June 11, 2008: On the Campus
Views, and thank-you’s
By Alice Lloyd George ’09
More than a third of the nearly 2,000 students who participated in an Undergraduate Student Government referendum in April said there has been a decline in the overall quality of student life due to top-level administration decisions, with this belief rising from 16 percent among freshmen to 52 percent among seniors.
The proportion of seniors — 20 percent — who expressed “strong disapproval” of the way the administration has been running Princeton was four times that of freshmen.
In the free-response section of the referendum, grade deflation was by far the most commonly referenced grievance, followed by lack of student input on policies.
“Two years ago, President Tilghman told The Daily Princetonian that ‘it would be truly foolish for a university to admit brilliant students from all over the world, and then pay no attention to their views about the university,’” said Kyle Smith ’09, who designed the four referendum questions. “Her statement does not appear to square well with student opinion.”
Some said the results reflected students’ reservations about what is new and different.
“Generally, I think people tend to resent change within institutions,” said Jordan Blashek ’09, “though the fact that the administration just unveils new policies without warning has not helped the situation, either.”
Added Vice President for Campus Life Janet Dickerson: “The past four years have been a time of very significant change in undergraduate student life, and that may haveproven to be challenging for some students.”
Some respondents said the wording of the referendum questions may have led to an exaggerated view of student dissatisfaction. And while others complained that the administration is running Princeton like a “business” and is more concerned with its public image than students’ welfare, a significant number felt that the administration’s intentions were good.
Senior class president Tom Haine ’08 said the results also might illustrate the inevitable disillusionment of college students over time but added: “If this is something other than the usual sort of cynicism toward authority so often found in college students, then it should be taken seriously and addressed.”
By Isia Jasiewicz ’09
It was the day before Dean’s Date, and a rainy one at that. Everyone in the Rocky-Mathey dining hall should have been eating lunch silently, hunched over books and outlines. But instead, hundreds of students were chatting excitedly, waiting for the moment they had made time for on one of the busiest days of the year. At 12:30 p.m. on the dot, all of the lunchgoers rose from their plates of pizza and salad and broke into a standing ovation for a little old man in an orange hat who walked, cane in hand, down the long carpet of the Mathey seating area.
The man was Charlie Wilder, but students know him as Charlie, the card-checker. Every weekday he swiped the proxes of hundreds of students at breakfast and lunch — and he knew each of them by name.
“It keeps my brain active,” Charlie said when Antoine Kahn, master of Mathey College, picked up a microphone on that dreary Monday and thanked Charlie for remembering all the students and making them feel at home. Kahn’s speech — together with remarks by dining-services workers, college administrators, and students — comprised Charlie’s surprise retirement party. After 30 years at Princeton, the 76-year-old was leaving — “for health reasons, not because I want to,” Charlie noted.
Actually, this was Charlie’s second time retiring: He left briefly in 1994 after serving as a dining services manager since 1978, but it was only a few days before he was itching to return. It was then that Charlie started his stint as the legendary card-checker.
“Charlie is the reason I come to breakfast,” said Katie Fletcher ’10. “On rainy spring days that should be warm, Charlie is my sunshine,” echoed Emily Cizek ’10.
Adam Fox ’09 was one of dozens of Mathey alumni who left their eating clubs for a day to come back and pay respect to Charlie. “I couldn’t miss this for the world, dude,” he said with a grin.
“I don’t know how to express my gratitude,” Charlie told his fans in the dining hall after receiving his retirement gifts: a Mathey jacket, a Rocky T-shirt, and a scrapbook full of notes by students from around the world who have made work interesting for Charlie every day. Charlie’s famous last words? “Don’t forget your prox!”
MORE ON THE CAMPUS: Grad students on the run, by Melinda Baldwin GS, click here.