Web Exclusives: On the Campus

November 21 , 2007:

Caution on the Street; the Chapel reaches out

By Chip McCorkle ’09By Chip McCorkle ’09

Anyone who’s been to the Street on a Thursday or Saturday night the past few weeks will have noticed a difference from weeks and years past.

It starts at the front doors of most clubs you’re not a member of. The bouncers ask, “Did a member put you on the guest list?” and not, “Do you have passes?” Once inside some clubs, another bouncer now awaits you at the stairs leading down to the taproom. “Do you have [an over-21] wristband?” The same question greets you at other clubs when you ask one of the professional bartenders for a beer.

“I think the atmosphere of permissiveness that existed when I was an underclassman is largely gone,” said Will Scharf ’08, president of the Interclub Council and Charter Club, as he describes party nights at the clubs.

Yes, things are stricter these days at Princeton’s eating clubs. The charges brought against three club presidents and the ensuing warnings by municipal prosecutor Kim Otis that he would try to close for up to a year any club that continues to “maintain a nuisance” have forced clubs to change their alcohol and admission policies, in addition to enforcing existing ones more stringently.

It’s got students – especially underclassmen, who typically have fewer connections at clubs to put them onto guest lists and virtually no chance of being served beer once let into a club – defending the former status quo and criticizing the borough’s chosen means of erasing it.

Sarah Fitzpatrick ’10 said eating clubs are “the wrong targets.”

“I think the eating clubs are probably the safest places for people to drink,” she said. “It's the parties and pregaming in rooms that tends to get people too drunk.”

Kelley Taylor ’11 added: “If anything, [the clubs] tame down the night after room parties.”

Others worry about an unintended consequence of the crackdown: underclassmen who don’t know many upperclassmen through fraternities, sororities, or sports teams in effect have been shut out from the Street, unable to secure one of the guest-list additions – usually two – that members are allowed.

“It has a bigger effect on underclassmen who aren’t as settled with friends,” said Ashwin Atre ’09. “Upperclassmen seem to have the connections necessary to keep things pretty similar to the way they were.”

Particularly objectionable to upperclassmen is the fact that charges are being brought against club presidents and not grad boards or club organizations as a whole.

Scharf, for one, was quoted in The Daily Princetonian as calling the targeting of club presidents “ridiculous,” saying, “I thought we had moved past that."

There’s no telling when, if ever, things will return to normal on Prospect Avenue, but one thing’s clear: Some measure of innocence, at least among the current classes, has been lost.

“Everyone at Princeton is so used to not worrying about alcohol enforcement,” said Atre. “Now that it’s started, it seems wrong.”



Folasade John ’09By Folasade John ’09

Next door to the drama and action of Theatre Intime, another quieter art is being displayed. On the walls of Murray-Dodge hang photos submitted by students and faculty in response to the question, “What is Sacred?” The images range from a photo of pink flower buds covered in rain water, titled “Cryogenisis,” to a black-and-white shot of a wooden crucified Christ figure titled, “My Savior.”

This exhibit was one sign of a broader effort by the Office of Religious Life to reach out to students and stimulate discussions about spirituality. The Chapel is trying to make itself as relevant to as many students as possible, said Alison Boden, who became dean of religious life and the Chapel Aug. 1. “You might have no interest in religion, but the meditation is right up your alley,” Boden said.

Every Thursday at noon, students quietly gather to learn and meditate together for an hour. For the first half-hour students eat light, healthy wraps and pasta while learning meditation skills focusing on a theme such as “work” or “change.” The last half-hour is spent meditating. “It helps you become more focused throughout the week,” said Lisa Hiseh, a graduate student..

Hiseh is a member of the Chapel Deacons, a student group that recently was reinstated by the Chapel, reviving a tradition that began in the days when church attendance was mandatory at Princeton. “I always had alumni coming up to me and saying, 'I was a Chapel deacon – that was so meaningful to me,” said Paul Raushenbush, associate dean of religious life.

Students in the program greet Chapel-goers and help with the 11 a.m. service on Sunday mornings. They also plan to organize Bible study groups that include both students and community members.

The student presence of the Chapel Deacons help “humanize” the chapel so it is “not just a pretty building,” said Safia Mohamoud, a student at the Princeton Theological Seminary. According to Boden, the hope is that students will see the deacons active in the chapel and think, “This is a place for me. The chapel is mine.”

Added Raushenbush: “All of our work here is about opening the doors as wide as possible.”


Photos by Hyunseok Shim ’08