Sometimes, The World > My Grades

Orange Bubble Syndrome is something that many of us take for granted. We get stuck in a cycle of rotating between weekends at Prospect, weekdays at Firestone and occasional excursions for late meal at Frist. We micromanage our days in GCals of rainbow-colored sleep deprivation. We might stop once in a while to read something from the Prince UPC, complain about P-Safe’s lockout policy, scoff at Dean Malkiel’s dog or laugh at the bicker plans for Cannon Club.

Read the news? Uhhh. I'll pencil that in someday, okay?

Read the news? Uhhh. I'll pencil that in someday, okay?

But where is the globally aware citizenship that all the admission brochures advertised? Where are the scholars in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations (aside from sharpening their get-recruited-for-I-banking skills in Robertson or Tower, that is)? A Prince column earlier this week (okay, we do read them too) called for more campus dialogue on current events. The Middle East is erupting. Japan is in shambles. Basically, 2011 thus far has reached a point where I expect a new revolution or disaster every time I refresh the NYT homepage.

I know, I know. We’re busy. We’re tired. We work really hard. Sometimes it is easier to just sit in Whitman dining hall, discussing the merits of different types of fruit-cereal-froyo combinations (banana, Smart Start, vanilla. Win!) instead of debating the pros and cons of intervention in Libya.

In the last week or so, though, I’ve become increasingly convinced that it’s actually easier than you think to break out of the Orange Bubble. Meaningful campus dialogue can exist! Even when it’s not awkwardly facilitated by Sustained Dialogue! Here, I give you five reasons why we can and should think outside the bubble:


Continue reading…

Rush Holt: humanity’s last hope against the machines

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="126" caption="He is The One."]The Chosen One[/caption]

Don’t scorch the skies yet — New Jersey Congressman (and former Assistant Director of Princeton’s Physics Lab) Rush Holt may just become this century’s Neo from the Matrix.

After IBM supercomputer Watson trounced all-time champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in a game of man vs. machine Jeopardy! a few weeks ago, it looked as if the world was doomed to artificial intelligence supremacy. (Especially after Jennings revealed himself to be a traitorous robot sympathizer, writing “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” on his Final Jeopardy answer.)

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="270" caption="pictured: Benedict Arnold (Schwarzenegger)"]Benedict Arnold [Schwarzenegger]. (source: ABC)[/caption]But hope is not lost. Yesterday, our 12th district representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) beat the supercomputer Watson 8,600 points to 6,200 in a “Congress vs. Computer” Jeopardy tournament on Capitol Hill.

Holt was a former nuclear physicist and five-time champion on Jeopardy! over 30 years ago, making him a seasoned contender against the supercomputer.

According to the L.A. Times, Holt kicked Watson’s hard drive in categories like “Presidential Rhyme Time” and “Also a Laundry Detergent.” (Whitman College residents who watched the fateful Jennings v. Watson episode in February noticed the computer isn’t very good at wordplay. Are puns the last refuge of humanity?)

Despite Holt’s redeeming victory, I still don’t trust robotic technology. It’s not too long before a couple of THESE buggers get a mind of their own and begin attacking us like a swarm of killer bees.

Putting the “Prince” back in “Princeton”

[caption id="attachment_7893" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="If you play your cards right (and beat me to it), all this could be yours..."]If you play your cards right (and beat me to it), all this could be yours...[/caption]

Over the next few days (November 11-13), the Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination of Princeton University will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary. We’ve come a long way, baby!

This unique institution is one of the few university organizations that can say that it was co-founded by a reigning monarch (…the Prince of Liechtenstein), and one of the even fewer university organizations that uses the phrase “geostrategic perspectives” in its mission statement.

According to the institute’s website, it concerns itself primarily with issues of self-determination, “especially pertaining to the state, self-governance, sovereignty, security, and boundaries with particular consideration of socio-cultural, ethnic, and religious issues involving state and non-state actors.”

This is particularly fitting for an institute founded by the rulers of a place so small that Snoop Dogg once tried to rent out the entire country for a video shoot.

Liechtenstein, referred to fondly by Wikipedia as Europe’s favorite doubly landlocked alpine microstate, is known for winter sports, tax scandals, and being the world’s largest producer of sausage casings, potassium storage units and false teeth.

