June 7, 2006: On the Campus
Pulling pork; pulling together
By Elyse Graham ’07
On a recent Saturday, a sweet hickory scent saluted campus walkers as they neared the lawn in front of Dod Hall. Under a cloudless May sky, the lawn bustled with grills and folding tables, as a cluster of students in aprons and flip-flops unfurled two banners: “Princeton Southern Society” and “Hog Roast: Everyone Is Welcome.”
The roast was hosted by the Southern Society, a new student group of Tigers who hail from Dixie. Frank Langston ’06, president of the society and a Woodrow Wilson School major with rusty blond hair and a broad smile, said he conceived the idea as a freshman when he arrived from Memphis to attend a University “welcome barbecue” for new and returning students.
“It was just hamburgers and hot dogs, and a few of us got upset, because a barbecue is a more involved event, like this,” Langston said, gesturing to 10 or so aproned students setting out platters, roasting corn, and pulling pork. “Hamburgers and hot dogs is a cookout.”
A Southern hog roast is not a casual affair. A day earlier, students drove to Philadelphia to visit an Italian meat market. They wrapped a 192-pound hog carcass in ice and butcher paper, loaded it into Langston’s four-door sedan, and drove back to campus, singing along to a country-music radio station.
That evening, they dressed the meat and hoisted it into a six-foot rotating smoker. For 15 hours, it roasted on Dod’s lawn while the cooks mingled and played CDs of Southern stand-up comics. At 1:30 the next afternoon, they pulled the roast onto a table and set to it with knives, carving the hot flesh from the bone and shredding it with their fingers.
The barbecue featured 150 ears of corn, 320 buns, 10 watermelons, 25 gallons of sweet tea, 400 cups, 300 plates, and two gallons of barbecue sauce. Audio speakers mounted from two rust-colored Dodge Rams played the defiant choruses of Shania Twain and the rumbling ballads of Johnny Cash.
The group expected 250 people to attend, but far more came. By 3 p.m., 160 pounds of pork had vanished, leaving only bones, fat, and crackling rind.
The sponsors had to cancel a watermelon seed-spitting contest because they mistakenly bought seedless watermelons — a disappointment for Brian Kirk ’06, vice president of the society, who says he can send seeds rocketing 15 feet.
Nearly a hundred students gathered on a late April night near Frist Campus Center for “Take Back the Night,” an annual rally protesting violence against women. An international event since the 1970s, the rally provides symbolic support to women through the lighting of candles and exchanging of stories.
Some students wore white shirts bearing the logo of a purple ribbon, which signals opposition to violence against women. On the Frist lawn, students took purple ribbon pins from a table staffed by Sexual Health Advisers, a student group. Spreading blankets on the ground, they sat in clusters across the lawn, facing a large wooden stage arrayed with banners and T-shirts representing campus groups whose members spoke against violence.
Katie Koestner, the keynote speaker, told of her rape by a fellow student in 1990 at the College of William and Mary — a brutal account of a dinner date with a handsome classmate that led to her dorm room, dancing to a tape, gentle kissing, and then “tickling” that “became a wrestling match.”
Koestner said her story was painfully common and challenged the men present not to ignore disrespect shown toward women in language or attitude.
Tess Cecil-Cockwell ’08 said the event “made me feel the community was really there to lend support.” She said she has discussed reports of three sexual incidents on campus this year with her female friends, but not with male friends. “Men and women don’t think about it in the same way,” she said. “Men don’t tend to think it could happen to them.”
Joe Zipkin ’07, a residential college adviser, talked to PAW after the rally about Princeton’s culture and the relationship between drinking and sexual violence. “In any environment where moderate to heavy alcohol use is, if not encouraged, at least accepted, people feel they have to take everything that comes with that,” Zipkin said. “That can include more risk of assaults.
In that sense, virtually every campus in America has something wrong with its culture.”
Elyse Graham ’07 is an undergraduate fellow at Mathey College.