On the Campus...
June 8, 2005:
survival, and the cost of graduation
By P.G. Sittenfeld ’07
On the first Monday in May, students, teachers, and administrators
gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Forbes College. The
event took place in the Forbes lobby, where students ate cocktail
shrimp and sipped sparkling cider from plastic champagne glasses.
The guest of honor (or the host, depending on how you looked at
it) was Steve Forbes ’70 – the man for whom the college
Forbes said he was delighted to attend the celebration, although
the venue would not have been his first choice. “If I were
better at spinning, we’d be having this at the White House,”
he said in reference to his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid.
Eager students crowded around the man of the hour in search of
a handshake. “Thanks for coming to this event,” one
freshman said timidly. “And thanks for letting me live in
Forbes noted that when his father, Malcolm Forbes ’41, named
the college for him, it was one of the first times a building on
campus had been named for someone who wasn’t dead. “I
didn’t mind,” Forbes said. “As my father once
told me, ‘What good is immortality if you’re not around
to enjoy it?’ ”
Two months before theses were due, a group of 16 seniors decided
to create a game of “Princeton Survivor,” modeled after
the hit reality TV show. Each participant contributed $25 to the
pot so the winner would carry home a cool 400 bucks.
The competition began with two teams of eight, each with four
males and four females, squaring off in weekly “immunity challenges.”
As in the real Survivor, the losing team was forced to
vote off one of its members.
Team challenges included raising the most money in a three-hour
Prospect Street bake sale, completing a New York Times
crossword puzzle in the fastest time, and finding the cheapest wine
per fluid ounce. (Contestant Ann Glotzbach ’05 made the winning
discovery, coming across a chardonnay, excellence undocumented,
for 54 cents a bottle at a wine factory in her native Arkansas.)
When the field of players was narrowed to 10, the two teams merged
and individual immunity challenges began. In one challenge, contestants
had to retrieve four random library books located in disparate corners
and on different floors of Firestone. Andrew Bosse ’05 collected
his four books in a stunning four minutes flat. “It was the
greatest athletic feat of my entire life,” Bosse said. “It
was also a feat of nerdiness. I only knew the layout of the library
because I’d been holed up in my carrel for so long writing
However, as soon as Bosse lost his immunity, fellow contestants
voted him out of the game. “Alliances are changing all the
time,” Bosse said. “It’s best if you can just
slip under the radar. Don’t make friends, don’t make
As the school year ended, seniors expressed little worry about
receiving their diploma come graduation day. Their real concern
was finding enough commencement tickets so all family members could
attend the ceremony.
The University provides each senior with five tickets. Three weeks
before graduation, Mara Weinstein ’05 anticipated 12 family
members coming to town for commencement, some from as far away as
Tinian and Jamaica. “They all want to be there to support
me,” Weinstein said. “I can’t say, ‘No,
don’t come.’ ”
With many other students in similar need of tickets, a market
of barter and sale emerged. On TigerTrade – an online auction
site that is Princeton’s version of eBay – 44 of 632
postings were from students seeking more tickets. Mary Bobrowski
’05 sought to stimulate sympathy with the following plea:
“I have eight immediate family members … Please allow
my sisters to see me graduate.”
Students with fewer family members planning to attend found themselves
in positions of power. In an e-mail sent to members of her eating
club, Jacqui Perlman ’05 wrote: “My family apparently
does not love me as much as your family loves you. Thus, I
have a few extra tickets ... I think that the only fair
way to deal with the high demand is through physical challenges.”
Perlman planned to stage marshmallow eating and hula-hoop contests.
“People who need extra tickets are willing to do almost anything,”
she said. “Whoever wins the tickets will feel like they really
Other students used their spare seats to turn a tidy profit. One
senior, who not surprisingly asked to remain unnamed, sold his extra
ticket for a whopping $200.
A note to future legacy parents who want to meet terrifying tuitions
and actually see their child graduate: Stop after one.
P.G. Sittenfeld ’07 is from Cincinnati, Ohio.