May 10, 2006: On the Campus
Day at a ‘souk,’ night at a pub
By Jocelyn Hanamirian ’08
On a Sunday in early April, hundreds of students and community members were drawn to Scudder Plaza by the smell of falafel, the fragrance of hookah pipes, and the lively chords of Israeli and Arab musicians.
Complete with mini-palm trees and all sorts of vendors, the student-organized souk — “market” in both Arabic and Hebrew — united elements of University life that too often exist independently. As a celebration of the Middle East, it brought together Arab and Israeli cultures; as a free and outdoor event, it created a rare atmosphere in which town and gown were equally represented; and as an opportunity to buy unusual goods, enjoy a concert, or even smoke flavored tobacco with a hookah, it offered a spirited alternative to the usual Sunday fare.
Sarah Karam ’07, president of the Middle Eastern cultural association Salaam, conceived of and chiefly organized the souk to raise awareness of the region apart from the conflicts that dominate the news and University lectures.
“The idea of doing something completely cultural, completely apolitical, was really appealing to us,” Karam said.
During two months of preparation, she scoured the Internet for authentic Israeli and Arab vendors from as far as Staten Island. With funding from six student groups and University sponsors, there was no entry fee for vendors, a perk that attracted several merchants.
As the crowd enjoyed Turkish coffee and falafel and examined the selection of Israeli blankets, clothing, and accessories for sale, Karam took turns inhaling from a large, gem-blue hookah with her friend and fellow organizer, Benji Gerut ’07.
“This is about the commonality underneath the overpowering differences,” Gerut said as he reflected on the collaboration of Arab, Israeli, and religious student groups.
Bijani Mizell ’07 said the souk made her more appreciative of her classmates’ diverse backgrounds: “I think it’s difficult to differentiate someone as Middle Eastern until you come to something like this and you say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know you were Lebanese!’”
The big question before the first “Pub Night” at Chancellor Green Café was whether there would be enough student and faculty interest to make a permanent pub feasible in the future. On April 14, about 300 undergraduates, graduate students, administrators, and other members of the University community answered with a resounding yes.
Since last year, U-Councilor Alexander Gibson ’06 and other members of the Undergraduate Student Government have worked to create a campus venue where members of the University community could mix in a social setting. The recently formed Pub Committee, comprised of USG members and administrators, proposed a trial run of four Friday nights for a pub in Chancellor Green.
“Our goal was to create events which would bring all aspects of the community together,” Gibson said.
Rob Biederman ’08, a member of the Pub Committee, met with his academic adviser during the first pub night to go over his course selections. The Friday-night scheduling was meant to facilitate this kind of meeting, with students taking a break from Thursday and Saturday nights at the eating clubs and faculty finishing their workweeks.
Liz Gough ’07 said she could see herself meeting preceptors at the pub to discuss that week’s classes. “I think this helps intellectualism on campus and interclub relations,” she said.
From the event’s opening at 6 p.m. until its 1 a.m. closing, curious patrons streamed in, greeted by live jazz music and, later in the night, by hip-hop and lounge music from DJ Raif Corkhill ’07. Prices were student-friendly, at $2.30 for domestic beer, $3 for imports, and $4.30 for a glass of wine
Local restaurants can’t provide the intimate atmosphere of a campus pub, Gibson said. “This can cater to Prince-ton University as a community, whereas nothing on Nassau Street caters just to the University community,” he said.
Different themes were planned for the remaining three pub nights, but Princeton Borough officials cast a shadow of uncertainty over their future.
The local officials who authorized the special events permits for the University withdrew their support of the remaining pub nights when they realized the University was considering making Chancellor Green café a permanent alcoholic venue. While the matter was unresolved a week after the first Pub Night, the view of students seemed clear: We want another round.
Jocelyn Hanamirian ’08 is from Villanova, Pa.