IN PRINT: What I Be Project in the New York Times

Steve Rosenfield, a California-based photographer, has visited over a dozen universities for the What I Be Project, a photography exhibit where students write fears and anxieties on their skin. In addition to two trips to Princeton, he’s visited schools like Duke, Columbia, and Washington University in St. Louis.

To learn more, check out the latest from the Press Club here.

Hello, Dalai! Or, how to get college students out of bed before 7 AM on a weekday

You’ve seen the speech, heard the laugh, and wondered what that Princeton hat was doing on his head for the whole two hours. But unless you were one of the 4200 students, faculty, or visitors that came to Jadwin Gym last Tuesday for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s speech, titled “Develop the Heart,” there’s one key part of the experience you missed out on: the craziness that preceded the actual event.

I headed over to the gym at around 6 AM, an hour before Thomas G. Dunne, of ODUS fame, suggested we arrive. (“We anticipate an unprecedented wait,” he wrote in an email.) A couple dozen students were already sitting in circles on the ground, as if ready to sing kum-ba-yah. More clusters of friends lazily approached the gym with Wawa bags and half-closed eyes.

[caption id="attachment_15701" align="aligncenter" width="250"] And so it begins…[/caption]

We soon settled down and formed somewhat of a line, although friends of those near the front periodically arrived and just sat down with them. No one seemed to mind the cutting; it’d be ironic, starting a fight over who gets to sit closer to the Dalai Lama. But most people played by the rules, and the line quickly lengthened; by 6:50, still earlier than we were told to arrive, the end of the line was out of sight. Some people said it already reached that other Jadwin (the Hall), and others had heard people were standing in line all the way back on Streicker Bridge.

[caption id="attachment_15702" align="aligncenter" width="250"] Well, that escalated quickly.[/caption]

As the event got closer and people were feeling more awake, conversation near the front of the line turned to arguably more relevant topics like Buddhism and meditation. Nathan Leach ’18 talked about how he’d recently started meditating, and the effect it had had on his physical and mental health. He was particularly excited to see the Dalai Lama speak, and not just because he was reading up on Buddhist practices.

“I’m excited because this talk has nothing to do with my classes,” Leach said. “Normally Princeton gets some famous political scientist, or foreign minister, and people go because it’s related to a class they’re taking. But this talk is for right here, not for class.”

Tlaloc Ayala, also a freshman, agreed. “This event reminds me of the Pre-Read,” he said, referring to a tradition started by President Eisgruber in 2013, where incoming freshmen read a book over the summer and discuss it in mock precepts during Orientation Week. “Just like with the Pre-Read, I didn’t feel like people could, or wanted to have a scholarly discussion.” Instead, he felt students shared superficial interpretations of the book’s arguments, explicating the text without getting at its deeper message. “This gets to the core of it,” Ayala added. “This isn’t just about some book you read. You’re not just dissecting a scholarly argument.”

Ayala hoped the talk would inspire students at Princeton, with its mantra about living a life of service, to actually engage in service projects they care about, and take responsibility for helping others. Leach agreed, but for the moment, had a shorter-term hope. “[The Dalai Lama] carries a certain aura that will reach people,” he said. “Maybe he can teach the selfie-takers there’s more to this event than getting a picture with him.”


By 7:15,  after passing a TSA-esque security checkpoint, we were already headed inside Jadwin. Seated in the cavernous gym, the next round of waiting began; the Dalai Lama was set to begin speaking at 9:30. The AC was turned up high, and sleepless students joked that the talk should’ve been called “Develop the Heat.” Others obsessively checked Yik Yak, where Buddhism-related jokes abounded. And still others got artistic relief, whether through artful Snapchats or, in freshman Evan Gedrich’s case, an impressive portrait of His Holiness himself.

