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October 8, 2003: On the Campus

Exercises, of all sorts

By Lauren C. Turner ’04

Illustration by Andrea Arroyo

Look at Provost Gutmann. She’s dancing,” whispered Amy Saltzman ’05 at the end of this year’s Opening Exercises. The Chapel Choir was singing a bongo-infused rendition of Sanctus, and the energy was hard to ignore. Although the ceremony was an interfaith service that marked the beginning of the school year, the opening and closing fanfare were celebratory enough to be a P-rade.

A band, wearing Hawaiian shirts and, whose members banged bass drums, snares, or bongos, or played trumpet, sax, or the accordion, led university officials and the choir up the Chapel’s central aisle. Brightly colored, cylindrical kites dipped and dived over the heads of the crowd, looking like open-mouthed fish, with streamers waving.

This fanfare wasn’t meant merely to dazzle. It was a preview of the emphasis on internationalism that followed. President Tilghman greeted the class, making note of how many new international students there were — the freshmen class comes from 40 countries, and 38 percent of new grad students were born outside the U.S. She challenged the university community to think, act, and serve globally as citizens of the world and not, as she called it, “the Princeton bubble.” Students offered prayers and read passages in Hebrew, Arabic, and English. When Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel recognized the five 2003 undergraduate prizewinners, she pointed out that four of them were either international students or first-generation Americans.

In early September, before classes started, and near a very wet log on New Jersey’s Appalachian Trail, Near Eastern studies professor Michael Cook played Big Booty. The Outdoor Action group that Cook visited for the day needed a warm-up game to prepare for the second half of its eight-mile hike. “Big Booty, oh yeah, uh-huh, oh yeah. Big Booty number three,” leader Tessa Marmion ’05 chanted. “Big Booty number three, number eight,” shot back another student who had been designated number three. Number eight caught the rhythm, continuing the pattern. Students called out numbers like hot potatoes until someone messed up. “Big Booty is a combination of mental alertness and sense of rhythm. And I’m pretty bad at both of those,” said Cook.

Although it was once common for faculty members to participate in the prefrosh trips, professors have not participated for many years. Hoping to integrate the different communities of the university as O.A. once did, Director Rick Curtis invited Cook and others faculty to rekindle the old spirit.

Despite a constant rain, Cook stayed fairly dry. He wore bright yellow rain pants, a bright yellow slicker, and a bright yellow rain hat. The students wore less yellow, stayed less dry, and ate food off the ground. Cook didn’t eat food off the ground, but he also didn’t drop any.

At the lunch site Cook and the students ate broken tam-tam crackers, thickly sliced cheese, and a trail mix that included, says Cook, “bits of hard banana that took a lot of chewing.” A Mellon Foundation Award winner, Cook is known as one of America’s top Islamacists, but the students were more interested in his office hours and the difference between language in North and South India. “There was something very open and willing in them,” Cook said of the inquisitive freshmen. They felt the same about him.

Wearing pink martini-glass flip-flops, Ashley Collins ’04 climbed the stone ledge of her first-floor Patton dorm room. “Can’t we just push in the window?” she asked. Collins and her suitemate, Lindsey Smith ’04, were locked out. For them, calling Public Safety to open the door was a noncreative last resort. With a few aggressive pushes, Collins knocked open the window and with the grace of a seasoned criminal slid through.

If Public Safety officer Duncan Harrison had seen Collins he would have pulled her out of the window midslide. He’s done it before, and he’d do it again. During the first weeks of school, Public Safety opens more doors than any other time of the year — move-in makes lock-outs inevitable — but the demand for open doors never ends.

Harrison has helped towel-clad students postshower, opened doors for girlfriends who’ve left their keys in boyfriends’ rooms, found kids sleeping outside their locked doors, and watched (then stopped) students about to jump from dorm rooftops to Spiderman their way into rooms. He’s even seen a sophomore try to scale Blair Hall’s second floor; the student claimed to be a professional rock climber. “The worst,” Harrison said, “is around two or three in the morning when they have their keys and they just can’t get them in the door.”

Lauren C. Turner ’04 comes from Berwyn, Pennsylvania, and hopes to enter the field of human-genomics patent law.

ON THE CAMPUS ONLINE: Please go to, to read “Princeton Traditions: Being a Frosh, and Downloading Music,” by Andrew Romano ’04.


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