Saturday, January 30, 2010

'To Regular Users of This Restroom'

I am positive that 99.9 percent of the reason Princeton made it to third place on GQ’s douchiest colleges’ list was because of Marquand. Instead of announcing closing time, the staffers decided that the most effective and passive-aggressive alternative was turn off all the lights while the patrons were still working. I once heard a professor say that he wanted to take his class to see some artwork, but didn’t feel like dealing with the “White Glove Brigade.”

But when I found this little gem taped to the wall of the women’s bathroom in the basement of Marquand, I felt like I had discovered hot Frist pizza in the water bottle cabinet. It’s douchbaggery in print!

They could have just posted a sign that said, “Please keep the bathroom clean,” but no, Marquand has to do things with style. A letter, complete with target audience, was the way to go. The tone also had to be reminiscent of the matron of a girl’s finishing school in Victorian England.

I felt the need to rebel after reading this. I left Marquand to get a snack, and when I came back, I smuggled in two cookies by hiding them in my coat pocket. The bag checkers might have won the battle, but I know I won the war.


Orange and Apples: Penn

Penn may be the Ivy closest in distance to Princeton, but how similar are the two schools? Raleigh Martin '08 offers a comparison.

I attended Princeton as a civil and environmental engineering major in the Class of 2008, and now I'm in my second year at Penn working on my Ph.D. in earth and environmental science. It's hard to make a direct comparison between the two schools because undergraduate and graduate education are so different. As an undergraduate, at least at a "liberal arts" school like Princeton or Penn, you take classes in lots of different departments, get involved in lots of different extracurriculars and generally explore as much as possible. At least that's what I did. As a graduate student, the emphasis is on delving really deeply into one topic (for me, sedimentology) and focusing on research.

Needless to say, there are major differences between Princeton and Penn. The first glaring difference is the environment. Princeton is in a suburban utopia, filled with manicured lawns and surrounded by multi-million dollar suburbs. Penn is in West Philly, right in the heart of the city. As a graduate student, I really appreciate all that the city has to offer, but based on my experiences here at Penn, undergrads here don't really leave campus. And I think it's generally true at all residential universities that undergrads don't get off campus much --- the vibrancy of campus life and extracurriculars is enough to keep you occupied most of the time. Therefore, I would argue that Princeton is a better environment to be an undergraduate --- a quiet, secluded ivory tower, and the perfect place to begin one's exploration of the world of ideas.

Another big difference between Princeton and Penn is the size of the student population. Penn has twice as many undergraduates, and probably five times as many graduate and professional students. Princeton is an "academics only" school --- no business, law, medicine etc. (Engineering could be considered an exception, but engineering at Princeton is so theoretical that I don’t consider it to be professional.) Penn has every professional school you can think of, and consequently the emphasis is tilted significantly in this direction. Princeton's small size and concentration of undergrads allow it to focus more on undergraduate education, and the courses for undergraduates at Princeton are certainly harder and more rigorous (and probably of better quality). That being said, if you are focused and driven to get an early start on a pre-professional education, then Penn may be a better match (though the lack of a business school at Princeton does not appear to be much of a barrier to the financial professions).

Socially, Penn and Princeton appear to be very similar in terms of the types of students they attract: generally upper-middle-class and hard-working, but also very socially attuned and wedded to the "work hard, play hard" mentality. Penn may not have eating clubs, but they do have big fraternities and sororities that appear to play a very similar function. I guess the one big difference is that there are more social options at Penn, whereas the eating clubs at Princeton often seem like the only game in town. Oh, and food and housing is definitely much better at Princeton.

If you're a former Tiger who is now pursuing graduate studies elsewhere or a Princeton grad student who was an undergrad outside the Orange Bubble, and if you would like to contribute a comparison to the Oranges and Apples series, please send an e-mail to


Salinger leaves trove of work in Firestone

After the passing of famed author J.D. Salinger on Thursday, some of his unpublished works, now housed in Firestone Library, may be made available to his fans around the world.

Firestone’s rare books department houses some of his short stories, letters and drafts, though they remain mostly unknown (even on campus) because Salinger forbade their publication before his death. In the past, Salinger enforced his wishes in court by suing to withhold books that drew too heavily on his works.

Many consider Salinger, who lived in seclusion for more than 50 years before his death, among the most important and influential American authors. He published “The Catcher in the Rye” in 1951.

Though Salinger continued to write throughout his life, his last published work, “Hapworth 16,” was released in 1965. He authorized a reprint of the novella in 1998, but changed his mind before the book hit the press.