The Liechtenstein Institute Colloquium’s scheduled events and highlights include panels on religion and diplomacy, self-determination and sovereignty, the state and the international system, and crisis diplomacy.

We will also be graced by the dreamy presence of the big man himself: His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein (H.S.H.P.H.-A.I.I.o.L. for short).

No, he doesn’t have any eligible heirs apparent (believe me, I checked)

But if you’re interested in a little mercenary homewrecking, HSH is going to be giving a welcome speech in the University Chapel today at 4:30.

Dress to impress!

Free Movies @ The Garden Theater: Best Thing the USG’s Ever Done

[caption id="attachment_7598" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="FO FREE!"]FO FREE![/caption]

Readers who have been checking out The Ink from its days as just a fledgling blog know that I never miss an opportunity to trash the USG (whether over ineffectual grade deflation measures, uncontested elections, the Becca Lee decision, election snafus – you get the picture).

So, as I stood in line outside the Garden Theater last Thursday around 11 p.m., waiting to see The Social Network FOR FREE, with FREE popcorn and a FREE soda, it occurred to me that credit ought to be given where credit is due. So here it is:

The free UFO movies at the Garden Theater are the best program the USG has ever enacted.

Now, this probably isn’t news to a lot of you — according to a Prince article, 2,700 students have gone to the free showings already this year, up from just 1,500 at this time last year. But it’s still worth going over why the initiative makes so much sense – lessons the student government can apply when thinking about other ways to spend school funds.

1. It’s Simple

Free movies. Every weekend night ( the college weekend includes Thursday, much as the baker’s dozen includes a 13th bagel). With snacks. First come, first serve. Easy, self-explanatory, and sells itself. Genius!

2. It’s Late

Princeton students stay up late. Really late, a lot of the time. And unless you’re going out to the Street, there aren’t all that many obvious late night choices.  USG events often happen when there are a ton of other things going on – the night owls of Princeton are the perfect audience for activities.

3. It’s a Really Good Deal

Movies are, like, expensive yo! Tickets are at least $10 most places on a weekend night, and snacks hit the wallet hard, too. This is one case where “free stuff” is actually pretty valuable (unlike, say, kettle corn or those drawstring bags, as popular as those seem to be). The USG spends $17,500 on the movies, and in my book, it’s money well spent.

So, in other words, spend money on things students want and will use, preferably late at night. Here’s the thing – I didn’t even get in to the movie last week. They ran out of tickets a few spots ahead of me in line. And I wasn’t mad – other people had obviously gotten the memo earlier in the semester, or last year. Next time, I’ll just show up earlier. An hour of my time for a free movie? When it would take me half that time anyways to drive to the nearest non-Garden theater to pay for a ticket? Sign me up. Great job, guys.

Week In Review: Minor Medical Incident Edition (June 14 – June 20)

If you are one of the poor phantoms haunting this ghost campus right now, craving some marginally-Princeton-related excitement, this might be the fix you need. We’ve got our mainstays– Whitman’s gubernatorial race, Bradley’s World Cup squad — but this was also a week of broken ankles, bloody noses, and fainting spells. Oh, and heinous refereeing. Tigers sorta set the media aflame this week, for better or for worse.

Something tells us a Fortune cover with a thoroughbred isn't the best candidacy PR move

Something tells us the front cover of Fortune with a thoroughbred isn't exactly the best PR move

Running for office tends to bring all the unsavory bits to the surface, as Meg Whitman ’78 probably knows by now. Her whole family seems to be fair game: gossip rags have had a field day mining all the exploits of Whitman and her sons, Griff Harsh ’09 and Will Harsh ’11. A few days ago, Gawker conveniently rolled it all into one, hyper-hyperlinked, mud-slinging blog post. They lead things off with Griff allegedly breaking some lady’s ankle, and not on the b-ball court:

According to a police report filed later that night, [a 22 year-old woman Valerie] Sanchez and her friends had mocked his fraternity and said “fuck you” and “fuck your fraternity” to him before Sanchez swiped Griff’s baseball cap off his head. The altercation escalated when both parties arrived at Blue Chalk Cafe. According to Valerie’s statement to the police, they were inside the bar when Griff “pushed” her “with two open hands on her chest and shoulder area.” She fell down and felt her right ankle “snap.” A nearby security guard witnessed the event and corroborated Valerie’s version of the events.

