Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Welcome, Class of 2015!

Yes, you read that right. With the latest round of admissions decisions complete, eager teenagers on College Confidential’s forums started a “Princeton 2015 Hopefuls” thread on April 10.

The future Class of 2014 may be celebrating their admissions victories and floating through the second semester of their senior years in a self-satisfied daze, but their potential followers are already fretting about how many schools to apply to and how bad their SAT scores are.

Jersey13, the member who began the topic, declared that “the most angst filled months are yet to come” followed by a smiley face. Someone’s a masochist. The next person to respond noted, “My application is not the greatest, but I'm a legacy.”

With 79 responses and counting, the discussion has already grown to six pages. Members have begun to offer each other advice about safety schools and consolation about application weaknesses, previewing the dozens of messages yet to come.

In their assessments of each other, College Confidential members try to avoid inflated expectations, with one poster saying, “I wouldn't say automatic rejection but your chances are probably quite slim.”

Perhaps the wisest contributor to the thread was the one who simply commented, “This thread is creepy.”


Monday, April 26, 2010

Is my thesis hot or not?

For those of you who’ve ever wondered on the final stretch of an all-nighter whether your essay’s argument is total garbage—which is probably most of us at some point—the world of academia may have finally answered your prayers.

A few days ago GradShare, an online community of graduate students, opened a website called Is My Thesis Hot or Not, which allows grad students to post their essay’s thesis statements to be judged by other users of the site. Respondents rate the thesis as “hot” or “not,” while the website keeps track of the total number of votes a thesis receives in each category. Users are given an option to write comments to the poster as well.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the website now has 75 theses, titles, and topics posted, with roughly 5,000 comments in total. Posts range from “Cyber charter schools can have a positive effect on inner city scholastic achievement,” to “1001 Ways to Penetrate a Body: corporeal boundaries and the experience of s/m.” As the Chronicle reports, “Most of them are decidedly not hot.”

By Jonathan Dec, staff writer for News


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Buildings of bygone days

With recent discussions arising over the fate of the Dinky and the former Carl A. Fields Center at 86 Olden Street, one ponders what befell other landmark buildings in Princeton’s past. In looking through the archives, three structures stand out as lost wonders of Princeton’s earliest days.

East College

Located on the grounds of East Pyne, East College was the first building distinctly constructed as a dormitory on Princeton’s campus. Designed to provide enough space for 32 double rooms over four stories, East College was one of the first buildings constructed behind Nassau Hall and a fundamental piece of the “rear campus” constructed in the first half of the 19th century. First occupied by students on January 1, 1834, the dormitory allowed its occupants to make use of the prevailing westerly wind of New Jersey, which Nassau Hall could never utilize due to its north-south orientation.

East College also provided the model for the construction of another dormitory—West College—directly across the courtyard. In what many alumni and other devoted Tigers called the Crime of ’97, East College was torn down in 1897 to clear way for the construction of Pyne Library, a much-needed extension of Chancellor Green Library. In an effort to preserve the old courtyard, “with all the old College life and traditions” in the words of Woodrow Wilson, the walls of Pyne Library were laid upon the foundation of the East College.

Halsted Observatory

With the College’s need for housing fulfilled in the construction of East College and West College, Princeton sought to construct another fundamentally academic building. Stephan Alexander, an accomplished astronomer and one of the College’s foremost professors, advocated the construction of a new observatory that would put Princeton at the forefront of this field. Put on hold for the Civil War, construction was eventually started in 1865, with the first financial commitment of $10,000 from Colonel Nathaniel Halsted, one of the observatory’s most energetic proponents.

Though plagued with delays, the construction then moved forward swiftly and provided one of the first instances of Victorian Gothic style in campus architecture. Not completed at the time of President MacLean’s retirement, President James McCosh took the helm on the eve of the observatory’s completion. McCosh dedicated and named the building after its initial patron, and the Halsted Observatory became the first structure on campus explicitly named for a donor. Operating for over 60 years, the observatory was razed in 1932 to make way for Joline Hall and the completion of large three-sided quadrangle near Blair Arch.

Cloaca Maxima

Probably both literally and figuratively one of Princeton’s lowest building projects was the new excavation of a College privy, or outhouse, in the 1860’s. Due to Princeton’s emphasis on a classical education, the students titled the structure the Cloaca Maxima shortly after its opening, recalling Rome’s famous sewer system. This privy was constructed of brick, granite, and wood and placed between Whig and Clio at the rear of the campus. With 24 private stalls, this structure provided an alternative to the chamber pots used in the dormitories, but it faced problems both with drainage and student vandalism.

Having had several privies burned to the ground, the Cloaca Maxima did, however, proved resistant to vandals’ flames, for it was completely fireproof except for the wooden doors. In the end, whether for the spread of sickness or other considerations, the Cloaca Maxima was destroyed in 1880’s, and after cholera swept Princeton, the administration began installing toilets in dormitories.

By Matt Butler '12, for Opinion


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Diggin' In the Mudd: Princeton 1905

The handbook of Princeton published 1905 shows the differences and similarities between Princeton then and now. Was your dorm, college, or favorite building here in 1905? Check after the cut.

larger version

Also, the handbook contains some awesome sketches of Princeton:


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Orange and Apples: UT Austin

If you are feeling the need to be somewhere a little larger today, have you considered UT Austin? David Lennington GS, a English, Spanish, and Classics major at the University of Texas Austin and English graduate student at Princeton, explores the differences between the two schools.

As a graduate student at Princeton who attended The University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate, the most important piece of advice that I would give to a student in the process of exploring education options is that it helps to think about goals, and that at any institution, what students get out of their education is affected primarily by what they put into their education. If prospective students can narrow down what they want to study, then they can take a close look at the programs in that area in addition to examining schools as a whole.

