follows below.


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