Dear President Eisgruber,
Over the past two years, students like myself have employed the privileges of expression, assembly, and dissent afforded us to address what we perceive to be shortcomings of this reputedly great institution. Your administration has acknowledged and accommodated these expressions of dissatisfaction to varying degrees; often, the progressive motion of Princeton toward a more inclusive community has been hindered by bureaucratic friction and the restraining forces of financial interest and the fear of political expression. However, because I am a student and lack the experience of being held accountable for an eminent university, I cannot, in good faith, deny you the benefit of the doubt. That said, I wish to convey a grievance that I hope you will have the humility to consider:
Princeton academics span a broad range of disciplines. Indeed, the scope of our critical scholastic gaze is so complete as to render the rare blind spots all the more shocking. I hardly believe that I am the first to bring this to your attention, but I feel compelled by my allegiance to our university’s mission to ask: why don’t we spend more time talking about dinosaurs?
Consider this: a species of reptiles walked the earth for 170 million years. These creatures varied in size, from the two-foot-long Compsognathus to the Argentinosaurus, which measured an impressive 130 feet from head to tail. Some of them flew, some of them swam, and a few of them were reputably canny enough to form an affectionate rapport with Chris Pratt. Dinosaurs are truly marvelous—and yet not a single class is dedicated to their study.
What’s the deal? A search for economics classes in the Fall 2017 semester yielded 47 results. Could we not spare just one econometrics seminar to revel in the sweeping majesty of the Sauropoda, or contemplate the keen intelligence of the Velociraptor? Does not the horror we encounter in the heart of Conrad’s Congo pale in comparison to the bristling maw of the Gigantosaurus carolinii?
My dismay is not entirely unfounded. The minds of my generation have been suffused with dinosaurs since before we could form sentences. My earliest memory is playing with a plastic brachiosaurus in the dry grass of my front yard. Like so many other Princeton students, the scaly skin of that sandbox sauropod was more familiar to my small hands than a pair of scissors, or even a box of crayons.
We even looked up to dinosaurs as role models. In The Land Before Time, I learned from Littlefoot, Ducky, and Spike that friendship transcends differences in body type or disposition. From Jurassic Park, I learned never to trust overzealous billionaires. And of course, I watched Barney; we all watched Barney. For years, we were led to believe that these noble creatures mattered.
You can still make this right. The office of President affords you the unrivaled opportunity to point Princeton University in the right direction. Your administration has, in previous weeks, rejected student-led demands to dissociate the University from industries that violate human dignity on the grounds that such actions would be inappropriately political. Here you have it—an apolitical initiative. Worry not: you run no risk of being on the “wrong side” of Triassic prehistory.
Let us see more Hadrosaurids in Fine Hall. Let us feel the Diplodocus’ mighty bellow rattle the firmaments of East Pyne. In a time when your administration is under mounting pressure to decide the fate of this institution, I hope you will see this petition as an opportunity to give Princeton University the dignity its hallowed name deserves.
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