Tomasz Walenta
Tomasz Walenta

This may sound like the whining of overly pampered children, but our knee-knocking, teeth-chattering winter wasn’t kind to Princeton’s graduate students, who live much farther from the center of campus than their undergraduate counterparts. 

There are four “on-campus” graduate-student housing options: the Lawrence, Stanworth, and Butler apartments, as well as the Graduate College (GC). According to Google Maps, the Friend Center, the home base of engineers, is a 22-minute walk from the GC, 23 minutes from Stanworth, and 32 minutes from Lawrence. Butler is a 25-minute walk from Robertson Hall, the central hub for the Woodrow Wilson School, and from the econ department in Fisher Hall. Butler to Stanworth? Forty-six minutes. 

In fair weather, these distances represent an opportunity to get some sunshine and ride a bike. In winter snowstorms, they were debilitating not just to productivity, but also to social life.

Courtesy Daniel Munczek Edelman GS

The seclusion of Princeton’s grad-student housing can exacerbate the feeling of solitude for Princetonians whose friends live in far-flung dormitories. 

The free TigerTransit bus system is intended to remedy this. But some students complained of schedules that didn’t line up with common class-starting times, and everyone I spoke with disparaged the lack of regular weekend service. “I think the buses are terrible, and I never take them,” said Kate Burke, an M.P.A. student at the Woodrow Wilson School. “But that does get me walking, which is the only exercise I get.”

And then there’s D-Bar, the student-run, affordable bar in the basement of the GC that theoretically should be a gathering place for weekend nights … except there’s no way to get there from Butler on weekend nights. Multiple Butlerites spoke of having to find a designated driver or take an Uber. Yes, Uber. Desperate times, desperate measures.

The University is listening. The expected June opening of new grad-student housing at Lakeside will consolidate the Butler and Stanworth populations into one location that is closer to campus. That should solve many of these issues. 

A group of consultants has also been on campus, interviewing bus riders about their experience and looking for ways to improve the system. While I haven’t yet seen them on my morning commute, the students I spoke with gave positive reviews of their interactions. The consultants were even asking whether students would be likely to use a weekend bus service if it were provided. Yes, please!