I love ... Princeton?

Take a look at this Princeton-personalized remix of Asher Roth’s “I Love College.”

A lot of it makes perfect sense, like the references to that “hot Frist pizza.” But the line about “a good night’s sleep?” Must have been recorded during Intersession.

And who are the mysterious voices in the video? Our guess: freshmen from the West Coast! (Who else would use the word “hella?”) And notice how they chant “freshmen” four times in a row?


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Orange and Apples: Carnegie Mellon

Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, Princeton has a lake. Thanks to Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Mellon exists. Thanks to Jun Wei Chuah GS, we have a Princeton and Carnegie Mellon comparison.

I graduated with a degree in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon in 2007 and then spent a year working back home in Singapore. In fall 2008, I started my graduate studies in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton.

Carnegie Mellon is renowned as an excellent technical institute, and rightfully so. But Carnegie Mellon is not only about engineering and computer science. In my time there, I was exposed to courses in French, psychology, history and politics. All of these courses were definitely refreshing breaks from the technical track. Because of the large number of faculty and students in the electrical and computer engineering department, a large number of classes are offered every semester.

Of course, college life is not all about academics. The on-campus dining options are plentiful, and the food is good. Off-campus dining in Pittsburgh is great and affordable for the typical student. You have your options of subs, chicken wings, Chinese buffets, and great diner and bar food. Shopping choices are limited to the three nearby malls that can be accessed by public transport. There are also several clubs and activities that students can participate in, and they cover the gamut from board gamers to rock climbers.

As in Carnegie Mellon, students at Princeton are encouraged to take classes beyond those within their discipline. But the engineering department in Princeton is much smaller than that in Carnegie Mellon, and prospective engineering students should take note of this. Engineering courses, though not lacking in breadth, are fairly limited, and there are not as many choices here. And what you lose in class choice, you gain in class size. Typical Princeton classes are small, and there is a much greater level of interaction with fellow students and the professors. All in all, the academic environment in Princeton is about the same as that in Carnegie Mellon, though there is a slight tendency toward theoretical learning in Princeton, as opposed to practical learning in Carnegie Mellon.

Life in Princeton is peaceful and quiet, and I enjoy the tranquility, though some might find it boring. If you look beyond the borders of the University, there are several fun things to do. The river right at the doorstep of the University offers a good place to go for a jog or, if you’re so inclined, a kayaking session. Also, the air at Princeton is cleaner, probably because there are more trees around the area. Dining choices are quite limited, however, and tend to be more expensive than a student can afford. New York is just an hour’s train ride away and opens up even more things to do, particularly for the museum-going, theatre-loving crowd.

That about sums up my experiences in the two universities. I shall conclude by repeating some words of advice I happened to overhear: When you’re choosing from among the best universities in the world, whatever choice you make will be a good choice.

If you're a former Tiger who is now pursuing graduate studies elsewhere or a Princeton grad student who attended undergrad outside the Orange Bubble and would like to contribute a comparison send an email to


Monday, January 25, 2010

Orange and Apples: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Former English major Will Ellerbe '08 left Princeton for something bigger, much bigger. Ellerbe compares Princeton (total student population: 7,567) with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (total student population 41,674).

I finished my undergraduate degree at Princeton in the spring of 2008, and almost exactly a year later I began law school at the University of Michigan. (Michigan Law starts one-fourth of its first-year students in the summer.) Having been here for three months now, I feel confident in saying that the prospective student who is trying to choose between Princeton and Michigan has two great options, but there are some big differences between the two schools.

This might sound trivial, but I think the differences between Princeton and Michigan are best exemplified by the fact that almost all students at Princeton live on campus for all four years --- and anyone who does live off campus is probably living in an eating club as one of its officers, which is not radically different from living on campus --- while most Michigan undergrads will only live on campus their first year, after which they’ll either live in an apartment or a house in the Ann Arbor area. The fact that all Princeton students live on campus creates a sort of “closed universe” feel to the campus. This might sound like a bad thing, but it’s not: Princeton has one of, if not the, highest endowment-to-student ratios of any school in the country, and that means Princeton has almost unparalleled resources to provide to its students both in the classroom and outside the classroom. For instance, I had a creative writing class my sophomore year with a Pulitzer Prize winner who would have half-hour meetings with me every other week to talk in detail about the essays I was writing for his class.

