No one would argue that the Princeton social scene isn’t very centralized. The majority of parties happen on the Street or in someone’s dorm as a pregame before some eating club event. Because of the limited capacities of eating clubs, on most nights, you need be on a list in order to enter certain clubs. As an independent student, I have tried to scope out other options to have fun on campus. But unfortunately, I have found the same type of model being duplicated in other places as well. This system of excessive gatekeeping needs to end.
Princeton is a relatively small campus in a quaint, central New Jersey town. Unlike Yale, Harvard or Columbia, there aren’t many options in town where upperclassmen can enjoy themselves. The result is that many students turn inward (i.e. the University) because there is no place else to look for entertainment. How many of your friends go into Manhattan or Philadelphia to go out? Not to mention that even though Rider and Rutgers are extremely close by, we have virtually no contact with them. This only lends more credence to us calling Princeton the Orange Bubble.
The same sort of song-and-dance you go through with the eating clubs even happens at the residential colleges, of all places. There should be no reason why if Whitman College has a wine and cheese night, I have to have someone from Whitman to stand as my supervisor in order for me to enter the event. I’m 21 years old. Shouldn’t my ID be enough? The safeguards are younger than the attendants at times. I, and many other upperclassmen, just want to meet people we perhaps didn’t have the chance to meet the three or four years we’ve been here. It’s kind of like a last hurrah. If you are 21, you should be able to go to any wine and cheese night at any residential college that hosts one. These events are great alternatives to the Street but the system is still the same: because you technically do not belong there, someone else has to vouch for you.
The same entrance restrictions apply to the D-Bar at the Graduate College as well. You need a graduate student to sign you in even if you are over 21 years of age. Undergraduates and graduate students already have a scant enough connection with one another as it is, limited mostly to preceptor-student exchanges and brief interactions while standing in line at Small World Coffee or Chancellor Green Café. Such additional barriers are unnecessary and harmful to the overall social cohesion at this school. It’s almost as if any effort you make to tap into another social space on campus ends in rejection.
We are all Princeton students. Yes, we all have different interests and hobbies but we are all here for the same purpose: to learn not only from our studies but also from our peers. It is understandable to not allow underclassmen to certain events that have alcohol, but what about the upperclassmen, especially those who aren’t in eating clubs? The social options are scarce without having someone to endorse you. There should be more of an effort to allow students to roam around in diverse spaces in order to maximize their chances of meeting people with whom they can connect.
Morgan Jerkins is a comparative literature major from Williamstown, N.J. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.