Brandon Davis’ Princetonian story — as reported in Tuesday’s “06880” — elicited plenty of comments.
It also brought an email from Brandon himself.
The Staples grad — just completing his sophomore year in college — believed I’d misinterpreted both the intent of his original newspaper piece, and his overall experience at Princeton. He also felt the focus of my story was wrong.
I’m happy to hand Brandon — a very bright, energetic, positive and forward-thinking young man — the talking stick. He says:
I’m sorry if I misled you when we spoke, but I really think you got this issue wrong. It’s not about my experience versus other people’s experiences — “it” is something that the VAST majority of students at Princeton — and other colleges — go through during their time here, at varying degrees and for various lengths.
I don’t know who wrote the one comment on my original column saying she/he didn’t sense “it,” but from my experience you would have to be totally clueless not to see at least some of your peers going through these difficult times.
Everyday stress about schoolwork is not the problem — we expect that, and most students can handle it. The real problem is a kind of stress that leaves students unable to perform at their optimal level, that leads to disaffection from the university instead of engagement; students just throw up their hands and say “I give up.” It’s feeling so low that there’s no way out.
I know a number of students who have had breakdowns here, though that is still uncommon. This kind of stress is not preparing students for the real world, or teaching them how to work hard. It shuts students down, at least temporarily.
No one is really sure how to deal with it — officially, the University Health Services calls it “acute depression.” It’s not often talked about, but, as the comments on the Prince website and the feedback I’ve received show, most everyone recognizes “it.” I merely wanted to help open up a conversation.
Your blog post focused on me and painted me as a querulous and inept student, when in truth, I’ve done quite well academically at Princeton, have made a number of good friends, and am involved with the school. I write columns every two weeks, and as my column clarifies, “it” wasn’t even my idea. It was a friend’s suggestion, and something that I realized also needs to be addressed.
Though I would certainly like some things to change here, I’m not trying to start an assault on my school. My column was not about me: I wanted to give voice to what so many students experience, and offer a small piece of encouragement/advice.
As I wrote in my comment on your post, I spoke with you so that people in Westport would have an idea what Princeton, and the college experience in general, can be like for many students. The Ivy League schools stood on a pedestal at Staples, and I wanted people to realize that there is another side of going to a highly-competitive college.
I’m sorry that I did not make my purpose clear. Your post seems to be about a self-centered college student who can’t keep up. I keep up just fine. As I said, I have successfully blocked out the “noise,” and I think many students learn to as well; still, “it” is all around me, and I can’t help but wonder if another school would have been a more productive place. I wanted high school students to see that, too. Regardless, I came to Princeton and now, I am absolutely making the most of it.
I get lots of flack for the columns I write in the Prince, but this is different. Your post is about me, not about the issue; this is attention I did not want and certainly do not deserve. I am sure that it was not on purpose, but I wish you had made me the narrator of this story rather than its main character.