Michigan does not have the “closed universe” feeling to the same degree that Princeton does. This might sound like a good thing to you. My impression is that there is a lot more flexibility in the life of an undergraduate at Michigan than there was at Princeton. If you have a very clear sense of what you want to do as an undergraduate, this flexibility is probably a good thing. If you know that you want rush a frat or sorority and tailgate every football game, or alternatively, if you want to move into an apartment so you can cook your own meals and focus on your studies, both options are equally available at Michigan. Essentially, what you might lose at Michigan in terms of opportunities offered by the university can be replaced with opportunities that exist outside of the university, but you’re going to have to work a little harder to find those opportunities.

If you’re still having trouble making a decision, remember this: You’ll see a lot more and better football at Michigan, but Princeton has arguably the most beautiful campus in the country.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Orange and Apples: Oxford

Princeton and Oxford are often compared to one another because of Woodrow Wilson's use of Oxford as a model to transform Princeton during his tenure as Princeton's president. Sherif Girgis '08, a philosophy major now studying philosophy at Oxford, provides a modern look at the similarities and differences between the two universities.

In some ways, you’d expect Princeton and Oxford to converge a good deal. As president of Princeton, Woodrow Wilson paid a visit to the city of dreaming spires, and the results are clear, if the scales are a bit different. Oxford has some 40 colleges --- medieval towns unto themselves, with a dining hall, dorms, seminar rooms and a chapel; Princeton has six residential colleges, with almost the same elements. Oxford’s tutorials feature a professor and one student; Princeton’s preceptorials feature an instructor and 10 students. Oxford has Gothic buildings dating to the 1520s; Princeton has Gothic revival buildings dating to the 1920s. Keeping a venerable Oxford tradition, students take exams in white tie and gowns; keeping a venerable Princeton tradition, students take exams in sweatshirts and slippers.

Both can boast some of the best professors in most areas where they have any professors, as well as some of the sharpest students in the Anglophone world.

But if you’re trying to decide between the two, it’s the differences that you need to know. Now I can’t contrast these multifaceted universities in themselves, only my experiences of them. And that I can do best by contrasting the moments that typify, at least for me, the spirit of each.

From the first year, Oxford trains its undergraduates almost exclusively in their field’s literature, so it offers far more specialization. But for all its academic rigors, the quintessential Oxford moments are primarily aesthetic: The world-class New College choir harmonizes evensong prayers against an overpopulated reredos; the sun sets over the public grazing grounds on your evening stroll to a 17th century pub.

Even centrally intellectual moments --- tutorial in your professor’s office --- are permeated by the aesthetic: Your tutor’s soft upper-class accent, the mess of books arrayed just so, the gratuitously placed fireplace, the conspicuously placed cigar box. In social moments, too --- like a pub outing with friends --- the sensory is salient: the golden-brown lighting, the vague smell of old leather, the lukewarm ale lining your mouth like a liquid loaf.

(Here’s a good indicator: Despite my lifelong laziness about taking pictures, Oxford’s beauty has inspired --- forced --- me to carry a camera everywhere I go. My Facebook albums rival those of at least the average sorority girl.)

Quintessentially Princetonian moments, on the other hand, are primarily social: You stay up late debating the (de)merits of relativism and relish the solidarity of the next morning’s fatigue; you celebrate finishing Italian 1025 with an in-class bottle of Chianti (grazie, Professor Weinapple); you walk back from a Thursday night of rich discussions at Terrace Club expressing, in merrier terms than usual, affection for your quadmates; you spend that halcyon post-thesis season cementing the young foundations of friendships built for a lifetime.

Of course, this distinction is a little absurd. Princeton has its beautiful moments and places, and Oxford, its drab ones. An Oxford career, too, is a wellspring of friendship, while Princetonians aren’t untouched by loneliness. I’ve only picked out the scenes that each place first evokes, in the hope of communicating what brochures and tours may not. And the divergence does ramify in other areas: Princeton’s academic experience seems more collegial, involving more active cooperation from peers, and direction and feedback from professors, while at Oxford, certain cultural aspects of extracurricular life --- the wine-tasting clubs; the famously theatrical, prime minister-pumping debate society --- are a tad more vibrant. (Those, and the storied crew teams: Every third Oxonian is a rower.)

I could go on elaborating and hedging and abstracting until not one stone of Firestone (or the Bodleian) Library is left standing upon another, and still fail to capture either place’s genius. Choosing between Princeton and Oxford is like choosing between adjacent vineyards in Tuscany: While their prices and climes may vary, outsiders just see them as interchangeable plots in paradise. But despite the toil of cultivating them well, and the occasional dry or sour fruit, each inspires in its patrons a fierce pride and jealous affection --- and likely would in you, too.

