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February 9, 2005:

Snapshots from the first semester

By P.G. Sittenfeld ’07


While giving a lecture on deviance in Sociology 101, professor Mitch Duneier was struggling to come up with an example of how someone might violate everyday norms and expectations. He invited students to imagine how they might react if another student came to class wearing a paper bag over his or her head.

For those lacking imagination, the wait wasn’t long. At the next lecture, a mysterious student showed up late and attracted the attention of all with a grocery bag masking his head. Having cut small eyeholes into the bag, he adeptly navigated his way to a seat.

Many students were initially alarmed. But the professor looked favorably upon the surprise gesture and rallied the lecture hall to give the never-unveiled student an enthusiastic round of applause.

The biggest surprise, however, was for those students who didn’t take the prank seriously. The second question on the midterm exam: In three to five blue-book pages, analyze and explain the “paper bag man.”


Amid the election-season controversy over the military records of President Bush and John Kerry, a group of sophomores decided to throw a military-themed “Reporting for Booty” party. Party-goers at the two-story Wilson suite sported Army fatigues, cadet caps, and aviator shades.

Toward the end of the night, one undergraduate “soldier” in the upper deck asked a friend on the first floor to toss him a beer. The throw was on target, but the can slipped through the receiver’s fingers and plummeted into the crowd. Calls of “Look out below!” were not enough to keep the can from striking a sophomore girl on the head.

Miraculously, the girl walked away unscathed. Earlier in the night, in keeping with the party theme, she had been crowned with a camouflage helmet.


Who said Princetonians aren’t politically active? Sitting at dinner on the eve of the presidential election, Alison Hess ’08 conveyed her frustration to friends over having never received the Florida absentee ballot she had filed for in June. “We should just drive you down to Palm Beach County and make sure you get to vote,” joked Theodore Ellis ’08.

The joke quickly became a reality. Shortly after dinner, Hess, Ellis, and three other friends were cruising down Interstate 95 on an impromptu road trip for democracy.

They reached Palm Beach at 5 p.m. the next day, when Hess cast her vote. A few hours later they were hustling up the coast, trying to return in time for the next day’s classes. The drive was 20 hours each way and covered more than 2,300 miles. Back on campus, students of all political persuasions saluted the effort but still inquired: “All that for a couple of Yalies?”


The women’s soccer team made history this past fall by advancing to the semi-finals of the NCAA tournament. To get there, the squad needed to win its quarterfinal game, which fell on the day after Thanksgiving. While most students went home for Turkey Day, these student-athletes remained on campus to keep their kicks crisp.

A 4 p.m. practice on Thanksgiving Day wasn’t the players’ only sacrifice. Their coach, Julie Shackford, also told them they weren’t allowed to eat any turkey because tryptophan – the chemical in turkey that causes us to slip into food-induced slumbers – might make them groggy.

A turkey-less Thanksgiving sounds severe, but it worked. The team went out the next day and, in a 3-1 victory, made the University of Washington squad appear a little tryptophan-ed.

P.G. Sittenfeld ’07, from Cincinnati, Ohio, can be reached at pg@princeton.edu.