February 23, 2005: On the Campus
Wooing sophomores; new prez, big plans
By Sara Mayeux ’05
New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane says director Wes Anderson’s movies “appear to be modeled on theme parties.” Thus it was fitting that when it came time to host a dinner for prospective new members, the officers of Terrace Club settled on Wes Anderson movies as a theme.
In homage to Anderson’s most recent film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, footage of rolling waves was projected onto a large screen, and juniors Catie Cambria and Elizabeth Rossiter cheerfully served electric blue cocktails swimming with Swedish fish candy. The club’s male officers walked through the crowd clad — though barely — in the official Life Aquatic baby-blue Speedo swimsuits that they had mysteriously obtained. Newly elected president Becky Gidel ’06 duly mingled with the eager sophomores but, true to character, contained her enthusiasm — she was costumed as Margot, the dour chain-smoker played by Gwyneth Paltrow in Anderson’s earlier picture, The Royal Tenenbaums.
All the eating clubs host a series of dinners and parties in the weeks leading up to bicker and sign-in week. They are meant to give sophomores who already know which club they want to join a chance to meet members and sample the culinary offerings, and also — perhaps more important — to sway the undecideds. While Ivy and Cottage hold semiformal, invitation-only affairs, most clubs host a mix of open and invitation-only events. Charter Club hosted three open sophomore dinners this winter, attracting almost 400 guests. “The dinners were intended to attract sophomores who were already inclined to join [Charter] as well as those who may not have been giving [it] any thought,” explained newly elected president David Kaplan ’06.
Charter offered the Class of 2007 shrimp in a spicy cocktail sauce, rosemary-crusted roast beef in a three-mushroom, red-wine demiglace, and rigatoni stuffed with a creamy pesto. Over at Tower, there were not only sophomore dinners but a series of truly wild evenings, including a Varsity Blues night complete with stripper pole and a Paradise Island party complete with tiki bar. One need only compare such events to the average evening in a residential college dining hall to understand why the savviest ’07-ers attended sophomore dinners up and down the Street, regardless of which club they planned to join.
Year after year, candidates for USG office litter campus walkways and cover dormitory bulletin boards with brightly colored fliers, promising extended meal hours at Frist Campus Center, more 24-hour study spaces, free Pequod packets (those overpriced photocopied booklets of course readings) — even an end to sidewalk puddles.
So USG presidential candidate Leslie-Bernard Joseph ’06 was going out on something of a limb with fliers that promised, among other things, a campuswide day of community service in September, and efforts to reconsider the limited dining options for juniors and seniors.
Joseph, who is a residential adviser at Wilson College and has served as president of the Black Student Union, thinks the USG should concern itself with “the issues of campus culture that we all talk about in our dorm rooms” — sexual harassment, race relations on campus, the quality of classes.
A relative USG outsider — his experience is limited to a year of service on a committee on “social opportunities” — Joseph defeated incumbent vice president Shaun Callaghan ’06 by just 11 of the 1,321 votes cast in the December election, and took office Jan. 31.
Joseph wants the USG to serve as a catalyst — if necessary, a gadfly — to the administration and complacent students alike. “Instead of focusing on meaningful friendships and using our privilege in this institution as a means for effecting change, students concentrate on what eating club we’re in and how much money we’re going to make after we leave here,” he said.
Joseph believes that the USG should encourage the University to more fully live out its unofficial motto, “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” He already has begun meeting with administrators to plan “In the Nation’s Service Day,” which would give students a wide selection of service projects in the local community to choose from. He envisions sports teams hosting clinics for area children while a cappella groups serenade nursing-home residents. Because the event would be held in September, he hopes it would “inspire freshmen when they first arrive, showing them that at Princeton we tie our intellectual curiosity and scholarship in with community action.”
Sara Mayeaux ’05 is a history major from Atlanta.
On the Campus Online: Click here to read “Coming Out Swinging” by Jordan Paul Amadio ’05.