Commentary: Princetonians are divided. Here’s how we can come together

March 21, 2024 1 min read

1 Comment

Luqmaan Bamba
Daily Princetonian

Excerpt: Despite ample opportunities on campus to connect across class and culture, Princeton students often cluster in groups of similar kinds of people. As a result, we often inadvertently form bubbles closed to those who do not share our identities. Less formally and in everyday campus life, a clique-centered social life can be the norm. As students, we must work harder to reach out to those who are different from us and to form a more interconnected campus community.

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1 Response

Matt Jacobs ‘77
Matt Jacobs ‘77

March 27, 2024

Luqmaan -

I am class of 1977 from Princeton; now 68 years old. I read your article from the Prince that appeared on the PFS email that I receive.

You could have written that article in 1973, when I arrived at Princeton from Bethesda, Maryland. This has been the situation for the past 50 years (as I can attest) and most likely for the 50 before that. I came from a great public school – Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS — and ran track, and played football and basketball as well.

I met another Maryland runner early during freshman year. His name was Kerry Lanham. Kerry, an African-American, had gone to a military academy before Princeton. We practiced together and hung out, generally.

I started going to the eating clubs for weekend parties as a freshman, courtesy of a senior who lived on my hallway. I really loved the club I went to most often – Cottage — and wanted to join. I eventually bickered there and received a bid, and had a great two years eating there and having fun on weekends, and I still keep in touch with many of my classmates from Cottage – -50 years later.

Kerry eventually left the track team. Also, during sophomore year, he tended to socialize with more Black kids, and I did not get the impression that he wanted to join a selective club. He also chose to live in what was then known as the “New New Quad,” it’s real name, where many other African-Americans tended to live.

They self-segregated, and I noticed that long before graduating in 1977. I asked myself many of the same questions you have posed in your article – why does that happen? Sure, we tend to like people who “look like us” or who “think like us,” but I noticed that the Princeton “community” grew more strongly among kids from similar backgrounds. Ironically, despite that I went to a (very good) public school, I ended up becoming very close friends with many kids (back then mostly males) who had gone to elite private schools such as Lawrenceville, Deerfield, and The Pingry School. I had public school friends as well, but I noticed that – by the second semester of sophomore year – many in our class seemed to recognize that “we are all here at Princeton, we will all have similar college experiences, and, as a result, we have more in common than we know.”

At least I felt that way.

As for Kerry, I would see him around, and we would say hello. He also moved back to the DC area after graduation, and I saw him at several Princeton alumni event down here. And Kerry’s daughter ended up going to Princeton. I have no idea, of course, about what he shared with her about his Princeton experience, or whether he even enjoyed Princeton – but she went to the school. My two boys, who unfortunately both had social/behavioral issues that impacted their high school experiences, did not even apply. They went to other colleges and did just fine. But I would have loved for them to have gone to Princeton.

I eventually became the President of the Princeton Club of Washington, and then served on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council. The AC never addressed or considered the issues you have raised during my two two-year terms, but these issues should be addressed. Why do kids who will have a very common four-year college experience tend to self-segregate, which emphasizes their differences rather than their shared experiences? Why do they turn to their own socio-economic and race-based cohorts rather than seeking out different, more diverse connections? Maybe that’s asking too much of kids who are 18-22 years old, and who are all working very hard to do well at the world’s greatest University. But the questions are worth asking, and I am glad to see you did that in your article.

Matt Jacobs ‘77

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