a PAW web exclusive column
by Wes Tooke '98 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
another Saturday night in Berkeley, CA
We had a riot in Berkeley
on Saturday night. A group of Cal students and townies tried to
get into a fraternity dance after the football game, and when the
bouncers denied them admission, they ran up and down Telegraph Street
breaking windows and looting stores. The closest the riot came to
making a political statement is that the GAP suffered the most casualties
- which at least means that Cal students have some sort of taste.
What has amazed me most
about the riot is how calmly the local community has treated the
event. The police didn't bother trying to break it up, and several
hundred people just stood on Telegraph and watched the rioters fight
and loot. This morning the quotes by shopkeepers in the local papers
have been remarkably free of rancor or resentment. Apparently this
town has learned over the past 40 years how to calmly handle a civil
disturbance - no matter how stupid the motivation.
I've spent some time
over the last few days trying to imagine what could cause a riot
on Nassau Street. Maybe if the town council imposed a tax on imported
I am reminded of the
old photograph of a guy holding a sign during a Vietnam era protest
that read, "Even Princeton." I know what he meant; Princeton
remains one of the most politically placid campuses in the nation.
In fact, during my four years on campus, the closest we came to
a political demonstration was when the basketball team beat UCLA.
I certainly don't think
Princeton needs riots, especially over admission to a dance, but
the campus could certainly use more passion. Every day on my route
to the Berkeley gym I bike by a line of booths manned by students
waving petitions. They are all recruiting volunteers for a vast
array of student action committees seeking to save the rain forests,
free Tibet, legalize pot. The Princeton part of me can't help but
chuckle condescendingly as I speed past on my bike. Some of the
phrases that have popped into my head include: "free range
hippies" and "overpierced, undereducated, and overbaked."
But part of me is also
jealous. A sizable percentage of Berkeley students get excited about
more than the prospect of getting into law school or landing a Wall
Street job. A teammate of mine wore a Youth Action T-shirt to our
soccer game the other night, and after the game he and an opposing
player - who had never met one another - wandered off the field
talking about "ways to improve the movement." That kind
of moment is the norm rather than the exception in Berkeley, and
I've been refreshed by my discovery that wide-eyed idealism has
retained a bastion in this country.
So I wish that Princeton
could acquire some of Berkeley's passion while avoiding the ancillary
foolishness because I know I would be a more complete person today
if I had cared about something in college greater than the New England
Patriots. I have no idea how to get a campus to start politicizing
itself, but perhaps setting up a free nose ring booth at freshmen
orientation would help. And I know that Professor Robert George
would look great with blue hair.
By Wes Tooke '98
Wes Tooke is a regular
contributor to PAW Online. You can reach him at email@example.com