'n' roll, 2004
or vanish from site
by Andrew Romano '04
On May 17, 1955, the juvenile delinquency
drama Blackboard Jungle closed its run at Princeton's Garden Theater.
That night, 10 enterprising students met at a local record shop
to purchase copies of the film's groundbreaking theme song, "Rock
Around the Clock." The plan, as revealed in the next day's
"Prince": to blare Bill Haley's hit single at 11 p.m.
from "key places" on campus "in hopes of triggering
It worked. By 11:30, a mob of over 1,000 Princetonians spilled
out of the 1901-Henry Hall quadrangle, releasing water hydrants,
setting fires in ash cans, lobbing rolls of toilet paper into trees,
and chanting "go, go, daddy-o" on their march up campus.
As Borough police swarmed Nassau Street around 12:30 to quell the
"riot," a few importunate undergrads hurled cherry bombs
at passing cars.
At Princeton in the mid-50s, rock 'n' roll filled the streets
with students; today, it fills the syllabus of a course called MUS
264: Urban Blues and the Golden Age of Rock. Only a year old, the
wide-ranging survey of rock-based genres (including doo-wop, surf,
acid, prog, and fusion) is one of the most popular offerings at
Princeton. To wit: MUS 264 hit its enrollment limit of 170 students
in the first few hours of spring term registration, when only seniors
were allowed to choose. Meaning that a tenth of the senior class
chose to rock 'n' roll.
"It's my last semester here, and I wanted to take something
interesting but not too demanding," says William Robinson '04.
"I've taken plenty of useful classes over the past three years.
It's time for something cool."
During a recent lecture, Associate Professor Rob Wegman fired
up McCosh 10's state-of-the art speaker system and slipped a CD
of "Rock Around the Clock" into the stereo. The twang
of Danny Cedrone's guitar solo spread to every corner of the large
room, which is about the same size as the Garden in the 50s. Wegman,
a Dutch-born scholar of late-Medieval and Renaissance music, tapped
his toes to the beat.
As the song faded out, Wegman lowered the lights. A video clip
from Blackboard Jungle played on a huge screen behind the stage.
Vic Morrow, his surliness undiminished since 1955, smashed math
teacher Richard Kiley's priceless jazz records just as he smashed
them a half-century before.
There was no riot this time around, though: no fires, no toilet
paper, no "go, go, daddy-o." The students were too busy
Theres an unwritten
rule known in the halls of the academy as publish or perish:
To obtain tenure and receive full professorship, one must get ones
work in print.
In the halls of 48 University Place where, following the
completion of a six-month renovation project, all 22 of Princetons
student-run periodicals and papers are now busy setting up shop
a novel variation on publish or perish has recently
taken hold: Publish or trade your office space for a desk drawer.
We will be randomly checking the use of offices, said
Director of Princeton Student Agencies Sean Weaver at a February
13 meeting with publication leaders, If we see students arent
using their space, well reallocate it.
Visiting 48 University Place around 9:30 on a recent Sunday evening,
I witnessed the new rule in play.
A two-foot tall plastic Jesus glows in the window of the Nassau
Weeklys basement office, a few paces to the right of the
back door. The kitschy beacon is a testament not only to the Nasss
sense of humor but to its sense of permanence. Published regularly
each Thursday, the tabloid is free to worry about embellishment
rather than eviction. Ditto for Business Today. The organization
monopolizes the entire third floor of 48 University Place, where
it has installed a mascot equally befitting its mission: longtime
secretary Carole Klein. The Daily Princetonian dominates
levels one and two; assorted editors rush to finish off copy, layout,
and a box of Papa Johns pizza.
Not every group is as comfortable as the Prince in its new
digs. Basement office 012, home of the University Press Club, remains
Spartan. Around 10 p.m., the group a cadre of stringers paid
to cover the campus for off-campus newspapers scans a 12-point
agenda for the meeting. Point two: Seriously, if we dont
use the room, its gone. Vice-president Jon Cheng 05
jokes that behind a half-open heating vent hides Sean Weaver, randomly
checking the use of offices. Staffers might make similar wisecracks
in the use it or lose it headquarters of Tiger Magazine,
Nassau Literary Review, Troubadour, or Prism.
For the one-issue-old Prism (Princetons Newest
and Only Literary Journal with a Focus on Diversity), scoring
an office was surprise good news. According to Weaver, groups awarded
private HQs in 48 University Place had private HQs somewhere on
campus prior to the buildings overhaul. Fledging Prism,
now ensconced on level four, did not. Nor did other new, unfamiliar,
and/or sporadic publications: Kruller, Peeps, The
Internationalist, Pauper, and Distractions Puzzle
Magazine, to name a few. But unlike Prism, these periodicals
and papers didnt get offices; they got individual sections
of locked file cabinets in what Weaver calls shared space.
The new [shared] office is best viewed as a symbol that AFP
is here to stay, says Gabe Collins 05, publisher of
American Foreign Policy (The Nations Only Student-written,
Student-edited Foreign Policy Newspaper). While sharing
space does have some inherent disadvantages, the layout closely
fits our needs and we are pleased with it. When asked if AFP,
which publishes regularly, will request a private office in the
near future, Collins says only: Given the continual birth
and death of campus publications, I feel it best to reserve comment
on this matter.
Around 10:30 I sneak into Room 402, which American Foreign Policy
splits with the rest of Princeton's political press corps. AFP,
the Idealistic Nation, the Journal of Foreign Affairs,
and Princeton Political Quarterly subsist in shared space
the size of a motel room, while the Tory, the Spectator,
and Progressive Review claim abutting offices no larger than
a walk-in closet.
The law of "publish or perish" will govern the tenents
of Room 402 in the coming months. As humming fluorescent lights
reflect off the hospital-green tiles under foot (new for 04),
I imagine the fun: the liberal Idealistic Nation vows to
displace its arch-foe, the Tory; American Foreign Policy,
and the Journal of Foreign Affairs jockey for the attention
of Princeton's insatiable foreign affairs/foreign policy readership.
With a new $15,000 coffer (administered by the USG's Special Project
Board and replenished annually by various departments and deans)
now available to all of these publications, the playing field is
level and the contest is just beginning.
The mascot for Room 402? Hanging limply in the corner, a big American
Andrew Romano 04
is an English major from Medford, N.J.