Web Exclusives: On the Campus

February 14, 2007:
Valentines and fresh-made cookies

By Bridget Reilly Durkin ’07

Tubs of penny-candies line an entire wall at the C-Store in the Frist Campus Center, and students can follow the progress of the seasons by watching the candies change .

Arriving in September are the autumn-colored chocolate kisses, replaced rapidly by candy corn, then candy canes. Sugar-rushes to aid late-night studying deplete the bins as students cram for January exams; the empty bins are swiftly filled with heart-shaped icons of a college student’s most bittersweet holiday — Valentine’s Day.

Princetonians, like many Americans, are ambivalent in their feelings toward Valentine’s Day. When asked about the holiday, one senior replied, “Do you know why we celebrate Valentine’s Day? Because an early Christian priest was beheaded – let that be a lesson to us all.” Many students refrain from celebrating the day – some because of youthful skepticism about love, others because the week night already is filled with rehearsals, practices, and papers.

Yet many students find the time to celebrate or spend time with their valentines. Some, braving the long lines of young professionals and septuagenarians, make reservations to dine on Nassau Street. Others discover their own way to celebrate on campus. “My favorite Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend and I went sledding on the golf course behind Forbes,” said one senior.

Cards, candy, flowers, and other treats are popular, and in creative combinations: Last year, a tuxedoed senior was spotted heading to pick up his date with a bouquet of roses under one arm and a case of Miller Lite in the other. Creativity is displayed in other ways to express affection – pictures, poetry, a homemade comic book.

Nor are these displays of creativity limited to those in relationships. “Last year, my roommate and I threw a ‘singleton’s party’ and made dinner for a half-dozen of our friends,” one female student said. “Several of our friends with boyfriends decided to crash the party. They left their boyfriends at home, and celebrated with us.”

Others find Valentine’s Day the perfect time to celebrate love while helping others. Since 2002, Princeton Against Cancer Together (PACT) has run the Crush Project to raise money for cancer research and support. Princeton’s sororities, under the guidance of PACT, sell Crush soda bottles to students for delivery to the dorm room of their “crush.” A hugely successful project, students send their bottled-up affection to friends and prospective romantics alike.

One universal thought prevailed: As one freshman noted, no matter what your romantic status, “Valentine’s Day is a fantastic excuse to eat chocolates all day without any guilt!”


THE SMELL OF FRESH-BAKED COOKIES wafts gently into the cool evening air, crossing your path as you trudge home from the E-Quad along McCosh Walk. A large sign hangs near the foot of the brownstone walls that reads, “Café: Dedicated to the Fine Art of Being Open.”

The sign leads down the steps into the low-ceilinged basement of Murray-Dodge Hall, where the room is abuzz. Students laugh and chat while nibbling warm cookies. Others sip tea or hot chocolate as they study chemistry notes online or relax with a novel.

The Murray-Dodge Café, supported by the Office of Religious Life, is run and managed almost entirely by students. The café is open for two and a half hours every evening. Students are welcome to stop by to grab a cookie during a quick study break, or to spend all evening as a weekend alternative to “the Street.”

The café prides itself on being comfortable, with soft lighting and deep-cushioned couches. “It’s a space on a campus that doesn’t need passes or tickets or money for people to have a good time and which speaks of home to people,” said Maryam Khan ’08, one of the café’s two student supervisors. Snacks and drinks are offered without charge. Khan emphasized that the café is open to people of all faiths and no faith: “It is a café that likes to see people have a good time.”

In the past two semesters, Murray-Dodge Café has been expanding its programming using money that it received from the University’s Alcohol Initiative. This program, which offers money to a variety of organizations to provide alcohol-free weekend activities, has allowed Murray-Dodge to stay open later on Thursday and Saturday nights. One evening, students painted coffee mugs, many of which are still used in the café. Other activities have included holiday parties, movie nights, and chocolate fondue. The café also has been teaming up with other organizations, like its neighbor Theatre Intime, to offer open mic nights and poetry readings.

Still, the café’s focus remains on the basics. “There’s nothing better than seeing people smile when they see a cookie fresh out of the oven at midnight,” Khan said.

Bridget Reilly Durkin ’07Bridget Reilly Durkin ’07 is a classics major from West Pittston, Pa.

Photo by Hyunseok Shim ’08