A near-empty Princeton University campus makes for ideal walkabout

Despite many residents having a hand in Princeton University, whether through work or school, a divide remains between community and academic affairs. The university often seems to function as its own town within the town. Yet its sprawling campus serves as a pathway to many culturally, artistically and aesthetically stimulating activities for the public.

In summer, the relatively empty grounds beckon many-a-visitor to come see what little slices the university has to offer.

“Ah, the architecture,” said Gunnar Rustay, a Raritan Valley Community College student from Flemington who appreciates the local record store and PU’s historic buildings.

“We just like coming here,” his friend, Jeannie Krupinski, added. “[We’re] enjoying the scenic environment, the nice day and this lack of humidity.”

Rustay and Krupinski were not the only ones taking advantage of the beautiful property for an afternoon stroll.

Susan Friedman and Dan Cohen know the university well. Cohen came to Princeton for graduate school in 1986 and never left. He and his wife settled in town and raised two sons. Now that the boys have headed off to college, the house has been filled with the company of two black labs, Moriah, 5, and Ellie, 3, who trot through campus on the regular.

“This is our dog park,” Cohen said with a smile. “We come here almost every day.”

“These two girls replaced our two boys,” Friedman said chuckling.

Friedman also raved about the university’s Cotsen Children’s Library and the kids programming at the Princeton University Art Museum.

“My kids have grown up but the library just has divine programming,” Friedman said. “And the museum is this big, amazing space that makes for such great learning. Ya know, ‘Where’s the statue, which painting is missing a finger, go find the Asian demon with blue hair!’”

Not everyone was meandering on a lovely weekend, nor had all the students gone home. Three rising sophomores stopped to engage in some dialogue with Lee Eric Newton, a Princeton resident who’d taken a seat at the university gates on Nassau Street with campaign signs.

The students, Rene Rodriguez, Amina Sahibousidq and Laura Pena, were immersed in political discussion – lending insights and listening attentively to Newton, who appeared to be twice their age and have radically different views on the upcoming election.

As they stood at the mouth of the campus, other Princetonians paused to hear their conversation, a young boy chimed in as he passed, and a couple of musicians moseyed by unfazed by the heated academic banter … Just another day in Princeton.

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida