Bud Grote’s senior thesis in the economics department is due in less than a month, and time is running short. “I certainly won’t be washing my laundry over the next couple of weeks,” Grote admitted. “Anything that’s not absolutely necessary to do pre-thesis is not going to get done.”

But thanks to a new Thesis Buddies program for seniors in Whitman College, one of Princeton’s new four-year residential colleges, students like Grote just might get a hand keeping their clothes clean. As part of the initiative, participating seniors are assigned two underclassmen volunteers who will perform small tasks for their senior “buddies” in the three weeks preceding the thesis deadline, such as picking up a midnight snack, returning library books, or starting a load of laundry.

In an e-mail to Whitman College students, Director of Studies Cole Crittenden said that the time commitment shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes per week and that no academic support, such as attending a lecture or doing a senior’s homework, would be permitted.

While an initial report in The Daily Princetonian prompted comparisons of the program to a form of freshman hazing, Crittenden said the idea was to create “a service project for the college: Students perform a small-scale project for their peers who happen to be in a pretty stressful time.” 

The Whitman College administration hopes the Thesis Buddies program will not only aid frazzled seniors, but also give underclassmen a look at the thesis-writing process. “If underclassmen see a student during a stressful period and realize that there are things they could do earlier on, it might be a warning to structure their time better,” Crittenden said. 

Grote can’t wait to be assigned his Thesis Buddy. “Every senior I’ve talked to is looking forward to it,” he said. 

But Josh Franklin, a freshman in Whitman, was less enthused. Asking for a favor seems like more effort than doing the job himself, he said, adding that students are eager to help each other, even without an official program. 

“If this particular program is not one that students respond to,” Crittenden said, “we’re going to be thinking of other ways to support our seniors.”