This Week in Princeton History for February 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series, a junior defends the disproportionate number of Jews rejected in the Bicker process, students complain about seating arrangements in lecture halls, and more.

February 7, 1827—New York’s Jamestown Journal prints correspondence from a traveler from Brattleborough to Washington: “In travelling through New Jersey to Trenton, you pass Princeton celebrated for its college…The college buildings look venerable and afford more pleasure from their dark, rusty appearance of antiquity, than from any beauty in their construction style or finish.”

February 8, 1960—Jay Parsons ’61 acknowledges that Jews are disproportionately rejected during Bicker at Princeton’s eating clubs, but argues that this is not evidence of antisemitism.

Is this discrimination? No; any selective system must have some criterion. It is next to impossible to judge the ‘worth’ of a person, so some scale must be found. The one now used, of ‘fit,’ is as natural as any. The rejection of Jews is not rejection because of Jewishness, but a rejection because of their differentness. It is unfortunate for Bicker that Jews seem to be more ‘alien’ in personality to the clubs than any other easily recognizable and self-conscious group.

The questions of discrimination in Bicker had been a matter of discussion on campus for a few years before 1960. Here, the January 1959 cover of Princeton’s Tiger magazine accuses disinterested students of apathy.

February 11, 1881—Noting the injustice of always requiring those whose names fall at the end of the alphabet to sit in the rear of a lecture hall, where it is more difficult to hear the professor or see demonstrations in science courses, the Princetonian requests that the seating be put into reverse alphabetical order in the middle of the term, to make things more equitable.

February 13, 1902—The new Catalogue is available to students. For the first time, it includes a section on the history of the institution.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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This Week in Princeton History for May 17-23

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Asian American Students Association denounces anti-Asian and antisemitic prejudices on campus, local residents band with students to take revenge on a traveling show, and more.

May 17, 1942—Philosophy professor Theodore M. Greene condemns tutoring as “immoral and unpatriotic.”

May 21, 1990—The Asian American Students Association denounces harmful portrayals of Chinese and Jewish people in Triangle Club’s “Easy Street” and expresses concerns about the motivations in choosing these groups for mockery. “In the future, we hope that the same ‘consideration’ shown to ‘other minorities’ will be accorded to Asian Americans as well.”

Playbill for Triangle Club’s “Easy Street,” 1989. Triangle Club Records (AC122), Box 281. Lyrics to “Chinese Jewish Cowboy” were particularly troubling to some audience members, with lines like “they told me I filled all their quotas/Yes, I’m a demographic planner’s dream . . ./Well who needs a real resume/When looks can deceive/Who would ever believe/That he’d get into Princeton, oy veh!” and “Where never is heard a discouraging word/When you’re Chinese, or Jewish, or gay.”

May 22, 1874—James McCosh explains why he doesn’t believe higher education should be publicly supported and should instead rely on private donations, which he believes encourages greater freedom of thought: “Would Professor White have a college a mixture of Protestantism and Popery, and partly Christian and partly Atheistic? Now, sir, we have these colleges, and let them go on; let us call forth the liberality of the people, and I believe you will get that liberality.”

May 23, 1851—Students and local residents of Princeton, disappointed in Barnum’s traveling menagerie and museum, call it a “humbug,” join forces, seize one of its wagons, and throw it into the D & R canal.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.