While walking behind Nassau Hall, I saw a single piece of paper fall from a second-floor window above me. It started towards the ground slowly, and I watched as torrents of air swept the paper left and right and up and down. It was like a paper ballet, choreographed and performed for my eyes only. I stood there alone, watching the paper for what felt like hours—the campus was remarkably quiet for two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon and I was undisturbed during the performance. Eventually the paper headed for me, and I put out my hand and caught it before the wind had a chance to dance it away from me again.
I’ve always had tremendous respect for authority, and I know that the complexities of the real world often make it impossible to tell good from bad. I was at first fundamentally confused about whether or not it would be good or bad of me to share the letter I found with you and by extension with the general public. I’ve decided to share it not out of a sense of indignation that our leaders would plan for such a contingency, but out of a sense of responsibility to prepare my fellow students to take decisive action if the time should ever come here at Princeton.
I want to make it clear that I do not advocate the ouster of President Tilghman or of any university official, but if such a time should come when the good students of Princeton University are forced to overthrow oppressive leadership, I want my fellow students to be prepared to act decisively.
Below is the letter I found.
Yours in freedom,
– Gavin Schlissel ‘13
Princeton University Committee On Intifadas
We the Committee On Intifadas have determined that the popular anti-government sentiment in Egypt and the Middle East poses a direct threat to the peace at Princeton University. Fearing that populous uprisings may spread westward, we recommend that the University threat level be set to ORANGE. The purpose of this report is to detail the lessons we can learn by studying the intifada in Egypt, and to provide the University Public Safety Department with detailed instructions on how to curb potential uprisings at Princeton.
Specific recommendations to University Public Safety:
1. After the onset of a riot, the Public Safety Department needn’t concern itself with protecting the University Store from looting. Due to the considerable means of Princeton students, looting is quite unlikely. However, Public Safety Officers should be dispatched immediately to the University Art Museum, to Firestone Library, and to Mudd Manuscript library. The riots in Egypt have shown us that some people take perverse pleasure in destroying some of the oldest evidence of human history. The loss of the Gutenberg Bible, or the destruction of Princeton’s collection of Greco-Roman mosaics would not just be a loss to the University, but a loss to all humanity. It is our fear that Princeton students would try either to desecrate such artifacts because of their symbolic value as achievements of human knowledge, or to steal such artifacts to study them outside official university rare materials research hours.
2. Egypt has shown us that web-based social networking tools can be utilized to organize mass gatherings. If Princeton seems on the verge of riot, Public Safety should immediately incapacitate the Princeton Facebook (https://facebook.princeton.edu). This can be done either by a conventional denial-of-service cyber-attack, or by physically destroying the https://facebook.princeton.edu servers. Henceforth all Public Safety officers will be issued fragmentation grenades, which can be used to destroy physical mainframes should their destruction become necessary. The main Internet servers for Princeton University are located at OIT headquarters at 87 Prospect Avenue, and a grenade exploding directly below the main transformer should bring down University servers. The main transformer will be identified with a yellow sign that reads “PLACE EXPLOSIVE HERE,” in reflective lettering. In addition when the server room is dark there will be flashing red lights on either side of the sign. When in doubt, two grenades are better than one.
3. An in depth analysis of crowd dispersal techniques employed in Egypt provides key insights into how best to handle a crowd of twenty-year-olds. Conventional wisdom tells us (and Public Safety practice has always been) to selectively target women or particularly weak and defenseless men for beatings, thereby prompting chivalrous violent response by protesters that can be used to justify further aggressive action by Public Safety. However, it seems that intrusions against dignity and violations of the Queensberry rules do not elicit sympathy from people of student age, and so typical violence-escalating maneuvers may prove ineffective. It is nearly impossible to offend their sense of right and wrong so outrageously that they can be so motivated as to risk personal injury.
4. Due to the aforementioned cowardice, an intifada among students would likely be limited to long-range attacks. As such, Public Safety must be prepared to handle many different kinds of projectiles. Loose stones are few in Princeton (and students lack the physical brawn to loosen stones from the walls of the buildings), and most alcohol that is readily available to students is sold in plastic bottles, so stones and firebombs would probably play very little role in any riot. The greatest risk to public safety officers is from the hurling of burning books. Also of concern is the hurling of water bottles full of urine.
Consider this list a first draft of emergency preparedness standards. Expect updated instructions and advanced training as Youtube videos of the riots become available to the committee.
Princeton University Vice President for Riot Readiness