Both The University of Texas and Princeton are excellent from an academic standpoint, but each has certain programs that tend to be particularly strong, and at each institution certain programs will tend to specialize more in some parts of the discipline than in others. In other words, programs at different institutions tend to have different “personalities,” so to speak, and this is in large part determined by the faculty in those programs at the different schools. If you know what you want to major in, a great way to find out about different schools’ programs in that major would be to talk to undergraduates currently studying that major at different schools. The same applies to extracurricular activities: both UT and Princeton have lots going on besides classes, and students find plenty that they want to do at both schools. However, if there is a specific extracurricular activity that is especially important to you, it would be worth looking into how you would likely participate in it at the different institutions that you're considering. For some activities, they can be enjoyed heartily at almost any university, for others, the school you choose may make a difference.

The main difference between Princeton and The University of Texas is the size of the student populations. Princeton has about 5,000 undergraduate students and about 2,500 graduate students; UT has about 39,000 undergraduate students and about 11,000 graduate students. While population size isn't important to all prospective students, it does make a difference to some, and while some students prefer a larger student population, others prefer a smaller student population. Climate is another difference between Princeton and UT. For many students, any climate will do, but some students may find Texas’ heat uncomfortable, and some students may find Princeton winters colder than they're used to. The key is to devote real thought to why it is that you want a higher education and in what ways it will be important to you, and then to see what institution fits well with your own goals and interests. A well-motivated student will be successful at essentially any school, but reflecting and planning before entering a university can help to ensure that the place where you study is conducive to the kinds of academic development which you prioritize most highly.


Ivy Watch: Cornell considers a collaboration abroad while Dartmouth proposes internal changes

Shedding light on the surge in apps

The number of applications to Brown was 30,136—more than a 20% increase from the previous year. However, its yield rate has declined since the class of 2010 applied. Last year 53.1% of accepted candidates chose to attend Brown, though the figure was 58.9% three years ago.

Columbia: USenate writes proposal to allow Dec. 23 exams to be rescheduled

Effective next fall any Columbia student with one or more exams scheduled for December 23 can request to take them on an earlier date. Currently, undergraduate students are allowed to submit a request only when they have three final exams scheduled for the same day.

Cornell: Cornell Partners With Hong Kong to Create New Veterinary School

Cornell may be involved in starting the first veterinary school in Hong Kong in collaboration with the city’s government. Cornell’s own College of Veterinary Medicine would help develop curricula and mentor faculty members.

Dartmouth: Administration to undergo restructuring

Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim has announced several changes to be made to the senior administration structure. The reorganization includes a new chief-of-staff position and will be implemented June 1.

Harvard: Masters Urge Caution Over Unofficial Class

Someone unaffiliated with Harvard has been teaching unofficial classes on its campus. The Harvard University Police Department has gotten involved in trying to stop it.

Penn: U. starts Fling room checks

In anticipation of Penn’s Spring Fling this past weekend—its version of Lawnparties—the administration started doing its annual bag checks but did so one week later than usual. It also did room checks focused on violations such as possession of alcohol and tampered smoke detectors.

Yale: Public in uproar over murders

Three murders have occurred in the past week in New Haven, bringing the murder toll since January to 11. All three men who were killed were black, and the murders have not been resolved.

By Jason Jung, staff writer for News


Monday, April 19, 2010

Foraging in Firestone: Both a Library and an Art Museum

Now that I’m in the throes of working on my JP, I descend down to the basement of Firestone multiple times per week. Wandering around the library in search of books or a place to study, I’m often surprised by the amount of artwork on the walls of the library. On the C Floor, I discovered a series of prints from the Graphic Arts Collection. Each time I take the first staircase leading down from the first floor, I find myself face to face with this mosaic, which was constructed in 250 AD and was found in Antioch.

How did the University acquire a 1000 year-old mosaic from the Middle East? Between 1931-1939, the university participated in a dig in Antioch. This mosaic is part of a set that decorated the floor of a wealthy citizen. Although this mosaic is from 250 AD, the set of mosaics at the one house spans the first through the sixth century and provides a good example of the development of art from pagan times to the Byzantine Empire. The Antioch dig also contributed a large collection of coins to the Numismatic Collection.

There are other mosaics around campus from the Antioch. If you need a break from your end of the semester work, try going on a mosaic hunt. Somewhere else in Firestone, there’s a peacock on the wall. There’s also another geometric patterned mosaic outside another library on campus. Stumped? It’s above a cabinet to store food and drinks. The next time you have to leave something before going to this library, make sure to check out the mosaic.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Meet the Pre-frosh! Part 2

Margaret Van Cleve of St. Louis, MO is a high school senior at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School. She was recognized by the Missouri House of Representatives for her academic accomplishments, receiving the "Glory of Missouri" award. She is deciding between Princeton and Yale.

Andrea Keriazakos of Hilton Head Island, SC is a high school senior at Hilton Head Prep. She is a varsity cheerleader and plans to major in pre-med. She is choosing between Princeton, Harvard and Duke.

Maria Guardado of Milpitas, CA is a senior at Milpitas High School, where she is a member of her school's cross country and track teams. She is deciding between Princeton, Yale and Stanford.

Asmaa Rimawi of Brooklyn, NY is a senior at Al-Noor High School. She is student body president at Al-Noor and was recently named a New York Times Scholar (the scholarship includes a summer internship at The New York Times). She is choosing between Princeton, Harvard and Yale.

-- Interviews conducted by Associate Editor for Sports Gabriel Debenedetti, Executive Editor for Multimedia Tasnim Shamma and Staff Writer Tara Thean.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Meet the Pre-frosh!

We caught up with a few pre-frosh today at the Activities Fair.

Katie Underwood of Briarcliff, NY is a senior at Briarcliff High School, where she plays on the girl's soccer team. She is deciding between Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

David Byler of Parkersburg, West Virginia is a senior at Parkersburg High School, where he is co-captain of the swim team. He holds state records in the Butterfly, Backstroke, and the 200 and 400 Freestyle Relay Teams. He is deciding between Princeton, UPenn, UVA and Washington and Lee, though he says he is 90 percent confident he will be choosing Princeton.