Editor's Note: The last paragraph was left off of the original post. It has now been corrected.


Sunday with West

Ever wonder what your professors do over the weekends? Luckily, The New York Times is there to fill you in on the "Sunday routine" of Professor Cornel West GS '80. West, it turns out, never spends the weekend in town, nor does he eat the most important meal of the day. For those of you who have class with West next Monday: Keep in mind, he's up on the reading.

I try to shoot to be home by 8 or 9 at night. I like to get home and wash my clothes. I have to read all night; I have to be real fresh for class. I like to read two or three hours every night. Right now I’m reading Robert Brandom, one of the great pragmatic American philosophers. I read until 2, 2:30 a.m. I don’t really need that much sleep.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Orange and Apples: Cambridge

Sometimes choosing a college isn't just the difference between one city or another, or even a different state, but a question of what country to settle in for your undergraduate years. Jessie Turnbull is an architecture graduate student who attended Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Here, she presents the differences between the two schools.

I wanted to study engineering when I applied for my undergraduate degree at Cambridge in the U.K. But after a year out studying womenswear design at London College of Fashion I realized --- as I sat in a lecture hall of 300 nerdy boys in grey sweaters being bemused by fluid dynamics --- that perhaps engineering wasn’t for me after all. It’s hard to gauge when you’re 17 and still at high school what career you want for the rest of your life. If I’d been at Princeton, I’d have just taken a few classes in different departments, seen where I fitted in, and at the end of my second year made a decision. As it was, I had to drop out of engineering after three weeks, re-interview with the director of studies in architecture, and cross my fingers that I hadn’t made a terrible decision.

I got lucky and was admitted into the Architecture faculty, and happily studied there for the next three years. From the first year each week, my college buddy Rosie and I would spend an hour with a senior academic discussing the finer points of Le Corbusier’s ideas about why houses are like ships. I would have another couple of hours of one-on-one time with the excellent design professors, and would attend a series of lectures by highly respected academics. This is a typical experience in any field, and is rather different from the precepts taught by graduate students to groups of around 10 at Princeton.

At Cambridge, the three terms are short and the course workload is high, but the holidays are long and relaxing. However, at the end of each year when it comes to exam time the pressure is immense. Princeton maintains a better balance between exams and coursework, to create a more even pattern of work throughout the year, compared to Cambridge.

What really helped me to enjoy my undergraduate years was the year off I took before I began. Princeton is gradually incorporating a scheme which encourages students to spend time traveling and volunteering for a year before starting college, but in Cambridge already around half the student population takes a year out before “matriculating.” I found that my gap-year friends were much more sure of what they wanted to study, had done their share of partying and were mature enough to settle down and work, with less of the tears and self-doubt that comes to all students now and again.

The Princeton collegiate system was modeled on that of "Oxbridge," but in Cambridge the college is far more integral to your experience of the university. The faculty who provide one-on-one supervisions are members of your college, you live in accommodation provided by your college for all three years, and if you choose to, you can eat all your meals there. The college environment fosters friendships between students from different majors and creates intimate social networks, such as drinking societies or sports clubs.

Cambridge has the advantage of being immersed in a real town with shops, supermarkets, cinemas, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. A walk along the Cam will lead you past the famous King’s Chapel, through fields of cows to the charming village of Granchester. A walk along Princeton’s canal will lead you to Route 1 and eventually to sketchy Trenton.

Princeton is a great school with excellent faculty but with less to offer in terms of a well-rounded social and historical experience of academia. Cambridge has the fantastic teaching method which brings together the most and least experienced academics, but has less leeway for discovering alternative career paths. If you know where you’re headed, Cambridge is a fantastic place to study. If you’re still finding out what you are, you should go to Princeton.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Orange and Apples: Dartmouth

Today in Princeton, it's nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy. And in Hanover, it's going to snow. This may mean a lot to you, but if it doesn't, Dan Ames, a psychology graduate student and Dartmouth graduate, has more to offer.

If you’re faced with the problem of choosing between Princeton and Dartmouth, congratulations on having an enviable problem. The undergrads are known to be inordinately happy at both institutions, and not just because their respective mascots --- tigers and amorphous color concepts, respectively --- are both so darn cute. Both institutions are much more undergraduate-focused than most other top-flight universities. This means that lots of attention and resources are directed toward undergraduate education and entertainment (relative to graduate and professional programs). Dartmouth does sit a little bit further on this undergrad-focused end of the spectrum than does Princeton (just my own observation, but for corroboration, see U.S. News & World Report rankings, among other sources), but undergrads are clearly the stars of the proverbial show at both schools.

