Web Exclusives:On the Campus...

May16, 2001:
How 'bout that: Readers write back

By Annie Ruderman '01

At 22 I am fairly inured to the whims of readers. After all, I grew up reading my schoolwork to my parents, both of whom routinely fell asleep somewhere about three-quarters through. When I started writing this column I thought of it as a fun way to tell some alumni what was going on at this school of theirs. It never occurred to me that people might actually write back. They did. Here's what some of my readers had to say to my columns:

For women only (please?)

November 8, 2000

The column on co-ed bathrooms brought forth a motley mix of horror stories and hard-won advice, which ranged from "tough-it-out and just-put-the-seat-down" to start a university-wide campaign of "full doors or separate floors." My favorite letter was from an alumnus from 1997, who "had the unattainable honor of living on the top floor of Blair Tower." There, according to my reader, the one bathroom (marked F) had a usership of 13 sophomore boys and their six female neighbors downstairs. This, according to my reader, was a wonderful arrangement. "If there was any social psychology involved, it was just how normal it all became. It was a pretty friendly neighborhood up there over the arch." I wonder what the girls would have written.

Sloth Mail

December 20, 2000

Sloth mail, my column about the ridiculously slow mail service at the new campus center (which has since improved) encouraged an array of mostly humorous anecdotes. Then I received a critique from a gentleman who reprimanded me for not including a thorough investigation of the history of the mail system here at Princeton. "There is no evidence that she made any inquiries as to the operations of the campus mail delivery, or why some of the letters are delayed in deliveryÖ..Years in the past the postal service delivered mails to the individual rooms. Why the change? What have been the results?" I was (admittedly) rather miffed by this, until someone pointed out that the alumnus was 89 years old. I stood corrected.

Driving Ms. Davis

February 21, 2001

Driving Ms. Davis, the column about my misadventures while interviewing Professor Natalie Davis in my car en route to New York City won for the most mail. I received a good number of reminiscences and one-line notes from former students and colleagues of hers. The most interesting of these, however, was not about Professor Davis, but rather a letter about an alumnus's experiences shuffling Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, to and from the airport. "Margaret was a world citizen, anthropologist, activist and a VERY busy person. As her tutorial grad student, I was always squeezed for time to meet with her and discuss my workÖÖFor many years, I worked out a deal with her secretary. Every time Margaret was coming into town, the secretary would call me and tell me when and where she was coming from and where she was going to... I'd show up at the airport, meet her at the gate and take her to her destination."

Student Activism:

April 4, 2001

Student activism (ironically) was cause for the least response. I received one email from an angry student-feminist (I expected about 10), saying that the Women's Center was a terrific resource, and how dare I suggest that 99.9% of all female students on this campus had absolutely no idea where it was or what it did before this year. Then I received an email from a student I named letting me know that his parents had seen the article and were proud, rather sweet. But all in all a quiet run.

I'm glad my parents introduced me early on to the whims of readership. By I didn't really need them. Writing this column has been the second biggest pleasant surprise of my senior year. The first is that people read it.

You can reach Annie Ruderman at ruderman@princeton.edu