Campus Dailywatch (2009-03-17)

I totally missed an article about scandal in Brown’s international studies program the first time around, but now it’s been the subject of some outrage in the Brown Daily Herald‘s letters section, so I gave it a reread. To summarize, the article is critical of the new director of the Watson Institute for International Studies, David Kennedy, because of a new legal studies program that he’s established and because of the faculty in it. The paper indicates, with some degree of shock and alarm, that many of the Watson Institute’s new hires have Harvard Law degrees, like Kennedy, and that two of these Harvard Law people, hired for the new legal studies program, who—gasp!—don’t even have PhDs, are a former student of Kennedy’s and someone with whom he “is in a romantic relationship.”

This last reference drew the most ire. Kennedy himself wrote into the Herald to observe that “My partner Dan Danielsen and I were pleasantly surprised to learn in your lead story… that our relationship remained ‘romantic’ after more than 20 years together.” Peter Andreas, a political science/Watson Institute professor, was slightly less sarcastic in his disapproval, writing that he was “dismayed by both the tone and content” of the article—most notably the whole “romantic relationship” thing. And I really have to applaud Andreas’ point here—obviously, I don’t know the details of the situation, but Andreas is absolutely right that it was absurd to insinuate that “that there may be something improper about their involvement,” when, as Kennedy said, he and his partner have been together for more than 20 years. Andreas goes on to bring up spousal hires, which of course do happen in academia; a desirable job candidate is going to be a lot more likely to move to a new university if his partner is offered a job as well. This happens fairly frequently, or so I understand, and in fact I think Brown should be applauded for extending its spousal hiring policy to same-sex couples, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Rhode Island.

My mother says that I have a one-track mind when it comes to picking out the LGBT angle in news stories, and yeah, I probably do—I don’t think I would have noticed this story if I hadn’t noticed Kennedy’s letter to the editor first. But doing so does lead me to a larger point about what appears to be the Herald‘s desire to make news where it doesn’t really exist. Campus dailies are a great training ground for aspiring reporters, so I hope that the folks involved in this article do a little academia fact-checking—and yes, because I have a one-track mind, stop insinuating things about Kennedy’s (gasp!) same-sex partner. Would the Herald have made the same insinuations if Kennedy were married to a woman? You have to wonder.

Campus Dailywatch (2009-03-02) – Economic Crisis Edition

I don’t have time to say a lot, so I’ll let the headlines speak for themselves—from the Yale Daily News:

Up to 300 will be fired
Departments to cut costs

Anthony Grafton’s column in the Daily Princetonian, headlined Graduate school in a New Ice Age:

Now the floor beneath us has collapsed again. Endowments have turned south; state revenues have withered; families struggling with lost jobs and foreclosed homes cannot spend as much on tuition as they have in the past. It has taken colleges and universities only a few months to go from prosperity to austerity. In the humanities, 15 to 20 percent of the jobs originally advertised for this year have been cancelled. And as university after university announces budget cuts and staff layoffs, it seems certain that next year will be even worse.

It’s time to think hard about our graduate programs and their relation to these new realities. Should we cut numbers even further? Emphasize professionalization even more? Can we contrive to give students something of the freedom and possibilities for wide-ranging exploration that their predecessors enjoyed before our permanent crisis took shape? Can we be frank about the professional situation that students face without inspiring despair?

These questions have no simple answers. But if we fail to pose and discuss them publicly, we will see another generation’s relationship with the university ruined by our refusal to face and discuss facts.

I just feel so hopeful about my future….

Campus Dailywatch (2009-02-25)

There was a great letter to the editor in Haverford-Bryn Mawr’s Bi-College News today. I don’t really have anything to add, so I’ll just wholesale blockquote:

Elizabeth Held’s February 17 article “SGA Talks Plenary” surprised me greatly, not due to the overall content or the writing style, but because it referred to Alex T. BMC ‘09 with female pronouns.