Stacey Menjivar of Hyattsville, MD is a senior at High Point High School, where she is editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, The Beacon. She is deciding between Princeton and Dartmouth and says she is currently leaning toward Princeton.

Hojung Lee of Ellicott City, MD is a senior at Mount Hebron High School who has won numerous journalism awards and honors. Most recently, she participated in a multimedia program at The Washington Post. She is deciding between Harvard and Princeton.

-- Interviews conducted by senior writer Gabriel Debenedetti, executive editor for multimedia Tasnim Shamma and staff writer Tara Thean.


Joining the Tigers: Alexandra Valerio

Recruitment can vary from individual to individual, so here is another account of the process, this one from Alexandra Valerio '11, a midfielder and forward on the women's soccer team.

I was never one of those kids who spent their childhood dreaming of attending Princeton University. In fact, the thought of considering an Ivy League school didn’t even cross my mind until the summer before my senior year.

Several months earlier, a handful of coaches at American universities had contacted me in hopes that I might consider their respective women’s soccer programs. A relatively naive kid from Canada, I was unfamiliar with the recruiting process that thousands of aspiring college athletes go through each year. As a result, I was dazzled by offers of full scholarships — opportunities that also greatly appealed to my parents — and the chance to play the sport that I loved at such a high level.

What I didn’t know, however, was that the recruitment process I at first found so exciting would eventually turn into a grueling ordeal. There came a point when the coaches who were offering athletic scholarships started pressuring me to commit. They needed know if I was genuinely interested in their program, so that they could give the spot to someone else if I was not. To be honest, I liked a lot of the universities I visited, but none of them really felt right. Deep down, I knew that I couldn’t yet say yes to any one school.

Time was running out, and I was experiencing major anxiety about the uncertainty of my future. On a whim, I sent an e-mail to Julie Shackford, the head coach of Princeton’s team. Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback by the promptness of her response. I had sent e-mails to other coaches in the past, and I was lucky if I received a response at all, let alone a prompt one. I later learned that I had Diana Matheson ’08, Princeton’s soccer legend and star of the Canadian national team, to thank for putting in a good word; I am still grateful for her endorsement, as well as Julie’s willingness to consider me so late in the recruiting game.

From that moment, things just started to come together. Princeton’s assistant coach, Ron Celestin, traveled to North Carolina to watch me play in the U.S. National Cup finals. With this confirmation that I was a pretty decent player, the coaches invited me to visit the campus and see what the University and the women’s soccer team were all about. Right away, I was struck not only by the beauty of the grounds but also by the sincerity of the team and the support of the soccer staff. When the issue of the application process came up, they expressed their faith that my grades were good enough to get me in, but they also made it clear that they could only do so much in terms of endorsing me during admissions. Despite this uncertainty, their encouragement was all I needed to take the leap and apply to the school.

In late October, I got a call from the University saying that it was thrilled to inform me that I would be receiving a likely letter in December. This basically meant that I would become a Princeton student, barring any unforeseen academic self-destruction my senior year. I felt both relieved and elated to know that I would be attending one of the most renowned undergraduate institutions in the world.

Looking back, the recruitment process gave me a valuable insight into the personalities of the people with whom I would be spending the next four years of my life. The guidance and encouragement I received from my future coaches and teammates made it apparent that Princeton was the right fit for me. I inevitably faced challenges when I first came to the University, but, once again, the people whom I had depended on so much during my recruitment were there to support me. My team has never abandoned me when I have been faced with difficulties, and I know it never will. This absolute certainty only reinforces the fact that I made the right decision in choosing Princeton. I can’t imagine being at any other university, or being surrounded by a better group of girls and coaches.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Orange and Apples: Cornell

Today is the first day of Princeton Preview and the pre-frosh have arrived. Now they have to make their college choices. Today's choices are Cornell and Princeton, which, Evan Magruder '08, a Wilson School major and law student at Cornell, argues are fairly similar.

Cornell and Princeton Are Pretty Much the Same.

In my first year as a law student at Cornell, I often found myself comparing student life at Cornell with my own experience at Princeton. The truth is that both universities, steeped in Ivy League tradition, natural beauty and serious scholarship, are actually quite similar.

Academically, both schools have extremely bright and competitive student bodies. Princeton's professors have fewer students to watch over, and a senior thesis is required. I think it's easier to build a strong bond with a professor at Princeton. Cornell is huge, with 12,000 undergraduates alone. Theses are not required, but many motivated Cornellians find advisers and complete a thesis in the senior year. Cornell’s strength is its breathtaking range of courses, majors and schools (example: Cornell has the No. 1 veterinary school in the country and the world's best hotel school, too). I’ve met students at Cornell who want to run the Bellagio and students who hail from rural farms and are studying animal genetics to literally breed a better cow. Princeton has plenty of courses to choose from, but when comparing the two schools closely examine Cornell's many special programs to see if one really calls your name.

I digress briefly to dispel a common myth about Cornell: Cornell is not a state school. The four state-funded schools at Cornell are the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Human Ecology, Industrial and Labor Relations, and Vetrinary Medicine. New York state residents get reduced tuition if they major in these schools. Everything else at Cornell is private, and even the state-funded colleges fall under the umbrella of the private university.

Next, geography. Ithaca is four hours from New York City. Cornell sits in Ithaca, right on Cayuga Lake, one of the enormous and beautiful Finger Lakes. Princeton sits in the middle of New Jersey, one hour from New York City on the Northeast Corridor train line. I would say that Cornell is about six degrees colder than Princeton on average, and Ithaca doesn't warm as quickly in the spring. There's more snow at Cornell, but in winter 2008-2009 we only got one 10-inch snowstorm and then a few dustings later on. Cornell also has Greek Peak, a ski hill less than 30 minutes away: it’s no Vail, but very adequate for a small place, and if you love skiing, you can’t beat heading out to Greek Peak after class.

As far as housing, Cornellians move off campus as sophomores or juniors, while Princetonians live on campus all four years. If you're a Harry Potter type, Princeton definitely has more collegiate Gothic dorms, but Cornell has a few of those on West Campus, too.

