In Princeton, Effigies Have Feelings, Too

A Princeton football flame war is sparked by a straw man. No, really. A straw man.

Millennials, you are killing me.

I know, I know; we celebrate you on the December cover of the magazine. We get to read inside about how you’re remaking the city on your way to taking over the world. But can we stop for a minute and talk about this past weekend at Princeton, please?


There was a bonfire at Princeton last night — the time-honored ritual bonfire celebrating the victories of the football team over archrivals Harvard and Yale. (Sorry, Penn.) How time-honored? Real time-honored. Way back in 1893, the New York Times reported that “the whole college turned out en masse” to construct this bonfire in “the grandest celebration Princeton has ever seen.” But the oh-so-traditional bonfire did not, this year, include the customary ignition of an effigy of John Harvard (though students found smaller ways to include him in the blaze). Why no Harvard effigy? Because, student government social chair Carla Javier told the Daily Princetonian last week, the effigy “represents a human,” and, as the paper went on to note, “various students expressed their distaste for the burning of a human-like figure.”

Oh, the humanity.

There are a lot of woes in this world. There are so very many legitimate concerns: the advancement of women, income inequity, global warming. Do you know what is not a legitimate concern? Whether tossing a pair of sweatpants and an old T-shirt stuffed with newspaper onto a bonfire on a college campus is violative of anybody’s human rights. STFU, Princeton! But no. The Daily Princetonian commenters came to the party.

“The Princeton Football Program earned this bonfire,” wrote “’16,” “not some of the students who, I’m sure, very rarely attend football games and are now calling for egregious modifications of what used to be a consecrated tradition.” This was followed by “jon bonfire jovie”:

… let’s just do it anytime anybody wins anything … so everybody feels like a winner.

And vavsrhsu:

I won’t be happy until they open the circle to include … the co-ed Qi Gong team, the Womyn’s Center, the Putnam exam team, etc.”

Let's hear from ElPres:

Pussification of America at its finest right here.

Whereupon vavsrhsu takes it here:

Uh, maybe it would be better if we put a Jane Harvard or Jane Radcliffe up there too?

Your play, Angry ’16:

Jesus, shut the fuck up.

Back to vavsrhsu:

Clearly you’re bracketing out the gender issues. But denying them won’t make them go away.

And, touché:

Yah know, if yah think about it, trees are quite alive too. … We’re holding this bonfire in plain view of a bunch of other trees. …

And then lmgtfy went there:

 “Obama effigy hung in Georgia town” Or did everyone arguing here conveniently forget the history of the American South?

ElPres?

To drag race into this discussion is irresponsible and honestly disrespectful.

The alums weigh in:

I seriously wonder what is happening to the student body, if it is indeed they who had “concerns regarding the burning of a human figure.”

If this is how they want to have the bonfire, today’s students don’t deserve to have one.

Then it gets personal: A brave anti-effigy-er named Luke Paulsen (really; not that Luke Paulsen) speaks out against the “mob mentality and extreme rah-rah spirit involved in the bonfire,” which leaves him wide open to heartless attacks, albeit by nonobservant spellers:

When I was in school, kids like Luke Paulson weren’t admitted.

 Luke Paulson is afraid of puppies.

And of course there's a petition, signed by hundreds of students and alums, on Change.org — with its own comments section (“They wasn’t with us shootin in the gym!!!!").

Heroically, or idiotically, Paulsen presses on:

I was uncomfortable with last year’s bonfire in several respects. … we seemed to need to despise other (very respected) institutions in order to validate our own identity.

Enter (the) Tiger15:

Jesus dude have you ever had a fun time in your life before?

Oh boy:

People like Luke Paulson and his “uncomfortableness” are examples of why America is on the decline.

But up steps a Paulsen defender, Kristie Schott!

Respect. There’s nothing “soft” about voicing an obviously unpopular opinion in the face of such open hostility.

Which clearly emboldens Paulsen:

Wow, so much hate! I’m flattered. … If my peers here can find the courage to take off the masks and start using their real names, then maybe a civil conversation will be possible.

Ahem. From Tom Ed:

Fuck you, and fuck people who are as mentally weak as you. Civil discussion is for pussies.

And Bill Bradley (no, not that Bill Bradley — we don't think):

Don’t use the word insofar in an argument. Not really helping the “gigantic loser” argument here now are we, Luke?

Then, pointing out that a stuffed Yale bulldog is also traditionally cast into the conflagration:

Why are we setting fire to an innocent puppy?!

And still more:

We’re American and we like to burn stuff. Get over it. Go Tigers, Beat Dartmouth.

While the Tigers were torching one another online, you’ll be happy to know, firefighters were hard at work ensuring that not a single special snowflake's eyelash got singed by the $14,000 inferno:

New safety measures have also been put into place. The exclusion zone around the bonfire will be moved 10 feet back, and pedestrian gating will be widened to facilitate movement toward the bonfire, according to William Drake, fire official for the town’s Bureau of Fire Safety and Housing Inspection. Drake explained that during the last bonfire, attendees were observed standing back from the gating due to the fire’s heat. …

Ah-ha! A spark of good sense!

Clearly, Princeton’s meningitis epidemic is a plague sent by the gods to wreak havoc on those who pander to political correctness. Or, perhaps, those who bully those devoted to political correctness. Or both their houses. Dead Parrot, where are you? Oh, and Penn — you see? You’re not the only Ivy we think should get over itself.

P.S.: Alas, the Tigers fell to Dartmouth in the last game of the season, 28-24.