More than 1,000 Princeton community members took a break from their usual activities March 6 to attend a “Day of Action” in Frist Campus Center. The 12-hour event saw more than 60 teach-ins and talks by Princeton faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates about a wide range of social and political issues. The Day of Action was co-sponsored by the Princeton Citizen Scientists, a group of science, engineering, and social-science graduate students, and the Princeton Advocates for Justice, a coalition of more than 25 student groups.
The purpose of the event was to connect members of the University community with individuals outside of their usual social circles and to inspire attendees to organize and take action on topics they care about, said Sebastien Philippe, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in mechanical and aerospace engineering and the president of Princeton Citizen Scientists.
“We wanted to provide an open platform to pull together ideas and commitments about what we can do going forward, both individually and collectively,” said Philippe.
The teach-ins discussed topics including environmental justice, Islamophobia and racism, gender inequality, the right to life, and health care under the Trump administration. Some talks were structured to be strictly informative while others — such as a session on community organizing — were designed with an activist bent, Philippe said. During the sessions, more than a dozen University and local organizations were in the halls sharing information and recruiting new members. In addition, 11 student musical groups performed during the day.
Many students attended the event hoping to connect with others who share a passion for similar issues and to become better informed on topics.
“I’m a huge immigrant-rights advocate, but I realize that there are so many other topics on campus that people are passionate about, and I think that being able to give them the space to teach me about something I may not know as much about is probably the most important thing that we can do for each other right now,” said Soraya Morales Nunez ’18. “Especially at a place like Princeton, because coming out of here you’ll have the resources to change the world.”
The day concluded with a call to action by the organizers to get involved — whether it be through contacting local officials, attending protests, volunteering in the community, or something else.
“Pick something and do it,” said Stevie Bergman, a physics Ph.D. student and member of Princeton Citizen Scientists. “Even if you try it and it takes up too much of your time and you realize it’s the wrong thing to do, you’ve learned something and someone else has gained something from your presence.”
The idea for the group originated during a conversation after Election Day between Philippe and Mike Hepler, another mechanical and aerospace engineering grad student. They created an event on Facebook, inviting their friends to an “emergency meeting of Princeton Citizen Scientists,” and 40 people showed up. The group met weekly since November, Philippe said.
Organizers said they hoped similar events would take place at other college campuses. MIT has its own Day of Action scheduled for April 18.