The rhythms of social life at both schools are quite similar. Princeton has eating clubs; Cornell has a large Greek scene. Princeton has Houseparties and Lawnparties; Cornell has Formals and Slope Day. At either school, parties are nearly indistinguishable, except that the eating clubs use kegs of Milwaukee’s Best and Cornell's fraternities use cans of Keystone Light. Cornell also has a number of bars quite close to campus, which is a nice change to the social scene for the over-21 crowd. At both schools, people tend to stick around on the weekends, and you get to know a surprisingly large number of students very fast.

I’m having a fantastic academic and social experience at Cornell, but as far as undergraduate institutions, I’d choose Princeton again in a heartbeat. The bonds formed among Princetonians from time spent at Old Nassau are indelible and unique (read: Reunions!), and I haven't witnessed such camaraderie anywhere else.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Joining the Tigers: Brodie Zuk

Princeton has 38 different varsity sports, but how Princetonians make it onto those teams varies person to person, whether through recruitment or walk on. The Prox will host a four part series with individual reflections on the process of joining sports teams at Princeton. Brodie Zuk '12, a forward on the men's hockey team, leads off with his experience with the recruitment process.

Princeton, New Jersey, is a long way from my hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. But here I am today, sitting in my dorm room at Princeton University, reminiscing about the journey that got me here and realizing that my decision to come may just end up being the most valuable one of my life.

Looking back on things now, I guess I can give a lot of the credit for the reason I am at Princeton today to Ross Lambert ’82. Ross grew up in Saskatoon and was a friend of my father. The day I met Ross, my father had invited him over to our house to talk to me about the possibility of playing college hockey in the United States. I was a young and careless 15-year-old and college was the last thing on my mind, but my outlook changed after speaking with Ross. A decision seemed easy after hearing about the education, experiences and opportunities which Princeton had given to him. Why should I risk everything on the possibility of a professional hockey career when I could play at just as competitive a level and back up my future with one of the best educations in the world? I realized that one day there would be a life after hockey, and that Princeton would give me the best options in whatever it was I wanted to then pursue. My mind was made up to start working harder every day in the classroom, and on the ice, in hope of one day being noticed.

Four years later, other schools had shown interest in me, but I knew that if I was patient and kept working hard on the ice a better opportunity would arise. Every day I kept telling myself that Princeton was what I wanted, and I didn’t want to settle for anything but the best, since I had worked hard both in the classroom and on the ice since I met Ross. Two years after finishing high school, and in my third year of Canadian Junior Hockey, the moment I had been waiting for finally came: I first spoke with Keith Fisher, the assistant coach of the men’s hockey team, who told me that he had just seen me play and was interested.

Another year passed, and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to come visit Princeton University. Everything at the school, from the guys on the team and the coaches to the classes I sat in on during my visit, seemed to be a perfect fit. The players I met approached everything in a fun yet professional manner, which was definitely the atmosphere I was looking for. This visit, combined with the winning tradition of Princeton athletics, made the decision to don the Orange, White and Black an easy one.

I’m now in my sophomore season, and I strongly believe that any athlete who commits to Princeton isn’t just coming here for the academics. The University is world-renowned for its innovations, inventions and professors, but a year on the Tiger Army and the work ethic and devotion of our student athletes have taught me why it produces such great athletes . Yes, it’s wise to look to a future beyond sports, but Princeton will give me the best opportunity to succeed on or off the ice. I wouldn’t say it’s the great facilities or traditions, because many schools have these, but rather it’s the opportunity to surround myself with such a carefully selected group of genuine people that’s so invaluable. Princeton is the best choice for anyone looking to be the best that they can be.

Though the road to Princeton may have taken longer for me than for most student athletes, I share these experiences with many of my teammates. The years after high school spent playing junior hockey and experiencing the real world truly prepared me for what was around the bend, and readied me to compete and interact with the highest level of student athletes on the planet. Now, my hard work is paying off in an environment where I learn as much, or more, from the intelligence within our dressing room than I do on the (comparatively) average Princeton day in the classroom.

So, why did I choose Princeton? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out — though we do have a few of those on the team.


Diggin' In The Mudd: The Dinky

Should we replace The Dinky? It's a question that is being debated all over campus. The Dinky, though, has some interesting history that's worth considering before you take a position. The Dinky was built in 1865 and since then has had a prominent place in Princeton lore.

It's visible here in an 1874 Railway Guide:
It was described in 1879:

And here's how it looked in 1906:

-1906 "Ten Years of Princeton"

The Dinky had a place in work of F Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger. It was also in this biographical story in 1913:

The Great Dinky Robbery took place in 1963, as described in PAW by George R. Bunn Jr. '63:

"It was houseparties weekend, Friday night. We rented four horses at this place about ten miles away and rode them back into town. We sat up in the woods beside the tracks - not entirely sober, if I remember right - and waited for the 6:14 P.J. and B. We had hats and bandannas and everything, and I had a .38 pistol loaded with blanks.When the train came along, we galloped down to the tracks and I rode straight at the train, and the conductor screeched it to a stop, and we all climbed on and I fired off a couple of shots - it was very loud - and everybody was yelling and had their hands up and all the businessmen were throwing their wallets at us.We didn't have dates on the train. We just picked the four girls we thought were most likely to play along and took them off the train and told them what was going on and they got on the horses and we all took off through the woods to Prospect. The whole night was filled with sirens. I walked my horse right into Colonial, got into a couple of fights. When the police got to The Street, we lit out back and headed for Lake Carnegie. Then we rode the horses back to the stables. They got some lathered horses back that night.
It was fabulous. And there was no harm done. The school knew what had happened and who had done it, I think, but officially they did nothing.They threw me out three weeks later, though, for something else."


Monday, April 12, 2010

Somehow Princeton economists keep coming up...

An article today in The Huffington Post takes a look at the rising cost of the performing arts, a problem studied by professors of economics emeriti William Baumol and William Bowen. Bowen was also president of the University from 1972 to 1988.

