It is that time of year again, when the breezes grow colder and the leaves begin to turn, when the freshmen amble onto campus looking for love and the fast-track to Goldman Sachs, and when the Daily Princetonian’s ancient printing press begins to crank out the book reports, advertorials, and speculative fiction it is famous for. It is time, of course, for PrinceWatch.
Even after years of PrinceWatches, the question remains: are the Daily Princetonian’s writers actually employees of the University? Like P-Safe, they overzealously prosecute students for victimless crimes. Like the Office of Communications, they publish the unedited press releases of university officials. And like the University administration, they present a picture of Princeton that too often looks nothing like reality. In the past, PrinceWatch was a lighthearted affair intended to make fun of the Daily Princetonian’s absurdities and endearing though typically egregious errors. However, there is very little humor to be found in this semester’s Prince.
Student charged with drug possession at Princeton Stadium (September 10, 2014)
This is not the first time the Prince has published the name of a student arrested for drug possession, and it probably will not be the last. Prince writers often cite their journalistic duty to unearth the hidden or obscured facts. But they have misdirected their attention towards their fellow students, ratting them out for drug use on an almost regular basis and publishing the contents of private listserv emails. The university, from its endowment to its counseling services, is far from transparent. But instead of taking the time to do some actual investigative journalism, the brave journalists at the Prince choose to single out their fellow students for getting high.
In response to another article in which the Prince identified Princeton students by name for using drugs and published the contents of Terrace’s listserv emails online, the Prince’s editor-in-chief offered an explanation for why his paper operates as the local branch of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “In our view, there is an overriding public interest when an institution has something to hide,” he explained. It seems, then, that the editorial staff of the Prince has a strange understanding of what constitutes an institution. It takes a special kind of myopia to mistake a student carrying a couple grams around campus for an institution like the one we attend.
Maybe it’s the influence of the sensationalist 24-hour news-cycle that motivates the Prince to publish the names of students who have been caught with banned substances. But the Prince isn’t exactly competing with CNN. Their choice to publish students’ names is inexplicable. There is no higher public interest at stake, no institution to hold accountable. Publishing students’ names, particularly without their consent, is a malicious act of public humiliation.
The title of the article does not state the name of the student charged with drug possession, and that alone is enough of an indication that publishing the student’s name is unnecessary. The reader gains nothing from seeing the name. The practice of doing so adds nothing to the public discussion of the political implications of the war on drugs both at Princeton and in the U.S. more generally. By publishing the student’s name online, the Daily Princetonian convicts the student of a crime before he has even been before a judge.
Editorial: Instituting a sexual assault prevention program, dissent (September 11, 2014)
There is a member of the Daily Princetonian’s editorial board who believes that making it easier for victims of sexual assault to identify their assaulters “is rash and potentially unjust.” This lone dissenter finds it difficult to trust that victims can correctly point out their abusers, as if both victims and their abusers did not attend the same school, sit in the same classrooms, and eat in the same dining halls. He also believes we live in “a detrimentally libertine culture,” a baffling judgment in light of Princeton’s persistent enforcement of traditional notions of gender and sexuality, from the school’s heavy emphasis on its athletic programs to the relatively few women officers in eating clubs.
The author objects to the new criteria because now “everything depends on that singular—and elusive—criterion of consent.” His presumption is one that many survivors of sexual assault would no doubt find offensive and incredibly hurtful. There is nothing elusive about consent; it is a “yes” or “no” question. The author’s belief “that consent is notoriously difficult to discern” is indicative of the broader problem of a culture that fails to take the trauma and suffering of sexual assault victims seriously.
The author’s sympathies seem to lie less on the side of those who have been assaulted and more on the side of those suspected of assault. He worries that the new standard of evidence “advantages an accuser over the accused.” Never mind that in a truly ambiguous case, where neither side could claim “a preponderance of evidence,” disciplinary action would not be taken. Never mind that it is extremely difficult for victims of sexual assault to go through the process of testifying against their attacker, and that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults on campus go unreported.
