March 7, 2007: On the Campus
music; risky toasts
Two days before their 10-show intersession tour of Florida, the Footnotes sprawled on the dilapidated leather couches in their rehearsal room, cracking jokes. Exams were mostly over, but the hard work was about to begin.
Peeling themselves off the cushions, the eight “Feet,” as they are known on the campus a cappella circuit, started warming up. After scaling up and down several octaves, they made gargling noises and trilled their lips like outboard motors. Then they ran through bits of their active repertoire — more than 30 songs, some dating back to the group’s founding in 1959, and ranging from “Love Potion #9” to “Go ’Way From My Window” to Footnote originals. While music director Dennis Lee ’08 led the rehearsal, suggestions came from the entire group on improving blend, dynamics, tempo, and pronunciation.
“What note do I start on?” asked one tenor. “E flat,” came the reply. “E natural,” someone else corrected. Lee played a tuning whistle note. “That was an F.”
Rehearsal wasn’t all business, though, as you could guess the minute you entered the Footnote rehearsal room. Above a well-stocked bar, street signs (examples: “Fire Department Hook-Up” and “Caution: Speed Hump”) hang on the walls. They’re souvenirs from decades of tours when, according to tradition, each “newbie class” pilfers a sign that invites double entendre.
As with most of the men’s a cappella groups, swooning campus coeds are the Footnotes’ fan base. Aiming to please, the group devoted a solid part of rehearsal to conveying the emotional aspects of their songs. Lee advised a newbie crooning a ballad to think about impressing a girl. “Or anyone you love,” another member suggested.
As rehearsal ended, the Feet trooped out to Walker arch, where the acoustics are better. Students hurrying between dorms stopped to listen, hands jammed in their pockets and shoulders hunched against the cold. But the Footnotes were focused, performing for each other, snapping their fingers and even dancing a little. Each time they reached a rest in the music, they breathed in together like a giant bellows. Then they exhaled a swelling, supple note, their voices as warm as the lantern light on their faces. They were ready for Florida.
Other students were busy before intersession trying to get the University to change its tune about a reworded booze policy. “Did anyone out there notice,” wrote David Harris ’07 in the November issue of the century-old humor bimonthly The Princeton Tiger, “when the administrators ... outlawed pouring your parents a glass of wine with dinner?”
Harris was lambasting the University’s policy on alcohol, specifically this clause: “When serving, providing, or making available alcohol to any person, regardless of his or her age,” students must get approval from the Dean of Undergraduate Students, for events “both on and off the University campus,” at peril of probation or worse.
Facetiously encouraging students to meet with Associate Dean Hilary Herbold and ask permission to drink cough syrup over break, Harris posted a petition on the magazine’s Web site that garnered signatures from 189 students and alumni. The Daily Princetonian picked up on the story in January, citing USG efforts to change the policy. Students were both bemused and outraged.
“Who are these people?” said Wistar Wilson ’08, referring to University policy-makers. “How did they all sit around going, ‘That is a good idea’?” Enforcing such a policy off campus, she added, would be impossible.
Josh Scheiman ’08 went further. “The next step should be that ... male and female undergrads should not be able to fraternize,” he said, “and Princeton alumni cannot drink alcohol.”
Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt ’96 said the new wording was not intended to change policy. The University, she said, edited language that has been in the Rights, Rules, Responsibilities handbook for a decade: Students who want to serve alcohol must assure the dean ahead of time that nobody underage will be present. As for the policy’s “off-campus” applications? They apply only to “areas in the local vicinity,” Cliatt said, where “students “may feel that the rules governing their gathering may be unclear.”
There were indications, however, that the policy might be reworded yet again to better clarify its intent.
Meantime, it looks like students toasting with Mom and Dad at dinner won’t have to face the Committee on Discipline after all.
Laura Fitzpatrick ’08 is an English major from Ossining, N.Y.
MORE ON THE CAMPUS online: “Dean’s farewell; honor code social” by Christian Burset ’07