The author of the article, Michael Kaiser, came to McCarter last month to share his thoughts on management in the arts. The event was called "Arts in Crisis".

Baumol and Bowen's claim is that the performing arts will inevitably rise in cost and that their management must take this into account. Applied more generally, this phenomenon is known as "Baumol's cost disease." This so-called disease affects industries that cannot increase in efficiency.

For example, as technology improves most industries can synthesize more X for a lower cost. But, as the article points out "we cannot perform Hamlet with fewer players than when Shakespeare wrote it, nor do we play Beethoven's Ninth Symphony faster and faster every year".

Incidentally, another field that is affected by Baumol's "disease" is education, possibly explaining why our tuition is always on the rise...

By Aaron Hosios, editor for Blogs


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Orange and Apples: Oxford

Princeton and Oxford are similar architecturally, but what about the experiences between the building walls? Landis Stankievech '08, a Rhodes Scholar pursuing graduate studies at Oxford, compares the two schools.

What are the differences between my Princeton and Oxford undergraduate experiences? The first thing I should say is that, at Princeton, I studied mechanical and aerospace engineering, while at Oxford, I’m studying philosophy, politics and economics. So right out of the gate we’re not comparing apple to apples here; some of the differences between Oxford and Princeton that I have emphasized below have been exaggerated in my personal experiences just because of the nature of the two subjects that I’ve studied. That being said, the two places really are rather different.

A lot of differences stem from the structures of the two institutions. Princeton is a smaller, centralized university, with virtually everyone living on campus. It’s easy to get to know a lot of people, and there is a strong feeling of community and a sense of allegiance to the university as a whole. Oxford is composed of many colleges, each of which has a few hundred students. Members of the colleges are usually tight-knit, but it can be difficult to get to know many people outside of your college. Allegiances tend to be to the colleges, which compete against each other in many forums, including recruiting, sporting activities and examinations.

The style of undergraduate education is also completely different. Princeton is similar to most North American universities in that the majority of the teaching is done in lectures. Students generally receive a standardized curriculum for each class, where they are told what they need to learn. Oxford has lectures as well, but they are largely optional and provide only a loose framework for the knowledge that will be required for the exams. The majority of teaching is done in tutorials, which are one-on-one or two-on-one sessions with a tutor. These tutorials occur in the colleges, and the curriculum of each is set by the individual tutor based on some loose guidelines.

Another big difference is the method of evaluation. At Princeton, each class usually has a series of exams and assignments that count toward the overall grade for the class. This grade shows up on a transcript, which provides an overall depiction of your academic performance. At Oxford, it all comes down to a series of final exams that are written at the end of your undergraduate career. These exams are graded and aggregated into one final grade that represents your overall performance at Oxford.

This is related to what I’d say is one of the biggest differences: the mindsets. At Oxford, learning is more self-directed. I think it has to be any time you study for two years without being formally evaluated. As I said above, the curricula at Oxford are a little bit less well-defined. The reading lists are practically infinite. It truly is up to each individual student how much they want to learn during the years that they are at Oxford. Of course, at Princeton you can learn as much as you’d like, but there is more structure to the system, and there are more checks in place to make sure you are doing work along the way. Both of these mindsets have their pros and cons, and I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other. Nor would I say that I prefer one school over the other based on any of the other differences that I’ve mentioned. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience undergraduate life at both universities, and I’ve enjoyed both immensely. Each has provided a unique environment for me to grow and learn, and each has challenged me in different ways.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Photo of the Day: Woody Woo Ducks

Zach Ruchman :: Photography Editor Emeritus


The Financial Crisis and ECO 101

I recently came across this delightful article in The Economist. The article explains that the curricula of introductory macroeconomics classes need to be restructured in order to equip students with the tools they need to understand the Financial Crisis.

Traditional macro classes, it seems, don't really discuss financial institutions, which were at the heart of the economy's collapse. The author of the article spoke to professors to find out how they plan on revising their textbooks and curricula. We hear perspectives from Princeton, MIT, Harvard, and Stanford.

Professor of economics Alan Blinder taught ECO 101 in spring 2009 and devoted a major portion of the class to understanding the Financial Crisis. His textbook (pictured, right) is being updated to provide a better understanding of this subject.

By Aaron Hosios, editor for Blogs


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Orange and Apples: Penn

There has long been a debate if Princeton and Penn are truly rivals. Between the geographic closeness, the distinctly different surroundings, and, for many years, the competative basketball teams, these two schools were often discussed together. To help bring this comparison up to date, Maayan Dauber GS, who studied English as an undergraduate at Penn, discusses the two campus' cultures.

I was an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, I’m a graduate student at Princeton. Backwards, perhaps, because the most apparent difference between the two schools is that Penn is geared toward graduate students, while Princeton is geared toward undergraduates. Penn runs on its professional schools --- the law school, the medical school, nursing, engineering and Wharton. Its resources seem primarily invested in them, and the "college" can sometimes feel like an afterthought. That being said, I was certainly not deprived at Penn. I received a rigorous and sophisticated education in the English department. I loved the faculty, developed lasting relationships and landed the job I was after: becoming a student for life. But throughout, I had to work for it. I had to seek out fellowships and bombard advisers' offices in a way that non-"college" students didn't, and in a way that Princeton students need not.

With no professional schools, Princeton is an institution uniquely dedicated to its undergrads, and if this means that undergraduates have to work harder than they do at other schools --- which it does --- it is only because they are taken so seriously. As a grad student, I see the effects of Princeton’s commitment to its undergrads and even reap some of the benefits as well. It means that as a rule, Princeton hires professors who give and invest everything in their students. And it means, most significantly, that teaching, at every level, is phenomenal. Or to put it another way, advising in general --- from faculty to administrators and academic counselors --- is, in fact, something to write home about. To give just one of many impressive examples: After handing in a term paper, the professor of my seminar not only gave an in-depth written response, but also scheduled individual hour-long meetings with her students to discuss their writing.