Though both schools offer an excellent undergraduate education, one significant academic difference is that Princeton students are required to complete a thesis during senior year, and most are also required to complete a kind of “mini-thesis” during junior year, while theses are entirely optional at Dartmouth.

A majority of eligible (that is, upper-class) students at both schools are affiliated with a Greek house (Dartmouth) or an eating club (the uniquely Princetonian analog). Most affiliated students I’ve spoken with at both schools seem really positive about the scenes at the houses and the clubs. On the other hand, I’ve heard some students at both schools say that the Greek and club scenes (respectively) “dominate” social life on campus. Personally, I can only say that this wasn’t my experience at Dartmouth (where I was unaffiliated), that I didn’t frequent the frats much, didn’t feel that my options were limited by that and really couldn’t have been much happier socially.

A quick word on politics: Notwithstanding some now-outdated stereotypes, the student bodies of both schools are quite liberal overall. That being said, both campuses have an active conservative voice and an energetic political dialogue.

The overall similarities of Princeton and Dartmouth extend into the towns of Princeton and Hanover: Both are pretty, safe and endearingly (if deliberately) quaint. Both campuses are surrounded by golf courses, excellent running trials and quiet residential zones in all but one direction. Even along the main drag, the similarities are striking: There’s the campus bookstore, that amazing local coffee place, that little independent movie theater that doesn’t play independent films, similar arrays of restaurants and (mostly mid to upscale) clothing outlets. Princeton offers a bit more in terms of sheer volume, but the content is nearly identical.

Real differences emerge at a larger geographical scale: Princeton is an hour away from Manhattan by train, while Dartmouth is two hours from Boston (by car or bus). At the risk of making a point that’s been made by many others, campuses with easy city access provide some very cool opportunities, but may also encourage students to leave campus in order to have fun, thereby making on-campus life just a little less vibrant. As a graduate student, I really enjoy being able to get to the city, but as an undergrad I was very grateful that everyone stayed on campus to have fun, and was so happily wrapped up in undergraduate life that city access wasn’t an issue for me. The cost-benefit analysis of easy city access is largely a matter of personal taste.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that there are nontrivial differences in the Princeton and Dartmouth academic calendars. Princeton is on a traditional semester schedule, whereas Dartmouth operates on something called the D-Plan. Roughly speaking, this plan breaks the school year into 10-week chunks and allows students to choose when they take their summer vacations. This can be a tremendous plus in terms of internship and study abroad opportunities, but it also means that you could go a full year without being on campus at the same time as your best friend.


Princeton Entrepreneurs in the News

Students in MAE 445 (Entrepreneurial Engineering) recently had the opportunity to present inventions to a panel of judges from industry. You can find out more about the inventions, which included EezAwake, a vibrating alarm clock, and the Perfect Lift Clip, a cleavage enhancer, here.

MAE 445, which is taught by Dan Nosenchuck, seeks to build upon engineering fundamentals by educating students about the marketing and business sides of product design.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Orange and Apples: Harvard

Eric Suh, a molecular biology graduate student and Harvard alum, reports:

I couldn't believe it; a five-minute drive out from campus, and there were just small houses! Farmland! Princeton was tiny! Harvard, where I went to college, was just across the river from Boston. Everything there felt big, from the number of students to the personalities. When I got to Princeton, I went through a bit of culture shock at how small it felt. At the same time, though, I quickly felt a connection to the students and faculty. The community at Princeton was really quite remarkable.

If there were any analogy to really describe how different Princeton and Harvard felt to me, the closest one might be the contrast between a giant research university and a liberal arts college. Harvard is an academic behemoth, with 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students and nearly 12,000 affiliated faculty members. Nowhere else in the world can you tap the kinds of incredible opportunities that Harvard offers: the huge affiliated hospital system and its many labs waiting for students to join; the many museums and research archives in Boston; the numerous faculty studying a greater breadth of topics than can be covered at smaller universities; and especially the sprawling Harvard alumni network that packs the top ranks of academia, the Fortune 500 and governments and social organizations across the world. It definitely felt like, whatever I wanted to do, Harvard could help me get there.

On the other hand, I sometimes felt bewildered or lost in the giant milieu. Though Harvard had recently started to revamp its hit-or-miss advising system, I often wondered how much Harvard's president could pay attention to the needs of the small portion of campus that comprised the undergraduates. It definitely seemed like the happiest folks at Harvard were those that knew what they wanted and what they liked, so that they could wring what they wanted out of their Harvard experience.

