Web Exclusives: Raising Kate
a PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (kswearen@princeton.edu)

October 10, 2001:
Offering to help the frosh move in
A sophomore finds the new kids in the quads, well, different

By Kate Swearengen '02
Illustration: Henry Martin '48

I'm not sure what to think about this year's crop of freshmen.

For one thing, there are too many of them: The Class of 2005 has 1,185 students, 20 more than Fred Hargadon bargained for. But hey, so what if our dean of admission is bad at math? Given my high school math grades, I should be glad that I have an ally in West College.

And, really, I should be grateful for other things. I haven't yet run into the crowd of bottle blondes who spent their pre-frosh weekend queued up to buy cigarettes at the Wa last spring. Apparently, they all decided to go to Dartmouth. Still, after hearing frosh exchange the following remarks on campus, such small consolations are inadequate:

"Hey, man, you won't believe what happened. I woke up this morning with a cut on my face, someone else's prox in my pocket, and no shirt."

"So if I buy porn and charge it to my U-Store card, the bill will be sent home to my parents?"

"Well, there's nothing in the Housing Department guidelines that says you can't have piranhas."

Take a look at the parents of the Class of 2005, and you'll understand how the kids got that way. I spent Saturday morning skulking around in a Butler College T-shirt, offering to help the freshmen find their dorms and to carry their bags. Reasoning that an earlier shift would mean fewer people and, therefore, less work, I had signed up to work at 9:00 a.m. All that an earlier shift means, though, is that you're stuck with students and parents from the tri-state region. If I had been smart, I would have signed up for a later shift, one filled with polite Midwesterners and laid-back Californians. As it was, these were the kind of people who I got to deal with:

"Did you know that Leonard was cotreasurer of his senior class?" someone's parent asked me.

Seeing as I had only met Leonard three minutes earlier, I had to admit that I didn't.

"Well, he was. And he scored a 1420 on his SATs. He's a pretty impressive kid, alright."

Most of the parents I met were unwilling to ask a girl to carry heavy baggage, and motioned me away when I asked if I could help. Ordinarily, this situation would have annoyed me, but I relished the opportunity to avoid further contact. Sadly, my luck did not last.

"Do you need any help?" I asked one man.

"Sure," he said, opening the tailgate of his Jeep to reveal a massive refrigerator. "How about giving me a hand with this?"

"Well," I said doubtfully. "I guess the two of us could probably lift it."

"No can do," he said sadly. "I just had surgery for a hernia last year. You're on your own for this one."

"You know, on second thought, I'm not sure that your refrigerator complies with the Housing Department regulations. It looks kind of big to me."

"That refrigerator is exactly 5.2 cubic feet," he said proudly. "The maximum allowable size. And I drove all over New Jersey to find it."

But what business do I have complaining about other peoples' parents? My own parents planned to come on Saturday, three days after I had arrived on campus, in order to bring me wire hangers. I tried to dissuade them from coming, telling them that one of my friends would have extra hangers, and that I had stored everything from last year on campus.

"We already have the tickets," my mother said. "And besides, we'll be able to take you to Target and K-Mart. And to the Princeton Diner. You can't get there on a bicycle."

So my parents joined me in Princeton, bought me groceries at Wegman's, and took me out for lunch and dinner. Toward the end of their stay, my mother commented that this year's group of freshmen looked less preppy than my fellow sophomores.

"That's about the only positive thing you can say about them," I told her grumpily, as I limped to the rental car.

You can reach Kate Swearengen at kswearen@princeton.edu