President Eisgruber invited the student body in an email to a chapel gathering at 2 pm today. Dean Alison Boden sent a follow-up email, writing that, “The intention for the gathering is both to acknowledge frankly our divisions and to reaffirm, together, the University’s guiding values of respect, dignity, honesty, and compassion.”
1:30 – Around 20 students dressed in black gather outside the Chapel
2:04 – Dean Alison Boden speaks, leads the University in prayer.
This is “A particularly challenging time for the university”
“Speaking honestly can be hard.”
“To say what we must, no matter the cost”
“Please Join me in the spirit of prayer”
2:06 – President Eisgruber speaks
About twenty students dressed in black stand up in the pews, facing away from President Eisgruber.
There’s been an “eruption of hostile and thoughtless comments on YikYak”
“The anonymous cowards that post these messages debase us all with their ignorance and contempt”
“Members of minority groups too often find themselves hurt by stereotypyes, by ignorance, or by hostility.”
“We have a responsibility to change that,” President Eisgruber said.
“I’ve been impressed, for example, by how much so many people in this community from so many different groups love this university and by how much they want it to be a better and more welcoming place.”
Ruha Benjamin, Assistant Professor, Center for African American Studies, offers another reflection.
The students sit down.
“There is no orange bubble, there is only us,” Benjamin says.
Benjamin quotes an upvoted Yik Yak, “If Princeton is so damaging, leave.”
“How About, “If Princeton is so damaging, we have to change it. But how?” Benjamin asks.
Jacob Cannon, Class of 2017 U-Councillor, speaks.
“Why do we tend to expect so much from Princeton, or from each other? Or perhaps we don’t,” Cannon said. “I think that the reason for the tendency to criticize Princeton is much purer and more underlying than we think.”
“We believe in what Princeton should be, a place where every student can thrive… A place that can offer the best undergraduate education.”
“When I see attitudes of criticism, dissapointment, as frustration, Idon’t view it as complaining as much as a reflection of how much we care about the University and its students,” Cannon said. “We look to Princeton to create an environment that perhaps exists no where else in the nation.”
“We’ve had a lawn parties act every year, so why is now the time to protest misogyny in the music industry?” Cannon said, commenting that it is all too easy to ask questions like this. “I implore each and every one of you to engage with your peers in person, and to do so respectfully.”
2:32 pm Musical reflection, “Sound over the water” with soloist Alice Frederick ’17
2:37 pm Eric Glover, a graduate student in the English Department
“I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t eager to leave,” Grover said.
In light of recent events, Glover finds himself qualifying his introductions. “While I am from Princeton U, I’m not of it,” he said.
“Don’t sit by and watch. Hold them accountable…So the burdens of race and racism do not continue to fall onto the shoulders of the underrepresented,” Glover urges.
2:42 p.m. Professor William (Bill) Gleason, Professor of English begins
“Humor can be a powerful social weapon, or it can be a divisive and humiliating gesture,” Gleason said.
“There is much I think that informed historical knowledge about the work of culture can bring understanding to us today,” Gleason said. “What we need most of all, perhaps, is a more informed knowledge of each other.”
2:46 pm musical reflection on violin by Solene Le Van ’18
2:52 Isaac Serwanga ’13, Athletic Administrator and founder of Profound Ivy, speaks
“When you’re part of a community, the strength of the community lies on the individual who understands that the responsibility falls on them.”
“In my time as an undergraduate I saw that Princeton was missing something…I didn’t feel that the support that Princeton provided pertained to my situation.”
“It wasn’t until my senior year that I could be an agent of change.”
Explains Profound Ivy, mentorship group for Black student athletes that he founded as undergraduate, which meets weekly on Sunday afternoons.
“As we build up the individual, the community wins.”
Serwanga’s remarks are the only remarks met with applause by audience so far.
Remarks by Lina Saud ’15
Speaks of being taunted by intoxicated peers because of her headscarf.
“Go to the dining hall and sit with someone who does not look like you…ask them the questions you are too scared to ask” Saud encourages. “Embrace each other and do not let yourself get robbed.”
3:04 pm U-Councillor Naimah Hakim ’16 speaks
Speaks of taking time off from the University:
“The conditions that drew me to leave the University were intricately intertwined with me being a woman and me being a Black student.”
“If we are to keep one another accountable and rigorously pursue not only the freedom of expression but justice”
Hakim calls four students to stage to read “manifesto” of students who are “sick and tired of being sick and tired” to Eisgruber administration, which they denounce as racist. “The following are our demands,” Hakim said.
“We demand honesty,” one student said.
“We demand respect,” another student said.
“President Eisgruber and his administraton have described racism as a ‘difference of opinion’,” another student said.
Other students stand with posters in the aisle as the students on stage speak.
“We demand dignity and compassion”
“Freedom of speech is not a license for daily verbal assault”
“We demand accountability,” a student said. “Accountability means actively dismantling racism even if it makes some uncomfortable”
“Black students have repeatedly done the unpaid work of educating our peers and administrators about oppression, not just during your [Pres. Eisgruber’s] presidency, but for the decades preceding your term, and we suspect, unless something changes, for the years following it,” Hakim said. “We demand change,” she concluded. The audience claps.
3:11 pm students walk out chanting “hate speech is not free speech.”
After speech by professor and Chapel Choir performance, President Eisgruber delivers closing remarks:
Eisgruber thanks students for attending and speakers for sharing their thoughts and emotions:
“It was challenging, illuminating, and sometimes uncomfortable,” Eisgruber said of the gathering.
-GSF and AM