Still, I proudly wear my Penn sweatshirt, and so do all of my college friends, because Penn engenders a kind of loyalty and love that is unique, too. There is a certain “school spirit” at Penn that seems unmatched. Basketball and football games are enormously popular, fraternity and sorority life is huge, student council elections take over campus. Students participate in extracurricular life in a real way, and Penn’s large size means that there are a wide variety of options to choose from. What’s more, unlike Princeton, Penn has city life to offer, and while campus can have a kind of centripetal pull, life in “center city” Philadelphia is a wonderful outlet.

Ultimately, it seems to me that undergraduates tend to be happy at whichever college they choose, though making that choice, granted, can feel very pressured. The differences between Penn and Princeton are probably best considered by looking at the kind of college life you’re after: Penn’s unofficial motto goes something like “Work hard, party hard,” and that life can be wildly appealing and even constructive for many people. Princeton tends more toward the “work hard” side of things, and while in retrospect I’d probably land with Princeton, it is only one of many worthwhile experiences available at even the best universities.


Diggin' In The Mudd: Course Offerings 1921

The classes of '11 to '13 are in the process of choosing courses for next year. As we pour over the course guide trying to find fun and required classes, it's interesting to look at how past Princeton students went about this process. In 1921 choosing courses was, just a little, different. Courses like "Sewage 410" and Latin requirements under the cut. Plus, was your department part of 1921 Princeton?

First of all there were tons more requirements:

Second of all, there were less departments. The departments (majors) were divided into three big divisions:

-Division of Philosophy Literature and Art:

  • Philosophy
  • Classics
  • Modern Languages: Germanic
  • Modern Languages: Romanic
  • English
  • Art And Archeology
-Division of History Politics and Economics
  • History and Politics
  • Economics and Social Institutions
- Division of Mathematics and Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Astronomy,
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Geology
  • Psychology

A Department of Military Science and Music were listed separately, as were technical courses.
You could take many courses (once you got done with all those requirements). Here are a few interesting ones:
  • PHI 401: Present Philosophical Tendencies- A critical and comparative survey of such tendencies such as idealism, realism, pragmatism and phaenomenalism in their relation to science, religion, history and art.
  • 404: The Ethics of Christianity- A statement and philosophical examination of the Christian doctrine and its application to practical life.
  • Sewerage 410: Studies in the design of sewers and the treatment and disposal of sewage.
  • BIO 304: Bacteriology- Lectures on the...relations of bacteria.
  • CHEM 404: Metallography- The metals and alloys
  • AST 404: Practical Astronomy- Observations of the sun and stars
  • ECON 407: Corporation Finance- The development of legal characteristics and financial relations of corporations; corporate securities; capitalization and valuation;...anti-trust legislation.
  • ENG 405: Wordsworth and Coleridge- ...their service in renovating English poetry
  • CLA 413: Tacitus- The Annals and Histories

Some courses haven't changed much. They offered intros to all the sciences as today. Courses like Elements of Poetry and Ancient Art, still sound familiar. The Literature of American Ideals reminds me of a course offered this term, The Idea of America. And French 102, 104, and 106 are still the same as always.

So, when you pick your courses for fall, remember the class of '25 and be thankful for the choices you have (and the lack of a Latin or Greek requirement.)


Seton Hill students to receive iPads in the fall

As part of the Griffin Technology Advantage Program, Seton Hill University, a small Catholic university in Greensburg, Penn., (no, not Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.) plans to distribute new iPads to all 2,100 full-time students in the fall.

In addition, all incoming freshmen will receive MacBooks, as well.

Seton Hill administrators believe that the iPad will “lighten the backpacks of Seton Hill University students” and will be widely used by all for its “mobility and the ease with which faculty and students … will have immediate access to e-textbooks,” Seton Hill administrators told The Chronicle.

The iPad costs $499 at its lowest retail price, which means that Seton Hill University plans to invest roughly $1 million in this iPad initiative.

Sound too good to be true?

Students will have to pay $500 per semester for fees for the new technology program, a portion of which will go into the cost of the iPads. In any case, students will essentially be charged an additional $1,000 annually for these new technologies.

By Wonpyo Yun, staff writer for News


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Virtual TA: Grading, outsourced

Some students at the University of Houston now have their papers graded overseas. A growing number of US colleges and universities have begun to outsource their grading to Virtual-TA, a grading service provided by the Virginia-based company EduMetry established in 2005.

With graders in India, Singapore, and Malaysia, as well as the United States and other locations, Virtual-TA turns papers around within three to four days of submission with electronic feedback, based on a rubric provided by professors. Dubbed “Your expert teaching assistants” by the company slogan, Virtual-TA graders, or “assessors,” as they’re called, all hold at least Master’s degrees.

The company—and the professors who use it—contest that it frees faculty up to focus on their teaching and their research, without overburdening inexperienced grad students. Its detractors highlight the graders’ absence from class discussions as a problem, while also arguing that the cost of the service could be better spent hiring more teaching assistants.

The average cost of Virtual-TA—though variable depending on the nature of the assignment—is $12 per student per assignment.

By Jonathan Dec, staff writer for News


Orange and Apples: University of Chicago

Princeton may have had its lowest acceptance rate ever, 8.18 percentage of applicants, but the University of Chicago may have experienced the most impressive change in acceptance rates. Chicago accepted 18% of applicants this year, a decrease of 8.8 percentage points from last year. Chicago saw a 42% increase in applicants this year. As their acceptance rates begin to become closer, how similar are the experiences at these two institutions? Jessica Chong ’07, a Chicago doctoral student, discusses her impressions.

I was a molecular biology major at Princeton and am now a human genetics graduate student at the University of Chicago. When I was deciding on a college, I actually considered both Princeton and the University of Chicago, and I did not know most of the things you will read below.

