Friday, September 18, 2009

Welcome To Princeton

TigerBlog remembers his first collegiate class in West Philadelphia like it was yesterday, even if actually was nearly 30 years ago.

It was a political science class (again, TB thanks all those who helped him avoid law school), and TB walked out of his dorm and down Spruce Street to the University Museum, directly across from Franklin Field. As he walked down the street, TB went past a construction site where tar was being poured; to this day, that smell reminds him of going to that class.

As he said, TB remembers it like it was yesterday. For members of the Princeton Class of 2013, the first day of college classes actually was yesterday, and it came after an extensive five days of orientation.

TigerBlog attended one of the last of those events, the one for freshman student-athletes. Sitting in McCosh 50, TB had his usual FSAO thought: Who here is going to win the Roper Trophy and von Kienbusch Award as the top male and female athletes at the banquet in 2013?

This is the start of TB's 21st school year around the athletes at Princeton, most of which has been here at TigerBlog HQ. Unlike years past, though, TB was visited the day before classes started by the daughter of a friend whom he had attended college with, a young woman named Amanda Roman. The fact that TB attended college with people who have kids old enough to be in college themselves is another story.

Amanda is not a varsity athlete at Princeton, which makes her unique among the students TB usually meets. Amanda said hello for about five minutes, during which time it was obvious that she had the normal "I'm about to be a Princeton student" nervousness about her.

When she left, TB couldn't help but contrast where she was as classes were about to being with the situation that the 200 or so athletes from freshman-athlete orientation were in at the same time.

Favoring Amanda: the athletes have all the same challenges academically that she does, though they also have the additional challenge of competing in Division I sports. TB is always amazed at how seamlessly most of the athletes are able to do that balancing act.

Favoring the athletes: there is an army of people here whose job it is to help the athletes succeed here, to have the best possible experience. In addition to that, any freshman athlete who steps foot on this campus is automatically surrounded by any number of teammates who by definition share similar interests and challenges.

This last point isn't something to be taken lightly, and from TB's point of view, it's the No. 1 reason why athletes are able to succeed here. They know from Day 1 that they are not alone. In fact, it's quite the contrary: They are immediately exposed to a group of people with whom they cannot help but bond with, and often the relationships that have just begun among new classmates and teammates will become lifetime friendships.

Of course, Amanda will make her own way on campus, will meet up with people who share her interests, will pursue non-academic pursuits of her own. It's just that for athletes, that whole aspect of college life is taken care of before school ever starts.

It's easy to sit here at TB HQ and forget that athletes make up less than one-quarter of the student population. The start of the new school year is also a good time to realize that Princeton is a place where athletes do not live segregated existences and that integration between the athletic department and the general University population is a major priority, one that a great deal of effort goes to.

There are vastly different experiences to be had here, and each new student has just started down their own path. In the end, Princeton will be for all of them what they make of it.

Orientation for the 2013 group is over. Come 2013, almost every one of these same freshmen will gather outside Nassau Hall for graduation, having had a chance to create their own path through this place. It's going to be over in a blink.

TigerBlog wishes them all well. As the video that TB made for the freshman athlete orientation said, the department's goal is for them to have the best four years of their lives, athletes and non-athletes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Among the many amazing things about P'ton is the fact that student-athletes comprise slightly less than one-quarter of the student body. This must be the highest ratio of any university or college in the country.

That has at least two macro effects. First, on campus, athletes don't feel like some special subset of students -- whether exalted or scorned -- because there are simply too many of them. Second, even if you're a student who doesn't play a varsity sport, the chances are very high that you'll be friends with at least a few who do. Princeton varsity sports will be a part of YOUR Princeton experience, too.

It's a healthy part of student life that is different from anywhere else.