[caption id="attachment_15698" align="aligncenter" width="515"] “Hey, guys! He’s finally here!”[/caption]

As the time passed, students slowly got more impatient. One freshman asked, “When is the Buddha going to speak already?” and was immediately reprimanded by surrounding students who weren’t tired enough to make a mistake that ignorant. But eventually the AC shut off and the crowd’s attention turned to the front of the room, where the awaited speaker had finally walked onstage, accompanied by his interpreter and Dean Alison Boden. Everyone stood and there was a roar of applause. The Dalai Lama waved to some audience members, then put both his hands up and nodded vigorously. Dean Boden approached the microphone and said softly, “I believe His Holiness would like you to sit.”

[caption id="attachment_15703" align="aligncenter" width="250"] “Aww, shucks, guys…”[/caption]

With a few chuckles, the audience settled down in their chairs. Then, suddenly, a profound silence fell across the room. The fun of the waiting game was over. Lecture was starting.


IN PRINT: Monks create mandala of sand ahead of Dalai Lama’s visit to Princeton

In preparation for the visit this coming week of the 14th Dalai Lama to Princeton University, Tibetan monks created a sand mandala in Princeton University this week.

Click here to read Spencer Parts’ front page story in the Times of Trenton on the sand mandala and the Dalai Lama’s upcoming visit to The University.

Free Food, a Few Months Down the Line

It’s no surprise to see Princeton students lining up for free food – but today at Frist, they lined up to grow it. A houseplant giveaway, held by the Botany Club, drew a line stretching along most of the back of Frist South Lawn. Included in the giveaway were habanero peppers and basil, and the chance to decorate the pot. Check out some highlights in the gallery below.[gallery columns="2"]

21 Questions with… Clayton Raithel ’12


Name: Clayton Raithel
Age: 24
Major: Religion
Hometown: Natick, MA
Eating club/residential college/affiliation: Tower/Whitman
Activities on campus: Ugh, too many. Quipfire!, Triangle, the Writing Center, PUP, Princeton Disability Awareness, Whitman RCA… I was in a jazz ensemble one year, too? Weird.

When did you first come up with the idea to take a painful, personal experience and turn it into a comedy show?
Taking painful experiences and making them into comedy is not new – my favorite comedian, Mike Birbiglia, made a career out of doing just that. I think the show was largely an attempt to stop giving this painful experience so much power. The stuff I was dealing with is heavy – depression, a breakup, adulthood – and whenever it got too weighty for normal conversation, I learned to find the humor. It was healing for me and allowed an entry point for other people to discuss mental health with me.

What was the writing process like?
Labor intensive. I’ve never worked so hard on anything. At the beginning, I would just share stories with my directors, Jeff and Rick Kuperman. Then, I would tell stories to my friends. Then, themes started to emerge. A structure started to develop. I finally had a draft around January, 2014. But it was complete and utter crap. So, I took the script to a number of “comedy doctors” to help execute the funny latent in the script. I took some material to open mics and performed it there. I worked a lot out in the rehearsal room. And then we started to workshop it. And then I wrote new stuff and scrapped old stuff. Writing is revision; that’s what the Writing Center would want me to say.

How did you come about partnering with your directors, Jeff Kuperman ’12 and Rick Kuperman?
I didn’t know Jeff all too well during my time at Princeton. But I had seen some of his work on campus, and respected his work. So around the time I thought of making the show, I emailed him and pitched him the idea for it. We met at a Just Salad in the Washington Square Park area for lunch, and I just spilled out everything that had been going on in my life recently. And he jumped on board, and suggested we bring his brother Rick along, too. The Kuperman Brothers and I are now extremely close.

How does it feel to relive your post-graduation moments again and again through each performance?
On the one hand, the show has been immensely helpful for me, incredibly therapeutic and healing. Reliving these moments in this way helps me process them, it helps me think about them objectively, and it helps me see how crazy my brain was acting. In fact, there are now moments of the show that I treat almost entirely as an actor, which I think is a sign of progress. At the same time, though, there is a twisted irony of doing the show again and again – I wrote the show to get over this painful time in my life and give it less power over me… and yet here I am, doing a show about this painful time in my life, giving it power again and again! On the whole, though, it’s been a very positive experience.