The aftermath? Whitman “posted Griff’s $25,000 bail with a cashier’s check and brought her son home,” and the charges were eventually dropped under vague circumstances.

And further stoking the Whitman media flame: maybe-governor Meg apparently roughed up one of her young eBay employees, as the New York Times reported on Monday:

Ms. [Young Mi] Kim later told at least one colleague that Ms. Whitman used an expletive and shoved her. According to one of the eBay employees knowledgeable about Ms. Whitman’s version of the incident, Ms. Whitman said that she had physically guided Ms. Kim out of the conference room.

Unlike Griff’s incident, there was no word as to her actual technique — did she also use the patented Whitman family double-open-hand shove? — but at least Ms. Kim escaped unscathed. Maybe Whitman was just getting in the right mindset, taking after her potential predecessor? Unanswered questions.

There was no roughhousing involved, but General David Petraeus *87 apparently fainted during a congressional hearing on Afghanistan strategy. Senator McCain aimed a question, then “stopped mid-sentence, his face frozen, as Petraeus slumped forward from his seat on to the witness table.” The general recovered quickly, chalked it up to dehydration and jet lag, and shrugged it off … pretty reasonable. (Happens to the best of us. Now that I think of it, happened to that one kid at that one bar mitzvah in 7th grade.)

Meanwhile, the media proceeded to grossly overreact and degenerate into some kind of weird speculative frenzy, best summed up by a genius Huffington Post video:

One of our Press Clubbers works with a DC intern who was present at the hearing and said it was a pretty low-key affair: he left, got some water, came back and apologized. Leave it to the media to blow things violently out of proportions!!!

And after the jump, graphic images of Congressman Jared Polis ’96 bleeding out of his face. Proceed at your own risk:

Continue reading…

It’s official: Kagan ’81 makes it three in a row

All of us are in a state of despair, with Dean’s Date looming over us, but let’s just take a quick moment to engage in some “school spirit” (I hear it’s a real thing):


President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan ’81 to the Supreme Court, NBC’s Pete Williams is reporting tonight. And the White House will officially announce the selection at a 11 AM event tomorrow (Monday), according to The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder.

Kagan, who previously served as the dean of Harvard Law, will be the third consecutive Princetonian to be picked for the nation’s high court, joining Justices Samuel Alito ’72 and Sonia Sotomayor ’76 on the bench.

Princeton will be the most represented college on the Supreme Court, assuming Kagan is confirmed. Stanford is next with two alumni (Kennedy and Breyer) on the Court. Other colleges represented are Harvard (Roberts), Georgetown (Scalia), Holy Cross (Thomas), and Cornell (Ginsburg). Retiring Justice John Paul Stevens graduated from the University of Chicago.

Kagan would be the third Jewish Supreme Court justice if confirmed, leaving exactly zero Protestants on the bench (Stevens is the only one left). She would also be the first Solicitor General to be appointed to the Court since Thurgood Marshall (for whom she clerked after graduating from Harvard Law). Marshall’s nickname for Kagan? Shorty! (She’s less than 5’3″.)

And Kagan is the second member from the Class of 1981 who has become a superstar in American politics. The other alumnus: Eliot Spitzer ’81. (We will refrain from making any prostitute jokes.)

Oddly, it might be liberals who will be more upset with Kagan, who has supported a more expansive view of executive power than many on the Left find palatable. Still, expect Republicans to mount a large effort against Kagan by arguing that she’s “radical” and too gay rights-friendly. In particular, they cite Kagan’s criticism of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy during her time as dean of Harvard Law as particularly troublesome:

I believe that policy is profoundly wrong — both unwise and unjust…and I look forward to the day when all our students, regardless of sexual orientation, will be able to serve and defend this country in the armed services.

Last year, the Senate voted to confirm Kagan 61-31, including seven Republicans, when she was nominated Solicitor General, so chances are she’ll be hanging with our girl Sonia (and maybe our homeboy Sam? Probably not…) when the Supreme Court begins its new term in October.

See our previous posts on Kagan here, here, and here.

And you can find our past coverage of Justice Sotomayor and her time at Princeton here, here, and here.

