October 25, 2006: On the Campus
Candy corn and columnists
By Bridget Reilly Durkin ’07
Golden-leaved trees frame Nassau Hall, southbound geese honk over Forbes College, and students clad in gray “hoodies” hurry to their midterm tests. These familiar sights of fall are the perennial clues that Princeton’s unofficial national holiday is rapidly approaching. Once a year, the rest of the nation joins Princeton in her celebration of orange and black. On Halloween, ghosts live, witches walk the streets, and fashionistas swathe themselves in the University’s chosen colors.
Princeton commemorates Halloween by suspending classes for an entire week. Every year fall break, which follows the grueling midterm week, coincides with Halloween so that students can observe Halloween with their families and honor Princeton in their local communities.
Even if they are haunting the world at large on Oct. 31, students do not forgo the chance to observe Halloween on campus. The Thursday evening before fall break is affectionately known on campus as “Princeton Halloween.” Residential colleges alternate hosting an annual party for freshmen and sophomores: Rockefeller College (the old Commons) decorates its castle-like arches with spider webs; Forbes College gives away “Die for the Inn” T-shirts.
The eating clubs transform the Street into an eerie carnival. Most students make their own costumes, mixing and matching their roommates’ clothing, dorm supplies, and items found at the local CVS. Students flaunt their scholarship along with their creativity: A representation of a molecule of ethanol was spotted at Frist Campus Center, and Athena, the goddess of wisdom, also made an appearance sporting homemade greaves.
There’s also a town-gown aspect: The University’s Department of Dining Services has offered an annual Halloween brunch since 2000 for local senior citizens and costumed kids from the University League Nursery School. Last year, 50 children and more than 135 adults celebrated in the Forbes College dining hall.
Halloween is an opportunity for alumni to rekindle their Princeton pride, guiltlessly festooning a living room in Princeton’s imposing hues. And it’s a chance to hoard candy corn and orange and black M&Ms — which then can be eaten in a year-round celebration of Princeton.
In February 1995, Professor John Fleming became The Daily Princeton-ian’s first regular faculty columnist. For more than a decade this renowned Chaucerian scholar published his weekly thoughts on everything from Joni Mitchell to eschatology. In May he composed his final “Gladly Lerne, Gladly Teche” column, as he moved to emeritus status.
Although Fleming will be missed, the Princetonian will not lack erudite reflections and piquant comments. This academic year, four faculty members from diverse disciplines will offer their observations. On the first Monday of the school year, classics professor Joshua Katz debuted the new column with a piece called “Welcome to Change,” in which he wrote: “Neither I nor Princeton is exactly the same as we once were, and it is good, I think, to reflect on and assess the causes and nature of the shifts.”
In the following issues, Anthony Grafton of the history department, Uwe Reinhardt of the Woodrow Wilson School, and Brian Kernighan of the computer science department offered opinions on a range of subjects, including the end of the early-decision admission policy and the war in Iraq.
The topics and styles of these four columnists vary greatly, yet all are like-minded in one aspect — the desire to provoke a response in their student readers. Katz wrote in his first column: “If I do my job right, I will say some things you agree with and others you consider ridiculous — and you will find it worth your while to give pieces of your mind back.”
Grafton said he hopes to “spark the occasional modest and useful discussion,” noting that “we Princetonians tend to be very complacent ... and lacking in self-criticism.” Katz said he was surprised not only by the number of students who replied to what he termed a rather uncontroversial first column, but also by the number of parents and alumni who responded.
The professors said they find writing to be inherently enjoyable. But more importantly, Reinhardt said, writing is an extension of teaching, and their columns are another way to interact with students.
Bridget Reilly Durkin ’07 is a classics major from West Pittston, Pa.