Princeton's whackos are every bit as whacky as at any other elite school, but they have a good contingent of Catholic, Evangelical and Libertarian conservatives led by Robert George to hold up our side of things as well!
Drag contest sends the wrong messages
In an interview with The New York Times on April 18, University spokesman Eric Quiñones said that Princeton "does not take a position on the sex lives of students." Instead, he emphasized that students are encouraged to "learn all sides of the issues," noting that the administration aims to steer a neutral course on the issue of campus sexuality. But for a university that pledges to provide "an atmosphere free from all manifestations of bias" (Rights, Rules, Responsibilities, pg. 4), Princeton has consistently eschewed neutrality. Indeed, time and again, Nassau Hall has granted disproportionate blessings to LGBT Student Services and its particular visions.
For example, consider the April 16 university-sponsored "All-Ivy Drag Competition." Debra Bazarsky, the LGBTSS Coordinator who helped organize the event, told the Daily Princetonian that the contest was intended to make drag "very visible on campus." It's worthwhile to note that Ms. Bazarsky is an assistant to the Dean of Undergraduate Students, and therefore can be seen to speak for both West College and Nassau Hall in her actions. Moreover, the contest received considerable financial assistance from the Alcohol Initiative that is the Trustees' Alcohol Initiative and therefore bears their stamp of approval. And lastly, President Tilghman, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne and Butler College Director of Studies Darryl Peterkin all served as judges for the event.
If we trust Mr. Quiñones' promise of impartiality, then what can possibly explain why the administration so openly endorsed Princeton's drag culture? Though Nassau Hall might argue that the event provided constructive exposure to a minority lifestyle on campus, there is a fundamental incongruity between passively allowing students to engage in such behaviors, and openly endorsing a specific lifestyle through high-profile executive backing and extensive financial support. Indeed, while LGBT students enjoys the assistance of a full-time University-paid director (Ms. Bazarsky), other groups on campus which work to promote a particular sexual lifestyle, such as the Anscombe Society, have no comparable administrative standing.
To further illustrate my point about impartiality, Mr. Quiñones later stated in the same interview that the University's primary goal is to "make [students] aware of health and safety issues" relevant to sexual behaviors. May we reasonably conclude that the administration therefore sees some health benefit in cross-dressing? After all, if the administrators who promoted the contest are genuinely looking out for student welfare and avoiding judgment on sexual behavior, then drag really must be of some salutary value.
But according to the American Psychological Association, cross-dressing or to use the technical term, "Transvestic Fetishism" (TF) is a psychiatric disorder. The APA's "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" categorizes drag alongside a broad array of harmful sexual behaviors. It's important to question whether the University is genuinely interested in sexual "health and safety" when it encourages students to experiment with such a potentially harmful lifestyle. True, some may innocently cross-dress to amuse friends or shock an unsuspecting college president, but is this behavior something a university should want to promote?
It appears that the administration is less occupied with addressing credible health concerns than in normalizing what experts view as verifiably dangerous practice. If Princeton was serious about promoting sexual health, the LGBTSS office would provide resources for students seeking reparative therapy for TF. Indeed, Princeton should be prepared to openly offer treatment, counseling or referrals for students who suffer from TF not publicly promote the disorder.
"The Source: A Student Guide to Everything LGBT" makes no references to such services, leaving the organization's pledge to present "educational opportunities and advocate for the needs and concerns of LGBT students" painfully unfulfilled. But the problem is much broader. Not only does the LGBT neglect TF patients looking for help, it also slights students who experience same-sex attraction, yet view their desires as disordered and therefore strive to live chastely. Once again, the literature overlooks these members of the LGBT community but don't they deserve advocacy as well?
To be sure, the LGBTSS's goals of combating prejudice and promoting the essential dignity of every student at Princeton are commendable. But for those who take the APA seriously or desire a chaste LGBT lifestyle, Ms. Bazarsky's office is unwelcoming and prejudiced. For a campus that expects evenhandedness from its administration, Nassau Hall's recent involvement in the All-Ivy Drag Competition was another worrisome reminder that the university has already taken a clear position on sexual behavior. Though President Tilghman commented after the show that "everyone's a winner," those who feel alienated and insulted by this display of bias sure do feel like losers.
Christian Sahner is a sophomore from Maplewood, NJ. He can be reached at email@example.com.