I do not wish to speak for T., but as an acquaintance I believe that I can say with relative certainty that he prefers male pronouns and identifies not as a female but as a female-to-male transgendered person. If Ms. Held was confused or disoriented by T.’s gender presentation, or was unsure as to how to refer to him in print, then as a responsible journalist she should have asked.

In light of this confusion, it seems ironic that T. will be presenting a resolution having to do with gender-inclusive language in the Bryn Mawr Consitution and community. Perhaps we need that resolution more than we think we do.

Amanda Darby BMC ‘10

I remember some vague ruckus about this particular trans guy and his place at a women’s college; certainly there was that NYT Magazine article last year about young FTM (female-to-male transgendered) folks at women’s colleges. All my admittedly very sexist opinions about the place for women’s colleges in our society aside, I think Amanda Darby’s letter was absolutely spot-on. The kids at Bryn Mawr and Haverford do great things; I wish Princeton students had half their cultural awareness. But trans people—particularly young trans people, a relatively new phenomenon as people start to come out earlier—still tend to fly under the radar. There are ways, I think, to raise awareness about gender identity even on a campus where there might be only one or two out trans students, and this is really something we should be starting to do now that sex and sexual orientation awareness are becoming more normalized on-campus.

So yeah. Thank you so much, Amanda Darby, for bringing this to Haverford’s, Bryn Mawr’s, and my attention.

Campus Dailywatch (2009-02-18)

Today’s Dartmouth has a pretty inane op-ed about Cornell’s LGBT group’s Valentine’s Day kiss-in, half of which just summarizes the Cornell Daily Sun article about the kiss-in and the other half of which states some things that seem pretty self-evident to me:

But at the same time, I think the shock value some of us find in “Queer Kissin’” says a lot about where we stand as a culture. We may be a relatively tolerant generation — on an intellectual level — but, in practice, we are not nearly as accepting as we claim to be. The Cornell kiss-in encourages us to reevaluate and question the tacit beliefs and prejudices we may not have known we had. By pulling these skeletons out of the closet, I think, we as a society can grow more accepting and understanding of varying opinions and lifestyles.

As if this is a unique discovery that Kevin Niparko ’12 (the author of the column) made himself! At Princeton, I’ve talked to quite a few people in the past week who said that they were all for gay rights, but why did the Pride Alliance’s “LOVE = LOVE” posters, featuring same-sex couples kissing, have to shove it in their faces? This is hardly an unusual phenomenon.

People like relationships—or anything else—that they can identify and classify. If a same-sex relationship can effectively be disguised as an opposite-sex relationship, and if all mention of the fact that the same-sex couple might be having sex is omitted, then we can reliably pretend that our conception of normativity and morality isn’t being challenged. But that’s no way to tolerance, really. It’s more along the lines of forced assimilation. We’ve got to take the “but” out of “I’m all for gay rights, but…”—and I don’t think it takes a Dartmouth freshman to point that out.

Campus Dailywatch (2009-02-10)

IvyGate’s roundup of today’s headlines in the Ivy dailies mentions the Daily Princetonian‘s above-the-fold piece about Meg Whitman’s bid for governor of California. This, indeed, is a rather silly article, very much in the mold of every Ivy League daily’s tendency to run a story every time some alumnus does something in order to fill space. To be fair, there is some decent Princeton-focused reporting in the article, but also a fair amount of cribbing from the WaPo and the Sacramento Bee.

But what I really wanted to mention is that IvyGate is overlooking the most incredible thing to come out of the Prince today—more incredible even than one eating club’s computer fuck-ups: a very odd column by opinion editor Barry Caro in defense of bicker.

