Deep in the orange bubble, we all know (and perhaps even love) the young rascals who dare to board through the x-treme gothic skate park that is our campus. Sometimes they entertain us during meals as they wipe out epically or clumsily in front of the windows of Wu (don’t they realize they’re skating in a fish bowl?) or annoy us as we dodge them on our way to class. But, for the most part, we hardly take note of their presence. Where do they come from? Do they skate for fun or in pursuit of some grander ideal? And is skateboarding all they do here? What we fail to realize is that there is a war taking place – a brutal war – and the unobtrusive skaters in our midst are likely part of some covert organization, intending to combat, with all their might, the authorities intent on crushing their favorite pastime, their very youth: Princeton University Public Safety.
This top-secret organization, established several years ago by a group of young men from Princeton High School, is not here to fuck around. Their mission: to hate P-Safe with the full extent of their beings. In a mysterious turn of events, I landed an interview with one of the founding members and have gained unprecedented insight into their workings. I have been obliged to take certain confidentiality measures. For the purposes of this article, I shall refer to the organization as Fuck Public Safety (FPS) and my interviewee as Riff.
As it turns out, Riff and his friends were not originally “out to get” Public Safety and started venturing into campus merely to hang out and have fun. They would mostly skateboard, wander around unlocked buildings, climb on shit (‘parkour’), sneak into construction sites, and mess lightly with pedestrians. Pretty harmless stuff, really. But when P-Safe started tailing them and kicking them off campus, their efforts became more serious. “Now,” as Riff explains, “we do the same stuff, but we’re more obnoxious about it. We kind of taunt Public Safety to come just so we can run.” According to Riff, FPS believes that P-Safe is a “phony and illiterate false authority” akin to “mall cops” and “parking meter men” whose “only job is to bust teenagers that come on campus.” FPS claims to exist to combat the restriction of their rights to chill on Princeton’s campus, which, they note, is planted smack in the middle of their hometown. They even have a top-secret website devoted to these aims. The site (or at least the little I was privy to) consists of a mission statement that reads “keep the group on the down low because we don’t want any groupies and fuck public safety…we are not a goon squad and we don’t live in our moms’ basements!” There are pictures of various P-Safe officers who have busted them, each identified by a label, like “dickface”, posted underneath.
What are the efforts that FPS takes to piss P-Safe off? When P-Safe asks them to stop skateboarding and leave, they resume their activities five minutes later, after the officers have left, sort of like an infestation that grows more resistant with each attempted extermination. Rumor has it that FPS members occasionally longboard on top of the football stadium and sneak into science buildings at night to activate the emergency eye wash stations. But it’s the Woody Woo Fountain that has really become their base of mischief. If you happen to be walking or lounging near the fountain, don’t be alarmed if you get hit in the head with a gooey little ball, or if a stranger comes up behind you and shouts “DA!” in your ear. It is most likely FPS armed with Fruity Yogurt bubble tea. In fact, FPS spends so much time loitering by the fountain that the same old guy in jean shorts always immediately calls Public Safety on them. FPS responds by mocking the old man mercilessly, usually by making fun of the fact that he wears jean shorts. Through P-Safe’s various responses to their activities–-reprimanding them “firmly”, tailing them in cars for simply looking suspicious, chasing them across campus, formally banishing them from campus, or escorting them directly to the station –-FPS has gained some valuable intel. Did you know that officers do not carry guns, only batons, and that the P-Safe security building has cameras providing a bird’s eye view of our entire campus? FPS does. They are committed not only to tormenting P-Safe, but also to the more sophisticated task of understanding their operations and capabilities.
In this, Riff and his FPS gang have proven themselves first-rate troublemakers. Public Safety seems quite justified in wanting to end their prankage. But as university students, with whom are we to sympathize? Aren’t P-Safe officers the bros that knock on our doors, tell us there has been a “noise complaint,” ignore the solo cups, and protect our drunk, underage asses weekend after weekend? Conversely, talking to Riff has convinced me that the officers really are out to get him and his friends. Public Safety consistently kicks FPS off campus, whether they are breaking into University buildings or merely skateboarding around. Riff and his friends even get in trouble with P-Safe, when they pulling discarded furniture from campus dumpsters every spring around graduation. (Riff says his brother received a 90-day suspension from campus for swiping a mini-fridge that would have otherwise gone to a landfill.) The University, or at least Public Safety, seem as troubled by their presence as they are by their deeds.
The case of FPS demonstrates how concerned Princeton is with its image. Think of the Nude Olympics. We lament its banishment but isn’t the picture of naked and drunk people running through Rocky an eyesore, visually and even morally offensive to important passersby? Likewise, Orange Key tour guides are forbidden to traverse Wilson and are given very specific ways to deal with (or avoid) questions about the eating clubs. Last year, at a Butler study break, we were allowed to paint a white wall near Studio 34 in whatever manner we liked, only to have the wall painted over with white again a month later. We live in an environment that is administrated toward a very specific perception. And many of us, as students, possess the same quality, as we unyieldingly pursue a particular idea of success, controlling our live until its end, maximizing every weekend and every summer, never straying from ourcourse or risking retribution from our elders.
What FPS argues from outside the University is that youth is an exceptional time, and that even smart, ambitious, obedient youth need adventure, transgression, and some shenanigans. This is the time in our lives when we can get in trouble without much consequence. Everyone is allotted a couple no-judgment screw-ups. FPS, by their own irreverence, reminds us to lighten up and not conform, not even to the pattern of our “pre-game then street” nights out. If they can by skating around and into us bring some levity to this campus, without doing much harm, they might yet do us and Public Safety some good.