What’s different about acting as yourself rather than a character?
The main difference is that I have a lot more control over how Clayton as character is perceived. I think a lot about that – because Clayton in the show is both the protagonist and the antagonist, and it’s a delicate balance to strike. At the same time, Clayton in real life is always there with Clayton the character. That’s sort of the point.

What was something surprising you learned during the process of putting on “SMILE”?
That the writing of the show itself would change how I thought about my life, which would in turn change how I wrote the show. Round and round we go!

What has the reception to the show been like?
Very positive! I’m very grateful. It’s always different. Some people just think it’s very funny, others are deeply moved, others are both, and a select few who shall remain nameless are neither. The reviews have been great, but I think the most meaningful thing for me is how a lot of people who saw the show started opening up to me and sharing their stories of heartbreak, depression, etc. It reminded me that these issues are a lot bigger than me.

Has your ex-girlfriend seen the show?
DUN DUN DUN. What a good question! No, she hasn’t. We haven’t spoken for a long time. I know she knows about the show, though, and some mutual friends have come to see it. But, I think the better question here is… does it matter? The show’s not really about her; it’s about me. And I think anyone who sees the show understands that, and probably gets that I have nothing but respect for her and all I’ve learned from her.

Why did you decide to bring the show to Princeton during Arts Weekend?
I didn’t. I had mentioned the show to Dean Dunne when it had a run in NYC, and he suggested bringing it down. It just so happened that he had a spot in Richardson during Arts Weekend, and that’s how we got here!

What about Princeton have you missed the most? The least?
I miss academia a lot, but that’s too nerdy of an answer I guess. Umm… I miss that feeling of being invincible? In hindsight, that’s really what you get there, and then you get to the real world and they are like, “Nah, bro” and you are like, “What?” The thing I miss least is the Street, but that’s just because I am not fun and don’t like to drink/party/loud things/people I don’t know.

If you could tell your senior year self one thing, what would it be?
It gets worse. ZING! Okay, just kidding.

If you could switch lives with any Princeton alum for a day, who would you choose?
Jonathan Weed ’09. He’s one of my best friends and is really good at math. I think it would be cool to be that good at math for one day.

In 10 years, you will be…
Hanging out with my pug, because I am getting one, and s/he will be awesome. It will consume most of my time.

What’s your drink?
I don’t really drink! Can I say a Shirley Temple? I like teas a lot. Umm… water is great as well.

How do you get rid of stage fright?
I don’t really get it, in general. That’s not the norm for most actor types I know. I get it for this show, because it’s so personal and it feels like if the audience doesn’t like it… they don’t like you. But stage fright goes away when you realize that almost any performance you have doesn’t really matter. Like, yeah, take it seriously, but also… if you aren’t having fun doing this, why are you doing this?

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day?
I sit through my nursing school classes and think of medical related puns I can write as tweets.

What’s hanging above your desk and/or bed?
I have a map of my hometown and surrounding towns, and other map that connects that map all the way to Boston. My wall is maps.

Where do you do your best thinking?
In my bed, right before I fall asleep. I often have to text myself from my bed so I remember my ideas in the morning.

What is your greatest guilty pleasure?
I actively watch anime on a regular basis and not in an ironic way.

Who is your mortal enemy?
That would be my brain. He’s a crafty little devil. Always giving me irrational thoughts and making me hate myself. I will win, brain. I will win.

What makes someone a Princetonian?
If you have to ask, you’ll never know. Sounds like a cop out answer, and that’s because it is! It’s 2:30am and I have to go to bed so I can perform SMILE tomorrow! Goodnight!

Interview condensed by Ellis Liang ’15.