The author presupposes bad faith on the part of victims of sexual assault. Instead of using the terms “victim” or “suspect,” as would seem appropriate given the Prince’s strong stance on campus crime, the author uses the terms “accuser” and “accused.” The person who was assaulted becomes the active accuser, placing the assaulter in the victim-like position of “the accused.” Unsurprising, an author arguing against tougher measures against sexual assault manages to blame the victim.
Since the author operates in a strange moral system in which empowering the victims of sexual assault to seek justice could be something other than commendable, perhaps he might prefer to live in a society like Saudi Arabia, where women are barred from full participation in everyday life, or like Yemen, where child brides are common, free from the yoke of “our detrimentally libertine culture.”
Student develops supplement to cure hangovers (September 10, 2014)
This article begins with two ridiculous sentences: “By night, students drink. By day, they struggle through hangovers in precepts and in athletic practices, among other places.” The lack of clarity in these opening sentences leaves the reader wondering what exactly the author means. “By night,” as in Tuesday night? Or Saturday night? I think most students would agree that their drinking habits are not the same everyday of the week.
First and foremost, this is not an article; it is an advertisement. The author has dropped any pretense of being a journalist and seems to have been hired by the guy who invented the “hangover cure” the article describes. Even the section headings of the article sound like bullet-points on a power-point sales-pitch: “Harnessing the alumni network,” “Christianity’s role in Thrive+,” “Hitting the market.” These headings, rather than providing any sort of analysis or explanation of the product and the problems it is meant to address, provide a textbook outline of a marketing strategy. The author could have written “Origins,” “Our Mission,” and “Product Release” and the content of the article would be unchanged.
After the sales-pitch, the piece veers toward the absurd, as Prince articles tend to do. The focus of the article moves from marketing talking points to a discussion of the religious mission behind the product. The hangover remedy was created to “answer the call for Christians to interact with the world in a beneficial way.” The author offers only a slight critical engagement with the apparently unorthodox interpretation of Christianity. And while she cites a number of Christian leaders on campus, whose reactions mostly range from tepid appreciation to outright support, the author does not mention of any of numerous verses in the Bible that take a less than accepting stance on drinking and drunkenness. For example: “For he shall be great in the sight of the lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.” (Luke 1:15). But both the author and the product’s creator seem to have rather loose notions of respect for the written word.
Lessons from the inside (September 18, 2014)
Occasionally, over the course of a PrinceWatch, there comes an article that does the job of the PrinceWatcher by itself: this is one of them. It begins as innocuously as a piece about the NYPD can be, describing the author’s seemingly splendid time with one of the country’s most notoriously aggressive police departments. However, it quickly devolves into something much more frightening.
Perhaps tired of the usual formula of op-eds about eating clubs and grade deflation, the Prince staff agreed to publish what can only be described as an apology for murder. Writing about the white police officer Darren Wilson who killed 18-year-old unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the author says, “I actually admired the restraint the officer showed.” Multiple eyewitnesses claimed Michael Brown had his hands-up when Darren Wilson killed him. Brown was unarmed. His last words were, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting.” And despite all this, Darren Wilson shot him. Repeatedly. But rather than finding this fact morally troubling at the very least, the author of this article celebrates Darren Wilson “for his restraint.”
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, you’d be wrong. Though hard to believe, the next sentence actually appeared in the university’s daily newspaper: “In reality, when any typical person begins to fire a weapon, there is a very real human tendency to continue pressing the trigger until the magazine is empty.” This reads like the confession of a convicted murderer. Hopefully, a typical person would stop shooting once their goal has been accomplished and recognize the gravity and danger inherent in firing a weapon, rather than emptying the magazine for no reason.
One of the last sentences in the op-ed is: “Once an officer has decided that somebody’s life is in jeopardy, the primary objective is to stop the perpetrator at all costs.” It is sad to know that after the numerous police killings of unarmed black men like Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Graham, and now Michael Brown, the NYPD is still teaching its employees to shoot first and ask questions later. Darren Wilson served on a police force that was 94 percent white in a town that was 64 percent black, but the word “racism” does not appear once in this op-ed.