So you want to be a Supreme Court justice (PART 2)

It's always a party in the Supreme Court lobby

It's always a party in the Supreme Court lobby

Earlier this week, we gave you some helpful advice on what not to do if you plan on becoming a Supreme Court justice. But what sorts of things should you do as a Princeton student if you want a lifetime appointment to the nation’s high court?

An exhaustive (i.e. cursory, superficial, dumb) examination of the Princeton careers of both Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76 and leading contender (and Solicitor General) Elena Kagan ’81 reveals some startling similarities between the two. (We, um, conveniently ignored Justice Samuel Alito ’72 because he was just too different.)

Here are some important steps to take before you walk out of FitzRandolph Gate:

Continue reading…

USG Proposes New Grade Deflation Policy Letter

The latest weapon in the fight against grade deflation (and some lovely shag carpeting)

The latest weapon in the fight against grade deflation (and some lovely shag carpeting)

Do you know what our first, and to date only line of defense is against the fire-breathing academic dragon of grade deflation?

A form letter. A piece of paper that earnestly explains why Princeton GPAs are lower than other GPAs, and encourages potential employers and graduate schools to visit the helpful online booklet Grading at Princeton: Frequently Asked Questions. The University mails out a letter with every transcript.

It may not be much, but it’s what we’ve got, and the USG hopes to propose a new draft of the letter to Dean Malkiel.

So what’s better in the new letter?

“The new letter is much shorter,” says Becca Lee, Academics Chair. Lee co-wrote the new draft with USG President Mike Yaroshefsky and 2012 Class Senator Julie Chang.

Brevity! Makes sense–who’s really going to read two pages about Princeton’s grading policy? What else are we telling the world?

“Its most important message is that grades at Princeton [are] earned differently than at other schools,” says Lee. “GPA does not necessarily provide a reliably standardized point of comparison.”

Amen! Now let’s hope someone (anyone) takes the time to read it.

Wanna see what the letter looks like? Full text of the new draft after the jump!

Continue reading…

So you want to be a Supreme Court justice…

Screen shot 2010-04-26 at 12.26.31 AMSotomayoralitoObama

[from left to right: Kagan ’81, Sotomayor ’76, Alito ’72, and Obama ’85]

Do you plan on becoming a Supreme Court justice? Do you plan on becoming famous?

If so, do yourself a favor: Write your thesis on the most mundane, non-controversial topic possible.

Specifically, don’t write about:

  • Scary foreign lands (i.e. Puerto Rico)
    • Last year, Justice Sonia Sotomayor ’76 got a lot of flack for some of the views she espoused in her thesis, La Historia Ciclica de Puerto Rico. The Impact of the Life of Luis Munoz Marin on the Political and Economic History of Puerto Rico, 1930-1975, which came in at a whopping 178 pages.
    • And if you think you’re out of the woods after getting your final thesis grade, think twice. The National Journal had another professor regrade Sotomayor’s thesis 33 years later! The professor’s conclusion?: “the thesis would probably receive an A/A minus or an A minus.”
  • Scary topics Americans are scared of (i.e. socialism)
    • As we mentioned last week, Solicitor General (and leading Supreme Court nominee contender) Elena Kagan ’81 is also getting criticized for her senior thesis, To the Final Conflict: Socialism in New York City, 1900-1933. The Weekly Standard stated last summer, “Her political sympathies (at the time) seem quite clear — and radical.” Uh oh!
    • No word yet whether anyone will regrade Kagan’s thesis, but then again, she hasn’t been nominated yet.
  • Minority groups (i.e. Princeton-educated blacks)
    • And don’t you remember the media storm over the thesis First Lady Michelle Obama ’85 wrote? (Full text here.) Her thesis, Princeton Educated Blacks and the Black Community, compared black Princetonians’ identification with the black community while at Princeton and afterwards as alumni.
    • While Obama’s thesis wasn’t regraded, some pundits criticized her writing anyway.’s Christopher Hitchens wrote, “To describe it as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be ‘read’ at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn’t written in any known language.” Ouch.

Seriously, after all the flack Obama ’85, Sotomayor ’76, and now Kagan ’81 have received for their theses, it just doesn’t seem worth the trouble! So I implore you future-famous Princetonians: Write about really boring stuff.