Princeton's comparatively miniscule 7,000 students and 850 faculty make a smaller community that definitely feels more focused and connected. Even as it fosters world-renowned research and graduate programs, Princeton's focus and commitment to its undergraduate students and their education is quite palpable in every aspect of campus life. Via the senior thesis requirement, almost every student gets to know and interact with a professor outside the classroom, something that pays off long after college. It didn't surprise me that even without the many professional schools that Harvard has, Princeton has a much larger endowment per capita than Harvard, and the scale and turnout to Princeton's undergraduate alumni Reunions makes Harvard's pale in comparison. Princeton has a community that is a unique asset to the students that go there.

Despite these differences, Princeton and Harvard are quite similar in many ways. Both Ivy League universities are filled with students who dominated high school academics, brilliant scientists, performers, writers and athletes. Both have old traditions and anachronisms that refuse to die. Neither have official Greek systems, though Princeton has "eating clubs," venues of varying selectivity for students to eat together and socialize, and Harvard has "final clubs," all of which are selective. Of course, any college that gathers large collections of ambitious, intelligent students will have hundreds of different organizations founded for different causes and interests; some will be ancient institutions, while others will be one-off projects that vanish once the dominant personalities leave.

In the end, the main differences I perceive between the schools are location and size; in other respects, both are equally excellent schools of high prestige and academic rigor. If I were to choose today between Harvard and Princeton, it would boil down to deciding between big-city opportunities versus small-town community.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tracing the Quake

For those interested in learning more about the earthquake that devastated Haiti, geosciences professor Jeroen Tromp has developed simulations of the seismic waves it produced. Tromp is also a professor of applied and computational mathematics, and his research focuses on theoretical and computational seismology.

The simulation, which represents the waves as ripples along the Earth's surface, can be found at PICSciE. It was also featured here, where you can find out more about how the simulations were developed.


Orange and Apples: Harvard

What is Princeton really like? How does it compare to other options you might be considering for college if you are still choosing the site for your undergraduate experience? Or maybe you are already at Princeton and you want to know what you would be doing right now if you didn't have exams this week?

Given that Princeton does not accept transfers, there are few people who attend Princeton and another institution as an undergrad, so we have called on undergraduates and graduate students to compare their two schools. Some attended Princeton and then moved onto other institutions, while others came to Princeton for graduate school.

Today we're going to start with history graduate students Paul Davis and Sarah Milov, who both attended Harvard.

So here you are, a high school senior faced with the biggest decision of your life: Harvard or Princeton? But whom can you talk to about this problem? Your best friend has only gotten into Duke, and your parents are pushing their alma maters. So you’ve done what any gunner in your position would do: You’ve sought the wisdom of The (online) Daily Princetonian. Though if you’re basing your decision on the superiority of on-campus newspaper, you already have your check in the mail to zip code 02138.

Harvard vs. Princeton: It’s a matchup as legendary as Pacino vs. De Niro and even harder to adjudicate. After all, how many have actually attended both universities as undergrads? JFK did, but he's unavailable to render a verdict.

Still, this dispute must be resolved. Ordinarily, prefrosh can base their decisions on the infallible U.S. News rankings, but it appears that the two schools are currently tied. Another lodestar must be sought.

And thus, as Harvard alumni and Princeton grad students, we will do our best to offer guidance, aware that our impressions of undergraduate life at the latter institution have been glimpsed through a glass darkly (and sketchily). Below are a few categories and our judgments.

Prime Location: Harvard. Cambridge is pulsating and of ample size. Princeton is a tiny yuppie hamlet, as insular and incestuous as the village in M. Night Shyamalan’s eponymous film. Given that the world beyond is Route 1, we suppose that quarantine is probably prudent.

Prime Weather: Neither. If this matters, go to Stanford.

Convenient Urban Excursions: Harvard, to Boston. The T shuts down early, but it’s fast, cheap and convenient. Princeton touts its nearness to New York, but do you really want to spend two-and-a-half hours on NJ Transit trains? Alongside New Jersey residents? Only to arrive back in bucolic Princeton Junction after the Dinky has stopped running, necessitating a $15 cab ride on top of steep train tickets and Metro fares? Unless you know someone in the city at whose apartment you can crash, you will not head up there with any regularity. And let’s not even discuss the absurd inconveniences involved in getting to Philly by public transportation: it just isn’t worth it.

