On the Campus - December 16, 1998

  • WEB EXCLUSIVE: Looking Homeward..., by Nancy Smith '00

  • Look who's dancing , by Kruti Trivedi '00

  • Past editions of On the Campus, Online

    Looking Homeward...
    What do you do when your parents live fifteen minutes from your dorm?

    by Nancy Smith '00

    Going away to college is supposedly all about gaining independence, finding yourself, and realizing that you're the only person you have to answer to. "Your parents are miles away," say RAs and fellow freshmen during orientation week, intended partly to caution, partly to tempt. But for some students, that mantra has just the opposite of the intended effect, reminding them that their folks are, literally, just a couple miles down Route 1.

    This is something that my friends regularly tease me about, jokingly asking if my odometer can handle the trip as I drive off for the weekend. My parents now live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, which is about a 15-minute drive from my dorm. I could feasibly catch the student government-sponsored mall shuttle home for dinner. People often ask me whether I like the arrangement, and my answers usually reflect my mood at the time rather than a strong opinion I've spent lots of time pondering. After all, a student's permanent address isn't something they have very much influence over.

    Halfway through my freshman year, however, it was a frequent conversation topic around the kitchen table in my old house in Bedford, New Hampshire. As my dad weighed job offers from Colorado and New Jersey, I often heard him joke with people about the irony that they might end up living in the Princeton area. "We decided we'd just follow Nancy," he'd sayand I felt like I was missing the punch line. Initially, I felt sort of violated, though not out of a fear that my parents would find out about drunken revelries or try to break my habit of late-night procrastinating. It was more the idea that my dad saw it as a joke, and I worried my parents would act out this "funny coincidence" by showing up on my doorstep unannounced, not to check up on me but to take me to lunch on Nassau Street or to take me home for the weekend. I wanted Princeton to be "my" Princeton; I wanted to be able to tell my parents about the funny things my professors said in lecture, but I didn't want them auditing my classes. I wanted to come to visit my parents; I didn't want them coming to me. I feared I would lose control over my college experience if my parents moved into my area code.

    Although I didn't want to admit it around our kitchen table, the convenience of being able to go home to pick up a winter coat when it got cold or to curl up in one of my mom's quilts when I got sick began to appeal to me. I recalled every time I'd wished I had my copy of Airplane! that I'd left in the VCR or that green sweater I'd left in my top dresser drawer. And the idea of having to fly all the way to Colorado on school vacationsand maybe seeing my parents less oftendidn't appeal to me either.

    In the end, I told my dad to stop worrying about how it affected me and to make the choice based on the job. After all, this was what would make it possible for me to attend Princeton at all. So a year after they'd helped me load up the car with too many clothes and too many high school mementos, I helped my parents pack up their 8-tracks and family heirlooms and once again make the drive to New Jersey.

    Strangely, what I now miss most about living in New Hampshire is the change of scenery it offered me on my vacations, rather than the freedom it may have given me in its distance from Princeton. I miss marveling at brilliant red and yellow trees during fall break and scooping snowballs from the driveway over Christmas, as well as the green exuberance of a late April spring. New Jersey's almost indistinguishable seasons leave me with only midterms and finals to mark the passage of time, adding to the feeling that, even when exams are over, I've never really left the Princeton campus.

    But I've found that having my parents physically closer to campus doesn't necessarily change their relationship to my college education. Discussions about room draw still elicit puzzled expressions, and the only time my mom has shown up on my doorstep unannounced was to drop off chocolate croissants for me and my roommate to get us through midterms. A little over a month ago, my mom attended a Woodrow Wilson School lecture about the Clinton crisis, at my urging. We laughed over how she had become one of the "old people" who get there early and make the students sit in the aisles.

    So I guess I don't consider it a bad thing for my parents to be in the same area code; at the very least, I can make my friends jealous with my thirty-cent phone bills. But this aspiring politician has set one ground rule: the détente is over if my parents follow me to Washington when I graduate.

    Look who's dancing
    A few vignettes of university life

    by Kruti Trivedi '00

    When I am asked to describe Princeton as it is in the autumn of 1998, a few images come to mind. Herewith, a report of some of them. Mind you, most of what I've seen are minor, but to defend myself, I'll mangle what a famous architect once said: The university is in the details.


    "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" could be applied to the latest set of Princetonians. And it's not just because recent Gap Khaki commercials made swing dancing cool for us. As one student explained as he twirled his partner, "It's the only kind of dancing I'm actually capable of doing. I have two left feet, but with swing it doesn't matter 'cuz I just move really fast, and no one can figure it out." Our friend isn't alone; lots of us are jumping and jiving with the likes of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Swing dance classes are huge, eating clubs are hiring swing bands for formals, and even the Center for Jewish Life sponsors swing-dance lessons.


    Students are warming to the new fire-inspection policy, which dictates that fire inspectors must announce themselves before they perform inspections. If you're caught in a, um, compromising situation, you have the right to refuse them entry. Says one senior, "I just say my boyfriend's in the room so I can hide my coffee maker. Coffee was always my true love anyway."


    Frozen yogurt (especially Oreo, a gushy grey glop, and chocolate) from Thomas Sweet Ice Cream is giving hot coffee a good fight in the battle for undergraduate affection. With no fat, and not much else, it seems to be the perfect thing to fill you up and give you an excuse for skipping well-balanced meals. It might even replace Princeton bottled water as favorite meal choice among the tight black-pants wearing set.


    One of the 13 "courses you won't want to miss," according to the Student Course Guide, English Professor Elaine Showalter's Contemporary Fiction seems to have replaced visiting Professor Teofilo Ruiz's class on witchcraft as the hot class of the semester. More than a thousand students had read the Course Guide review last time I checked. As part of the class, Showalter shows snippets of the television comedy My So-Called Life and clips of reggae musician Bob Marley in concert. And a class where guest lecturer and author Jeffrey Eugenides tells students that any symbolism found in his book The Virgin Suicides is strictly unintentional is bound to make some people happy. While I did hear an English major complain that "the class should be a pop culture class, not an English class," Showalter easily fills McCosh 10. It could be because she was named one of the Most Wanted Professors of 1998 by Rolling Stone magazine.


    The Housing Office has finally started putting rice cookers in dorm kitchens, much to the delight of the large number of independent international students.


    Rush Holt, former assistant director of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, had a little help from his university friends in ousting incumbent congressman Mike Pappas, a Republican. Not only did former USG President Jeff Siegel '98 work fulltime on his campaign, but professors gave more than $10,000 to help Holt get elected.


    Princeton is a hotbed of social protest. Okay, maybe not. But 30 or so people did gather outside the gates of Nassau Hall on November 15 to protest the hiring of ethicist Peter Singer. Even though Princeton Pro-Life and the College Republicans sent out an e-mail publicizing the protest, only a few of the protestors had any connection with the university. Most of the grey-haired firebrands protesting on behalf of religious or prolife groups held signs with statements such as "Don't jeopardize salvation. Leave to the Almighty the time of death." There was also "Professor Singer's ethics kill" and "What ethics would kill a disabled infant?" One woman told me that Princeton, as an Ivy League school "forming the minds of future policy makers," has a moral responsibility to keep Singer from spreading his views among the student body. "It's sort of presumptuous of Princeton to say it knows anything about the matter," said another protestor, who hadn't "gotten around to reading" Singer's books.

    Kruti Trivedi is majoring in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.