Just look at the nomination (and confirmation) of Justice Samuel Alito ’72. His thesis, An Introduction to the Italian Constitutional Court, was apparently sufficiently boring enough to preclude any media circus in 2005. Of course, there was that whole CAP (Concerned Alumni of Princeton) thing. So if you want to become a Supreme Court justice, try not to join any racist/sexist organizations, too.

Click here for Part 2.

(image source:;;

What are you doing Sunday?


Maybe you will be in the National Mall in Washington D.C., demanding a comprehensive climate bill from Congress?

We know, we know, Princeton students are apathetic. But this is easy. All you have to do is email DJ Judd ‘12 at by midnight tonight. Princeton SURGE has organized a bus to D.C. and all Princeton students are welcome to sign up to tag along.

This Thursday was the 40th anniversary of the original Earth Day, when 20 million Americans flocked to streets across the nation to demand environmental legislation from Congress. Partially because of this public pressure, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and passed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

In hope of reclaiming that energy, the Earth Day Network has organized a massive rally for tomorrow. With a climate bill already in the works, this may be the push Congress needs to pass strong legislation.

Continue reading…

Kagan ’81: Closet Conservative? Why Some Liberals Fear Her.



On Sunday, we mentioned that Solicitor General Elena Kagan ’81 is on President Obama’s shortlist of candidates under consideration to fill retiring Justice John Paul Stevens’ seat on the Supreme Court.

But, really, if chatter among the punditry is any indication, she’s the woman to beat. (After all, everyone thought Obama would choose Sonia Sotomayor ’76 after Justice David Souter retired, and Obama did just that.)

Kagan was on the shortlist last year when fellow Princetonian Sotomayor was ultimately chosen, and now with another court vacancy, SCOTUSblog has declared Kagan “the prohibitive front-runner.” In March, CNN and New Yorker legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin told NPR, “I think it’s going to be Elena Kagan…” Conservative Bill Kristol also thinks it’ll be her and even told Fox News, “I endorse Elena Kagan.” Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) added onto the praise heap saying, succinctly, “I like her.”

So much love! But such bipartisan praise for the first female Solicitor General has made liberals suspicious and has failed to assuage emboldened conservatives who are painting Kagan as a radical. In fact, the paranoia among both liberals and conservatives is pretty striking. Consider the following:

  • Last May, the conservative Weekly Standard pointed to Kagan’s 156-page senior thesis as evidence of a radical agenda (she wrote about socialism in New York City at the start of the 20th century)–a claim that her thesis adviser, Professor Sean Wilentz, later denied in an interview with Salon. The Weekly Standard was also spooked by an op-ed she’d written in the Prince, in which Kagan lamented about the conservative revolution in light of President Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election. Further, because Kagan has never been a judge, her lack of an extensive paper trail has raised eyebrows: “What little we know about her positions are distinctly out of the mainstream,” the chief counsel of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network told Bloomberg News.
  • Meanwhile, many liberals have been up in arms about Kagan as well. Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald writes that appointing Kagan to the Supreme Court would “move it further to the Right.” In particular, he says Kagan’s views are “closer to the Bush/Cheney vision of Government and the Thomas/Scalia approach to executive power and law.” Greenwald says that he fears Kagan could become the Democrats’ Justice David Souter–a George H.W. Bush-appointee who turned out to be a reliable liberal vote.

The liberal American Prospect‘s Scott Lemieux also sounded the alarm, writing:

Continue reading…

Elena Kagan ’81 is the Freshest Potential SCOTUS Nominee


Still wearing the Orange and Black

Ivy League diplomas and hotshot reputations define President Obama’s three potential nominees to replace Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced on Friday that he would be retiring after 35 years on the bench.

The three leading candidates to replace him — Obama is considering about ten names in all, the White House says — are Elena Kagan ’81, Merrick Garland, and Diane Wood.  If Kagan is selected, she’ll be the third consecutive Supreme Court Justice nominee to be a Princeton alumna/us.

Kagan is currently Obama’s solicitor general (the administration’s top advocate before the Supreme Court), a position that has already let her practice  that tricky process of  Senate approval. During her confirmation hearings, Kagan drew some criticism for arguing that battlefield law, or indefinite detention without a trial, should apply even if an enemy was captured outside of the physical battlefield.

That little black mark aside, Kagan’s basically a shoe-in.  Why? She’s super youthful. Coming in at a vibrant 49, Kagan could wear the robe for decades.

Continue reading…