Convenient Rural Excursions: Princeton. New Jersey isn’t just turnpikes and strip malls and dusty beach roads lined with skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets: The area around Princeton is actually quite lovely. Get a bike, and go crazy.

Best On-Campus Food: Princeton, by a hairnet. Some of its dining halls and eating clubs are mediocre, but we have to give them the edge on account of Forbes’ chocolate fountain and the generous selection of hard-serve ice cream.

Best Off-Campus Restaurants: Harvard, by a mile. We’ve eaten at every restaurant in Princeton — save the Bulgarian place beneath La Jolie — and nothing compares to Rialto, Harvest, Cambridge 1, Tamarind Bay, 9 Tastes, Finale or the greasy late-night drunk food of Felipe’s, Noch’s and the Kong. Add in gems like Dali and Punjabi Dhaba in Inman and the disparity is even greater. In every food category and price range, the establishments of Harvard Square are either equal or superior.

Best Haitian-Owned Pastry Shop: OK, not every category: This has to go to Princeton, home of The Little Chef. The other close calls are ice cream, hoagies and full-service convenience stores, but in general it seems like there’s an inverse relationship between proximity to campus and quality of food. It’s difficult to comprehend how a just God would allow the respectable cuisine of Conte’s and Da’s (winner of a separate category: “Best Thai Restaurant in a YMCA”) to be pushed aside by abominations like Sotto and Thai Village, but the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. P.S. For the record, PJ’s pancakes are terrible.

Safer Campus: Princeton. Yes, there’s the Serial Flasher, but during our freshman and sophomore years alone we had the Bicycle Groper, the Serial Whisperer and the Alleged Masturbator. Princeton has numerous false gunman warnings, but Harvard has real gunmen. It’s practically New Haven. Which reminds us...

Most Storied Rivalry: Harvard. With Yale. What's Princeton's rival again? Penn State?

Best Administrative Paternalism: Princeton, which shows it has its priorities straight by keeping Dillon Gymnasium open later than Firestone Library, while Harvard lets strivers burn themselves out at a 24-hour Lamont.

Superior Academic Experience: Probably Princeton, where professors advise all senior theses. If you go to Harvard, most of your education will be administered by cold, angry, overworked graduate students; conversely, as this article indicates, Princeton grad students are good-humored and have plenty of time on their hands. But what kind of nerd picks their college based on academics?

Superior Nightlife: It depends. If you like the eating club scene, Princeton’s great; if not, you’re out of luck. Harvard is more of a mix with final clubs, affordable bars, House events and crowded room parties. But let’s be honest: Neither school is Arizona State.

Most Accomplished Alumni: Harvard.

Most Self-Satisfied Alumni: Princeton. They donate more money to their alma mater and come back each spring, dressed identically, to relive their idyllic college years. In short, they seem happier than Harvard grads, but also more cultish.

FINAL VERDICT: Honestly, it doesn’t really matter: You’ll probably end up a smug douchebag either way.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Be Valuable

USA Today and Princeton Review think the University is valuable, but not the most valuable private college in the nation. They have ranked public and private colleges around the United States based on the value the schools provide for their cost. Princeton was ranked fourth, down from third last year.

The rankings use the financial aid rate, the cost of the school when aid is taken into account, and the academics of the school, based on admission statistics and opinions given by students. They considered 650 public and private colleges.

This comes shortly after a report finding that Princeton students graduate with the least debt of all students at New Jersey colleges.

Private Colleges

1. Swarthmore
Swarthmore, Pa.

2. Harvard
Cambridge, Mass.

3. Wesleyan
Macon, Ga.

4. Princeton
Princeton, N.J.

5. Yale
New Haven, Conn.

6. Williams
Williamstown, Mass.

7. Rice
Houston, Texas

8. MIT
Cambridge, Mass.

9. Amherst
Amherst, Mass.

10. Wellesley
Wellesley, Mass.

Public Colleges

1. University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Va.

2. Hunter College (CUNY)
New York, N.Y.

3. New College of Florida
Sarasota, Fla.

4. Florida State University
Tallahassee, Fla.

5. University of Colorado
Boulder, Colo.

6. Binghamton University (SUNY)
Binghamton, N.Y.

7. University of Georgia
Athens, Ga.

8. Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, Va.

9. Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas

10. University of Oklahoma
Norman, Okla.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Princeton in Primetime

Our campus doesn't make it on TV often (unless its a back-to-back showing of 'Transformers 2' and "A Beautiful Mind"), but WABC sent a news team to cover the campus debate over arming Public Safety.

