Publisher’s Letter: Meaningful Participation

Throughout the fall, the Daily Princetonian has featured a number of columns relating to the University’s recent decision to prohibit freshmen students from joining fraternities and sororities. While the authors have raised valid points about the drawbacks of this policy, some of them have chosen to convey their thoughts in a manner that is not conducive to a productive discussion of the issue at hand. Rather, they focused on airing their personal grievances, insinuating nefarious conspiracy theories, and launching direct attacks on members of the administration, including President Tilghman herself.

The Tory has, of course, never been shy about criticizing Nassau Hall when we believe that the actions it pursues are contrary to the interests of the student body. When doing so, however, we always make sure to maintain a tone of civility, and to propose solutions rather than merely tearing down ideas proposed by others. In this way, I believe that the Tory meaningfully contributes to campus discourse– a standard that a few of the supporters of Greek organizations have failed to meet.

A similar dichotomy between constructive and combative advocacy can be observed in the two political movements that have arisen in the United States during the Great Recession– the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. These groups, and their relevance to Princeton students, are the subjects of an article by Elizabeth Swanson in this issue. As she notes, they share many common attributes. Both are diffuse movements without a clearly defined leadership or agenda. Both decry the corrupt nexus of Big Government and Big Business that has spawned bailouts for the influential and well connected while sticking the middle class with the bill.

In attempting to make their voices heard, however, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have taken markedly different paths, with predictable results. Say what you will about the Tea Party, there is no denying that it has had an extraordinary impact on the American political system. This is no accident, but a consequence of the movement’s decision to channel its energies into the electoral process. The Occupy Wall Street protesters, by contrast, still have not moved beyond the raw, unbridled anger on display in New York, Oakland, and other cities. Although they have legitimate complaints, the demonstrators have yet to come up with a realistic platform with broad popular appeal, concentrating instead on demonizing the wealthy and demanding more government handouts.

Princeton has a reputation as a politically apathetic school, especially in comparison to its Ivy League peers. This stereotype has been cited as an explanation for the relative absence of student involvement in the Occupy Wall Street protests. But just because Princetonians aren’t camping out in Zuccotti Park, doesn’t mean that we aren’t paying attention to issues of both local and national concern. In this issue of the Tory, our writers examine how Princeton students are responding to today’s confusing, and often frustrating, political climate.

One attribute of modern American politics is its sheer volatility. Longstanding coalitions have fractured, creating a vacuum that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street each seek to fill. As conservatives, we are left to assess whether the orthodoxies of our ideological forebears are still relevant. Traditionally, support for the death penalty has been an article of faith among conservatives. In a point-counterpoint piece, Chris Goodnow argues that this stance should be retained, while David Byler makes the case that it ought to be reconsidered. Similarly, while many prominent conservatives have stressed their opposition to gay marriage, Joe LoPresti argues that legal recognition of gay marriage is, in fact, the true conservative position. Meanwhile, Toni Alimi explores the complicated intersection of religion and politics among Princeton students, and the paradoxes that arise when the pulpit and the polls collide.

America’s shifting political landscape gives a new urgency to foundational questions about the meaning of conservatism and the values of our society. As our authors show, Princeton students are not absent from these debates; quite to the contrary, there are at the forefront, poised to shape our national discourse for a generation.


Sam Norton ’12

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