Grade Deflation is Dead


[caption id="attachment_15633" align="alignleft" width="250"] Faculty entering Nassau Hall. Photo attributed to Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15.[/caption]

At exactly 5:00 PM, the Princeton faculty voted to eliminate the restrictive grading policy, commonly known as grade deflation.

The policy, first implemented in 2005, restricted academic departments to giving out a maximum of 35% A- range grades in their classes. The policy was often construed to mean a cap of 35% of A grades per class, leading to anger and consternation among students.

The faculty meeting in the half-filled Faculty Room of Nassau Hall lasted for just over half an hour, with President Eisgruber presiding over the proceedings. No faculty member voiced opposition to the elimination of the policy, although some were concerned that the new policy could potentially re-lead to inflation in grading. It was approved almost unanimously, with only a handful of dissenting votes.

The new policy that will be taking its place is outlined in the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Policies Regarding Assessment and Grading, which can be found here. The recommendations were released in early August, endorsed by President Eisgruber and sent to a faculty subcommittee for review, before they landed before the whole faculty for a vote today.

The faculty also voted to dissolve the Committee on Grading, a faculty committee that had the focus of setting policies to assist in the “limiting [of] grade inflation.”

Thanks to photographs by Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15, an outline and copies of the policy changes are below.

An Abandoned Driver-less Truck: The Other Prospect Eleven

For those who have made the long trek out to the Graduate College, in the far corner of parking lot 19 — where juniors are forced to park their cars — sits an abandoned-looking pickup truck with the words Prospect Eleven emblazoned on its side, a light and UFO-looking thing on the roof, and garbage in the trunk. What’s the truck and what’s it doing there?

[caption id="attachment_15603" align="aligncenter" width="515"] Prospect Eleven in Lot 19, behind the Grad College[/caption]

It was Princeton’s contribution to the DARPA 2005 Grand Challenge, a competition organized by the secretive Department of Defense research agency — it’s kind of like the older, federal, more weaponry-oriented Google X — to build driver-less cars that could make it down a difficult prescribed track. They named the car after the more commonly known Prospect 11, the challenge to chug a beer at each of the eating clubs.

A news report from 2005 described the Princeton entrant car:

Their car, the Prospect 11, is built on a GMC Canyon pickup, a vehicle that had been damaged in transport and was going to be scrapped by GM. The car was donated to the Princeton team instead, who set about building in drive-by-wire components, computers, GPS, and its only sensor, a stereo vision camera.

[caption id="attachment_15602" align="aligncenter" width="250"] Notice the white GPS transmitter on top and garbage in the trunk.[/caption]

The car was a joint student-faculty project, but was spearheaded by a set of juniors, according to a final report on the project. During the summer before their senior year, seven students worked on getting the project in motion, looking for funds, and gathering extra parts. Compared to the other teams, the Prospect 11 was pretty hastily put together:

A few weeks before the qualifying rounds, they had also gotten a hold of an inertial measurement unit, which meant they had very little time to integrate its information and test it. And a lot of the programming of these vehicles is done by trial and error; let the car run, and if it’s about to hit an object, stop it and look at its sensor data and how the computer decided to respond.

[caption id="attachment_15605" align="aligncenter" width="250"] Top view of Prospect Eleven[/caption]

If you understand computer programming speak (or have taken COS 126 and want to try), here’s the review report from the undergrads who worked on the truck published in the Journal of Field Robotics.

So what’s the truck doing in Lot 19?

It’s been moving around from place to place at the university since it was decommissioned at the competition, said Professor Alain Kornhauser, the project leader. First, it was stored in some of the university’s garages for safekeeping and protection from the elements.  Then the truck was moved to Lot 20, near the Dinky, until he got a call a few weeks ago from the university that he had to move it to Lot 19. Prospect Eleven no longer works — most of the electronic insides have been gutted — and it doesn’t have any duties now, but he doesn’t want to get rid of it for sentimental reasons, he said.

[caption id="attachment_15612" align="aligncenter" width="250"] Front view of Prospect Eleven[/caption]