If you weren't watching on Friday, here's a chance to see "Battle on Campus."


Friday, January 8, 2010

Women's basketball team begins its Ivy League season


The women's basketball team has been on a hot streak as of late, winning seven games in a row. On Saturday in Philadelphia, the Tigers will kick off their Ivy League season against Penn.

Off to a 12-2 start, Princeton posted a series of impressive victories over the winter break. The winning streak will certainly give the team momentum heading into its first Ancient Eight contest.

Both offensively and defensively, the Tigers have been solid. This season, Princeton is averaging 71.9 points per game. The team is holding its opponents to 54.4 points per contest. Freshman forward Niveen Rasheed leads Princeton's offensive charge with 16.8 points per game. She is also averaging a team-leading 7.8 rebounds per matchup. She is also the five-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week.

Penn is currently 1-11 overall. The Quakers may have a difficult time stopping the Tigers. But Princeton knows that it can take nothing for granted.

"They won't care about their record; they won't care about our record," head coach Courtney Banghart told The Daily Princetonian. "We're 0-0 in league play, and that's what matters."


The Return of 'Tax Fairness'

During the last Borough Council election, the idea that the University was failing to pay a fair share in taxes to the Borough was a central part of each of the Borough Council candidates' platforms. The tax-exempt status of much of Princeton's campus is an issue for the Borough, Township and West Windsor, all of which have suffered in the recent economic downturn. Therefore, the Princeton Township Council is planning to introduce a resolution at its upcoming meeting to call for an increased dialogue on the idea of a further voluntary contribution from the University to the Township, according to a report in The Princeton Packet.

The Princeton Citizens for Tax Fairness, the bipartisan group calling for the increased donation, argues that the University uses services but does not adequately pay for them. According to a founding member and Township councilwoman, if Princeton were not a nonprofit, it would have paid $42 million in taxes in 2008.

On the other hand, the University argues that its economic impact stretches beyond taxes and that it does already offer voluntary contributions. University contributions amounted to $8.9 million to the Borough and Township, as well as $3.5 million in voluntary taxes.

Will this new resolution make a difference to the amount of Princeton's voluntary contribution? Do you think that it should be increased?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Procter Blotter: December 2009

Crimes reported to or caught by the Department of Public Safety during December 2009.

View December 2009 Crime Map in a larger map


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Undocumented Students

Last week The New York Times devoted an article in their Education Life section to one Princeton alum's experience on campus. No, he hadn't been nominated to the Supreme Court. Rather, he did something completely alien to most Princetonian's experience. He attend the school while an illegal immigrant.

Harold Fernandez '89, who was originally from Colombia and traveled to the US on a wooden boat, attended Princeton with a fake Social Security number and green card. The story explores this future Molecular Biology major's journey through the University.The article is well worth reading for an interesting look into how the University handled the discovery that Fernandez was breaking both the federal law and the honor code.

The article notes:

"First, he had broken Princeton’s honor code, which essentially affirms that students will not cheat or lie. Moreover, he had improperly received government money intended for American citizens or permanent residents.

“Just as I was feeling crushed by the gravity of these issues,” he remembers, “she went on to say: ‘But, Harold, both problems have solutions.’ "

Despite the unlikeliness of Fernandez's story, he is not the only Princeton student to have attended Princeton while an illegal immigrant. The 2006 Latin salutatorian, Dan-el Padilla '06, announced that he was an illegal immigrant in a story in the Wall Street Journal. He would later receive a H1-B visa to return to the US to work on a project with his former thesis adviser.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Professor, that's the bell

As you start to head back to campus for reading period, remember: Exams are bad, but it could be worse. Think back to an interminable 50-minute lecture last semester. Now count yourself lucky that your professor wasn’t Errol Tapiwa Muzawazi. Muzawazi, a 25-year-old law student, set a new world record on Dec. 9 with a lecture lasting 121 straight hours, one hour longer than the previous record. The effort was a response by 50 young people in 16 countries to Millennium Development Goal 8 (Develop a global partnership for development), one of a series of international development objectives crafted by a U.N. initiative for completion in 2015.

To symbolize the global nature of the lecture, Muzawazi had six costume changes during the event and delivered his opening remarks in six languages. Presided over by Professor Karol Musiol, the rector of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, the talk was broadcast live online and coordinated with a concurrent online chat which allowed viewers to submit questions to the lecturer. So the next time you’re struggling to stay awake during your Friday morning math class, just think how lucky you are that your class isn’t 145 times as long.