The most obvious difference between the University of Chicago and Princeton is location: city vs. suburb. As a school in a well-off suburban New Jersey town, Princeton and its surrounding environment are relatively quiet and safe. The vast majority of Princeton students live on campus; your friends will always be a few dorms away. On the downside, though it is rather easy to visit to New York from Princeton, the train trip takes more than an hour, and trains only run every 45 minutes or so. In comparison, the University of Chicago is a 40-minute bus ride from downtown Chicago, and buses run every 10 minutes, so it is far easier to head into the city for a spur-of-the-moment night out. Hyde Park, the neighborhood around the university, is fairly residential but still is an urban area, which means more crime and noisier streets. The university only guarantees housing for freshmen, so many upperclassmen end up living in apartments around Hyde Park. Although every student considering UChicago seems to have questions about safety, in my opinion, Hyde Park is not as dangerous as its reputation suggests—although muggings in the area occur somewhat frequently. That said, the university offers free night shuttles and escorts to help students get around safely.

There are some academic differences as well. The University of Chicago follows a quarter system, while Princeton follows an atypical semester system. At Chicago, fall classes run from the last week of September to mid-December, winter classes from the beginning of January to mid-March, and spring classes from the end of March to the end of June. There is no midterm break, but there is a week of break between quarters. At Princeton, fall semester classes run from the first week of September to mid-December, and spring semester classes from the end of January to the end of May. There is a week of break after both fall and spring midterms. Princeton's atypical semester schedule places fall finals in January, after the holiday break. Personally, I felt that the University of Chicago's quarter system was unnecessarily stressful for two reasons: the lack of a midterm break meant that the exams for one class could easily overlap with regular homework and projects for other classes, and there was only a four-day reading period (Thursday through Sunday) before the single week of final exams. In contrast, Princeton's system, which includes a one-and-a-half-week reading period and a one-and-a-half-week exam period, allows ample time to complete final projects and papers, and prepare for exams.

Both the University of Chicago and Princeton have a liberal arts education requirement. Chicago requires all students to take "The Core," while Princeton students are required to complete "distributions." These requirements are very similar in content and spirit between the two universities, though Chicago's Core includes a physical-education requirement. Both schools use these requirements to ensure that all undergraduates experience courses in a variety of subject areas.

Most importantly, however, is that the two universities appear to have differing attitudes toward how they educate students. Princeton will allow you to sign up for nearly any course you want, though your adviser will usually question you to make sure you are certain about your preparedness for the course. (So no graduate-level chemistry classes as a freshman when you didn't even take chemistry in high school.) But at Chicago, the top-level freshman math class, Honors Analysis, is invitation-only based on your score on the calculus placement exam. All other students are tracked into a variety of levels of calculus or pre-calculus classes depending on their scores on the exam, and the chemistry and physics departments also use the scores on the math exam to help in placing students into their own freshman courses.

In addition, the University of Chicago and Princeton differ in their approaches to research done by their undergraduates. Princeton requires all undergraduates to complete at least one year of research with an adviser in their departments, culminating in the writing of a senior thesis. It is an experience that all Princeton students share together and celebrate completing when they graduate. At Chicago, while many students do engage in research, only a select number pass their department's GPA requirement and are given permission by their adviser to actually write a thesis, called an "honors thesis." The remaining students are allowed to do research if they find an adviser, but they cannot write a thesis on their work.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Q&A with Howard

Howard, a worker in the Rocky-Mathey dining halls, danced with the Tapcats in their recent show, Velocity. Having never tap danced before, he asked to be a part of the show, and the Tapcats bought him a pair of tap shoes. Howard brought his family to the show.

Christina Henricks, staff writer for News, sat down with Howard to find out about his experiences.

1. Why did you participate in the Tapcats show?

A year ago, [the Tapcats] came to me .... and [one of them, Stephanie,] said, “Howard, we want to take pictures of you for Tapcats and we want to run it in the show,” and she told me to slide out and stomp my feet. She gave me tickets, and then the following year, they wanted me to be in it live. They came to me two-and-a-half months prior to that, and they worked out with me Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a few minutes after work.

2. How was the process of learning to tap?

At first it was difficult because I got the first part really down pat ... In the last stage, I would always stumble over my foot, and they kept practicing with me and I finally got it. And once I got it, it was a breeze. It worked out beautifully.

3. Do you have any favorite styles of dance?

Not really. I have two left feet ... It took me a while to pick it up, but I picked it up.

4. How was it to work with the dancers?

Wonderful. Next year they want me to work with a couple more dancers. I’ll have about three to maybe five dancers I’ll be working with next year.

5. Do you practice at home?

I practice a little bit. I danced in front of my family, and I danced in front of the workers here when I was eating one night. They said they wanted to see what I could do because they didn’t believe I was practicing. I waited til I was comfortable with it and showed them ... They were very impressed. The people from the office came out to and I had to do it over.

6. What did your family think about your performance?

I had six to 10 people come to my performance out of all the three nights that I performed. It was wonderful. I enjoyed it, and they were very proud.

7. Will you do it again anytime soon?

I would love to! I’m going to do it from now on, until they don’t want me to do it anymore. I have the basics down, and I feel comfortable with it.

8. Would you consider performing with any other groups on campus?

Another group came to me—I was in the common room, and the French teacher ... wanted me to come and watch them do a play, and he wants me to be ... in the play next time. He wants me to give me a small part in that play. I have another play that I’m supposed to be in next year—they want me to breakdance.

9. Do you use the tap shoes that the Tapcats gave you?

Yes. I love them. They’re mine.

10. How long have you worked at Princeton?

Fifteen years. And I love it. Every year is an exciting year because I get new students to come and I fall in love with students every year.

11. How did you learn to cook?

My mother. She was a home mom, and she did cooking three or four times a day—breakfast, lunch and dinner—and I was right there with her. Sooner or later, she said, “I’m going to teach you how to cook,” and then I started cooking for her.

12. Have you always worked in this dining hall?

Yes, this is the main dining hall I’ve been in, but I’ve worked everywhere—at all the other units.

