Web Exclusives: Raising Kate
a PAW web exclusive column by Kate
Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My thesis is due on May 3, the same day as the deadline for physics
theses, a synchronicity that reaffirms a deeply held personal belief
that Near Eastern Studies is a science, not an art. Most departmental
thesis deadlines have passed, and the eating clubs have been on
tap almost every night so that seniors can fete their bound oeuvres
and spill warm Beast on their departmental t-shirts.
At Princeton the formula works something like this: The senior
turns a copy of his/her bound thesis into the departmental office.
The departmental office rewards said student with a T-shirt whose
slogan says something funny about the department or about the thesis
writing process in general. It’s a good system, one that seems
to satisfy most students, as if a Hanes Beefy-T were adequate remuneration
for the arduous work.
The Woody Woo senior T-shirt carries the usual “Solve the
World’s Problems in 100 Pages or Less” slogan. For the
first time in several years, there was a movement to print a different
one — namely, a variation on the MasterCard commercials, with
the punch line: “Getting a B.A. for B.S.: Priceless.”
2004 was not the year of living dangerously, at least when it
came to emblazoning risqué phrases on 100% cotton. The molecular
biology suggestion — “Be like a [DNA] helicase and unzip
my genes!” — was rejected by departmental authorities
on the grounds that it was too racy; to add insult to injury, seniors
in other departments pointed out the slogan would be fallacious
as students majoring in molecular biology do not have sex. The Department
of Economics’ “Economists Do It with Models” was
denied on similar grounds.
Art history’s — originally “Get out of my carrel”
— was replaced with the more upbeat “My thesis is a
masterpiece.” The “get out of my carrel” was a
reference to Marquand Library, whose carrels are so enticing as
reading spots, that art history seniors must be aggressive in reclaiming
My own department, Near Eastern Studies, is still struggling with
a T-shirt design. The inability of five undergraduates and a small
faculty to agree on a common theme is troubling considering that
many of us may one day do diplomatic work in that part of the world.
Our first suggestion — a rip-off of the New Yorker’s
Coalition Provisional Authority Phrasebook — “I tried
to establish democracy in the Middle East and all I got was this
lousy T-shirt” — was shot down by the departmental representative,
a Turkish professor who said that if the T-shirt had Arabic, it
had to have Turkish and Persian and Hebrew, too. The second suggestion
— “Q: Where’s Osama? A: In Firestone with the
infidels!” — did not fly at all. The third suggestion
— a llama’s head superimposed on a map of Pakistan with
the caption “Is llama bad?” — failed due to the
difficulty of finding a suitable quadruped. My own suggestion, a
picture of Russell Crowe, circa A Beautiful Mind with the caption
“Get out of my department”, is still under discussion.
Even Professor Robert Finn, formerly the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan,
has weighed in with an opinion, suggesting that the NES T-shirts
feature a map with the names of the students entered into the countries,
the logic being that Princeton graduates are like cockroaches and
turn up everywhere.
Princeton in Rain
April 11 began a week of heavy rains that left dead worms on every
paved surface and turned Princeton into a sea of black umbrellas.
In spite of the discomfort of wet socks and mud-splattered pants,
there was one ray of light: Bernard Lewis, consummate scholar of
the Middle East and author of innumerable books on the region, was
getting rained on, too.
Lewis, a professor emeritus at Princeton, is something of an institution,
like the Honor Code and the Fitz-Randolph Gate. His last public
appearance was at the April 5 Near Eastern Studies brownbag lunch,
at which he talked about conceptions of justice and freedom in the
East and West. Lewis is a reclusive figure, even by the standards
of the NES faculty, and since freshman year I have dreamed of cornering
him at a departmental cocktail party and talking to him about the
Assassins, about the best place to eat kebab in Istanbul, about
anything. On a rainy Thursday afternoon, as he emerged from the
gloamy mists of Prospect Garden, I had my chance, grinned at him,
and said hello.
Lewis continued to bear down upon the NES building, locking eyes
with me but making no indication that he would respond. Suddenly,
he smiled and broke into a chuckle.
Princeton in Shine
On Saturday morning Princeton students organized a “Bake
W Out” on the front lawn of Terrace, raking in about $500
for the political activist group MoveOn.org. The Saran-wrapped brownies
and cookies, all accompanied by tags with a crossed-out picture
of the President, were a big hit. Meanwhile, the bikini-and-sarong
crowd was busy absorbing UV rays in the sunny parts of campus. According
to one Public Safety complaint, topless sunbathing was the order
of the day in the Scully courtyard.
On Saturday afternoon Bob Marley’s still-touring band, The
Wailers, performed in the 1901 Hall courtyard. The Wailers backed-up
Marley prior to his death in 1980, and on Saturday original band
members including bassist Aston “Familyman” Barrett
and guitarist Al Anderson performed alongside newer members of the
group. The concert was sponsored by the Undergraduate Student Government,
which also provided free barbeque.
Preparations for the concert began at 9 a.m. sharp with a test
of the sound system. The northwestern quadrant of campus was awakened
by a loud blast of music that climbed and waned in intensity for
almost two hours, prompting one Pyne resident to complain, “The
show had better be damn good.”
It was. The old standards were all played: “No Woman No
Cry,” “Buffalo Solider,” and “Jamming.”
The residents of Little Hall hung out of their second- and third-floor
windows, waving their arms to the music. Townies and students who
showed up to hear the band grooved to the music or lolled on the
grass, watching resident ethicist Peter Singer, clad in a black
t-shirt, jeans, and plastic shoes, dance in the front row.
You can reach Kate at email@example.com