As I write this, Princeton students are off on fall break some on the beaches in Florida, some hunkered down in Firestone Library, a handful on University-sponsored research trips.
Few, if any, are doing what the inventors of Princetons break period had in mind in May 1970, when, following a mass meeting of nearly 4,000 students, faculty, and staff members in Jadwin Gym that endorsed a strike against the war in Southeast Asia, the University arranged a recess before the November elections. The break was meant to allow students and faculty members to work for political change; it remains a feature of Princeton life, even if political activism does not.
On campus, Andrew Romano 04 has been following the political season for PAW. Through the end of the year, Andrew will be keeping a blog, or Web log, that will track Princetons take on the presidential race. Its called Student Body Politic, and, Andrew writes, its intended for people who are no longer students but still care what students think. Thats us. Andrew will update his blog weekly, at least. You can read it by clicking here.
Its worth noting that while few students know about the origins of fall break, some Princetonians do devote their time off to fulfilling the Universitys unofficial motto of Princeton in the nations service. Each year, the Student Volunteers Council (S.V.C.) sponsors fall break trips. This fall, 15 students, mostly freshmen and sophomores, took part in the two work experiences one at Covenant House in New York City, where the students were sorting donated clothing and painting, and the other at Acadia National Park in Maine, where the students were maintaining trails and removing beaver dams, among other tasks.
Princeton life is extremely demanding, so I rarely have the time to actually do anything that will give back to the community. Breaks are the only time I know I can dedicate a decent portion of my time to others, said Dan OBrien 04, who was leading the trip to Acadia. Hes not completely selfless, he noted he enjoys traveling, and break trips have allowed him to see much of the East Coast.
Yuvon Mobley 04, who was leading the effort at Covenant House, which serves homeless and runaway youth, volunteers all year long, as a Big Sister to a local student. That commitment gives me a chance to get away from books and studies each week, she said, and to see what else is out there.
Yuvon acknowledged that Princetons academic demands make it difficult for many students to participate in the fall trips; about one-third of the students who had signed up to work at Covenant House dropped out because of impending deadlines, she said. How would she manage?
Im taking my laptop, she said.