13. How do you like working with the other dining hall employees?

I got along with everybody, so it’s not a problem. I enjoy working with other people.

14. What do you like about working here?

I get to mingle with the kids, and it keeps me young. I just love this job. This is a good job for me. It’s a good place for me. It keeps me young, and I’m happy here.

15. Do you have any favorite students?

I have a lot of favorite students. I have a lot of friends. Every year, I meet new people. I even go to the basketball games, football games, the soccer games, the volleyball games. I met a young lady, Jennifer. She’s a freshmen but she’s great. I went to see her. The third game I went to, she introduced me to her mother.

16. What are your favorite foods to prepare?

I like the pasta bar because a lot of people like different kinds of pasta, and that’s where it seems like all my events usually pop up. People come to me on the pasta bar. That’s my spot!

17. What are your favorite foods to eat?

I like to eat—well right now, I wouldn’t consider it a diet, but I changed my way of eating—I eat a lot of salads, a lot of grilled chicken, grapefruit, bananas, apples, oranges. I’m trying to keep my weight down. The dancing helps, and I play basketball.

18. What is your favorite meal during your day spent in the dining hall?

I would say lunch, because at dinnertime, it slows down a lot, but lunch is the main meal, so a lot of people come for lunchtime, and come to the grill and speak to me.

19. Do you have any memorable moments from your time here?

I have a lot of memorable moments. There’s so many of them. Some of the professors bring their kids there. It was one of the kid’s birthdays, and I got her a little stuffed animal. She wrote me a card and told me how much she loved me. That just blew my mind.

20. What’s one thing that you’d like students to know about you?

That I’m a good guy, and they can pass the word on to somebody else. People can come up and say hi, and that makes my day.


The story continues...

Apparently February's sexual-assault-column controversy in the Prince was of sufficient noteworthiness to be covered by The Huffington Post. You can read all about their take on the scandal here with commentary from your peers.

Observing that students at the University tend to be relatively passive when it comes to such incidents, the Post attempts to explain why we are the way we are:

It bears mentioning that numerous students declined to comment on-the-record for this story, citing the controversial nature of the subject and the Huffington Post's high visibility. That Princeton students can be uneasy about publicly stating a position may partly explain this apparent "passivity." Perhaps it's when the conversation moves beyond personal circles, or anonymous online comments, that dialogue breaks down.
I guess many of us just fear the public relations backlash.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Unpaid Volunteer Interns of the World Unite?

An article in the New York Times Friday explores the growth of unpaid internships and that the US Department of Labor has begun to prosecute internship programs that violate minimum wage laws. In particular, internships that displace paid workers or do not include vocational or academic training can run afoul of laws, that until recently have rarely been enforced because interns rarely complain.

Have you had an unpaid internship? Did it break the laws outlined in the article? Should the Department of Labor continue to crack down on unpaid internships and will this make finding summer work harder?


Friday, April 2, 2010

Orange and Apples: Harvard

Congratulations to the 2,148 seniors offered acceptance to Princeton yesterday. You now have the difficult problem of choosing where to attend. If you've beaten the numbers and made were in the 8.18% of Princeton applicants accepted and the 6.91% of Harvard applicants accepted, read on as David Baumgarten '06, a Harvard graduate student, compares the two schools.

Perhaps the most telling thing I can say about how the Princeton and Harvard undergrad experiences differ is that, in truth, I have little to no idea what the Harvard undergrad experience is like. True, my 3 years at the Harvard Law School have been spent just a few minutes up Massachusetts Avenue from Harvard Yard, and every time I walk into Harvard Square I see hordes of Crimson-clad youth who I can only assume are undergrads. But, then again, they could just as easily be Kennedy School students or chemistry grad students or Business School students or --- who knows --- MIT students.

My point is that Harvard is an enormous place. For many high school students, that’s a draw --- triggering visions of not only learning from Harvard’s undergrad faculty, but also researching with Medical School professors and discussing whatever it is Kennedy School students discuss with Kennedy School students. Best I can tell, though, those visions are figments of your imagination. The reality is that, inscrutable cross-registration policies aside, Harvard’s numerous schools are by and large isolated from one another — the Business School is across the river, in Boston, and the Medical School and the Public Health School are located somewhere called Longwood, which for all I know might actually be in Rhode Island. Which means that the biggest impact all the grad schools will have on your life is an off-campus social scene that is noticeably grad student-centric.

Speaking of the social scene: I’m sure Harvard undergrads have one; I just can’t figure out what exactly it is. The finals clubs appear to play a large role, but my understanding is that they are far less open to the general student body than Princeton’s eating clubs. It’s certainly not sports-centric — there were more displaced Princetonians than Harvard students tailgating outside of Harvard Stadium before the last football game here. Meanwhile, spending much time in Boston requires a thick wallet and, for most undergrads, a fake ID. And even once you get past those barriers, the city shuts down at around 11 p.m. (I’ve had nights when getting back to Cambridge was roughly as time-consuming as — and more expensive than — taking the last train back to Princeton from New York.) All that’s left, I suppose, is four years of room parties.

Given how much I complain about it, I’d be remiss not to mention the weather. It’s cold. Really cold. Miserably, bone-chillingly, I’m-not-leaving-my-house-unless-someone-holds-a-gun-to-my-head cold. To provide context, I grew up in Virginia and had no trouble adapting to winter in New Jersey. I’m not saying you should pick a college based on the weather — just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Look, at the end of the day, Harvard is obviously a fantastic, world-renowned school, and you can make far worse choices in life than becoming an undergrad here. But know what you’re getting: You’ll be attending a college that is but one moderately important component of a behemoth of an institution, taking classes with enrollments of more than 500, living in a town that revolves around grad students. So if you ask me, if you’re so lucky as to have the choice, it’s a no-brainer to spend your next four years at Old Nassau. After all, Harvard will still be here when it comes time for that next degree — and once you get here, you’ll make sure to keep proudly wearing plenty of bright orange.

Baumgarten is a former managing editor for sports for The Daily Princetonian.