Princeton: Wash that Dirty Laundry!

It’s an old story – groups that feel they walk an uneasy path down the line between acceptance and hostility are loathe to talk, in public, about the bad things that go on in their communities. Jews, African-Americans, the Irish, Italians, etc., all shudder at “washing their dirty laundry in public.” Why give ammunition to those bigots who only want an excuse to say more bad things about us? It doesn’t make the problems go away, but it removes, for a time, some communal embarassment.

So now, lo! Princeton University has got some wretched undies to cleanse in the public eye! See the recent article on the front page of the NYTimes about the poker-craze among college students that focused on one PU student who, so he says, is making it big time! Anyone with teenagers knows that card games, for money or just for chips, are a growing pastime these days, and the Times just thought they’d spice up the human interest piece by zooming in on the trend at the ivy tower of PU – fair enough, right?

Noooo! Not according to Mr. Ben Kingsley, currently a student at that august institution! Today he wails in a letter to the Times:

If one read about Princeton only in your newspaper, one might think the university is a place inundated with drunken, gambling misfits, constantly squandering money, potential or both.

Yes, that’s true, one might think that if one were as silly as Mr. Kinglsey. Other people might realize that several thousand students attend the university, and probably, most of them are not like this fellow in the article. Why so thin skinned, Mr. K?  It’s that dirty laundry syndrome! He continues:

Most of the seniors I know are holed up right now, writing their senior theses (as the university likes to say, a quintessentially Princeton experience), wasting a perfectly good spring break. Apparently, some people still come to Princeton for a world-class education. Why not write about them? (emphasis added)

Notice his choice of words, ‘wasting’. Apparently this high-minded student feels that the only appropriate use of one’s free time is to be bouncing with babes in Ft. Lauderdale, not pondering the nature of marginal return curves, or what Aristotle said a few thousand years ago.  That’s a waste of time!  Well, okay, I was young once!  I guess that poker champ is making good use of his time – at least it pays!

And finally, the crie de coeur of all the dirty laundry whiners, “Why don’t you talk about all the good stuff we do!?” That’s the sort of thing I expect to hear from political hacks on the ropes, not our best and brightest. (I’m sure we’re all waiting with bated breath to read a deep character piece in the NYTimes about lucubrating young scholars at Princeton writing their senior theses. Now that’s news!)

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