Keep in mind that I hate bicker. It’s a disgusting institution that for several decades has been a stain on Princeton and a major detractor for a lot of folks who consider going here. So keep that bias in mind. Also keep in mind that Caro professes to be no fan of bicker himself—after all, he says, he joined a sign-in club. But statements like this still get to me: in response to other writers in the Prince who criticized bicker’s exclusivity and cliquishness, he writes, “I must have missed the all-Street meeting where club members are told that our mission is to mercilessly mock people.” Oh, so there has to be a meeting for something to be true? I’m not such a hardline radical that I don’t understand sarcasm, but cliquishness is kind of the entire point of eating clubs. Some people get in; some people don’t. That’s especially true for bicker clubs, where getting in is based not on a lottery, but on an evaluation of one’s personality and in some cases one’s appearance, one’s family background, and other such factors. This isn’t an overtly acknowledged factor, but even this freshman can see how folks posture and pretend and flip out about trying to act like the sort of person Club X would accept. It’s like the middle-school popular crowd all over again, but even worse—because now it’s 20-year-olds who really should know better.

Caro also says, “I’m also curious how Loh holds what I believe are two completely contradictory critiques of the eating clubs together in his head: that they both enforce conformity and are a reflection of social balkanization.” Clearly he hasn’t been around many young people’s social groups, because it’s perfectly obvious to me that when self-segregation according to stereotype occurs, there’s a certain amount of pressure to then live up perfectly to that stereotype. Think of the jocks, the drama kids, the rich and popular kids, all those groups from high school. And think about the social influences all those groups exert. Don’t you have to dress a certain way, hold a certain set of interests, profess a certain set of beliefs, in order not to get weird looks? I can’t believe that I’m the only kid who had that experience—and I know that, too, because I look around Princeton and see hundreds and hundreds of kids who are too scared or too unimaginative to break out of this heightened preppiness that the social environment at this university engenders. Even I’ve felt it—I came home at Christmas and bought some nicer clothes, so that I wouldn’t feel underdressed in class. I’m consciously trying to learn to modify my rhetoric so that it’s acceptable to the Princeton style of discourse. And I’m careful of the things I say so that I’m accepted, even if the groups from which I’m seeking acceptance are “alternative” crowds. It’s how the world works. Caro’s living in a fantasy land if he thinks that’s not what people do.

Caro concludes by saying that the eating clubs are what make Princeton special, and that if you don’t like it you should go elsewhere. Well, in a way that is a valid point, and many people have gone elsewhere. I almost did, and I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve talked to who didn’t apply to Princeton because they were so disconcerted by the Street. But personally, I don’t see a huge problem with making eating clubs an accessible option to everyone, regardless of financial ability or gender or social status or anything else. I think it’s deeply troubling to have it publicly acknowledged that exclusive elitism is at the center of Princeton’s social scene. And I’m angered and disgusted by folks who are so disinterested in making this university a place where anyone could want to go to benefit from the world-class academics. I really don’t think fulfilling President Tilghman’s green-hair line is too much to ask.

The Prince wrote me an email today, inviting me to come to their open house this week. I told them I wasn’t interested, and after reading this column (and the full-page ad from the Cato Institute on the facing page), I’m even more sure of that. I, after all, proudly write for the Nassau Weekly. It may be its own self-selecting social scene, but at least we publish coherent and intelligent articles that aren’t predicated on upholding everything that is wrong and outdated and elitist and exclusionary about Princeton’s social environment.

Campus Dailywatch (2009-02-09)

I don’t think any of today’s headlines can possibly surpassed by those of my own college daily. A couple highlights:

Thirteen go to hospital post-Bicker, proof of how disgusting, not to mention anti-intellectual, Princeton’s selective eating club scene is.

Class of 2012 president resigns to take off spring semester, for “personal reasons,” you see. I’ve heard rumors, but I probably shouldn’t repeat them on the interwebz—needless to say, the scandal that continues to plague our student government is pretty fucking entertaining.

On an unrelated note, I picked up a card from the table in the dining hall at lunch today. On the front, it says, “If you could ask God ONE QUESTION, what would it be?” The reverse lists some dates with discussion topics: “Why is there suffering?” “Who was Jesus really?” “What about Science [sic]?” “Is Jesus the only way to God?”

I won’t lie: I laughed for like five minutes and continued to repeat those questions over and over again in silly voices to the folks I was sitting with. Yeah, I know, I’m a terrible person.