Op-Ed: Restore Original Intent of Communiversity

To the Editor:

To those interested in the future of Communiversity and whether to impose a fee on those attending, here’s some advice: go back to the event’s original purpose, keep it simple, and keep it free.

Communiversity was conceived as a celebration of University and community relations, fueled in particular by an appreciation of the arts and the spirit of non-profit community enterprises.

Today, it’s increasingly becoming a marketing tool for car dealers, banks, realtors, and non-local vendors, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Princeton, threatening to turn a special local day into merely another regional commercial platform.

While Princeton Council candidates might consider charging an attendance fee to offset Communiversity’s cost to local taxpayers, such a fee will lead to more government regulation and expense, and continue to drive away local participation and eclipse of the underlying purpose of the event.

Charging visitors to Communiversity is not only impractical; it would speed the unfortunate commercial tilt that the event has taken.

It would be wiser to simply pare down the effort to something closer to its earlier conception –- a celebration of the arts and non-profits –- and keep it free.

Roger Martindell

Mr. Martindell is a former longtime Princeton Borough Council member.


  1. Although the Che of Nassau Street bemoans the commercial element at Communiversity, my guess is that those registration fees go a long way toward paying the costs of organizing the festival. Also “cost to local taxpayers”? I wasn’t aware that Communiversity was funded by taxpayers? Please elaborate. Finally, given the popularity of Communiversity, I don’t see why we should ‘pair’ down the event. Instead, have more smaller-scale Communiversities on Sundays throughout the summer instead of just one massive one-day event.

    1. Communiversity costs the municipality about $30,000 for police, public works, etc.

        1. Perhaps there is a way to address a couple issues, both the crowds in town and the police, etc., costs. That is, since some townies want PU to pay more taxes, and since the crowds are practically unbearable, move some of the music/event stages, booths, activities, etc., in to campus, such as the lawns behind and in front of Frist, Cannon Green between Nassau Hall and Whig/Clio; build activities around the PU art museum and on the Prospect front lawn, utilize the Chapel/McCosh courtyard, etc. This would make the “staging/operating” effort more of a shared burden/opportunity between town and gown, it would spread people out over a larger space; parking in U lots would be more attractive with shuttle buses if the action is closer to the lots, etc.

  2. I haven’t been to this in years because I just can’t hack the crowds, but I well remember the last fair I attended out at Mercer County Park, an ethnic “festival” that was more about cell phone providers, junk food and the like than anything cultural. That was it for me, although I do understand the need to defray expenses.

  3. Roger, thanks for writing this letter. As the council member who brought up the idea of monetizing Communiversity, I’ll be the first to backtrack on the idea, not just because of your letter but also from the reactions I’ve been hearing around town.

    I’d be more inclined to continue to support a free Communiversity if it were smaller and more community focused. It used to be a day filled with a happy sense of community and in my view that’s no longer how it is. The most important step, in my view, is to build consensus that something needs to change.

    1. If it’s ‘no longer a day filled with a happy sense of community’, why do tens of thousands of people choose to go to it? I think a lot of them are actually having fun. If we want a smaller-scale event, let’s plan a separate, smaller-scale event, instead of taking away something that a lot of people enjoy.

  4. For what the Arts Council charges for vendors and non-profits to attend Communiversity – they should also shoulder the burden of paying for the policing necessary. I’m sure Princeton taxpayers do not like being put on the hook for $30,000 for a non-profit organization’s fundraiser.

  5. The original intent of “Communiversity” was to cool tensions during an era when town boys and university students got into a lot of fights. There were ambushes, and problems on Olden Avenue, and during reunions. It’s hard to go back to a false origin. The true origin was in the name of fellowship among the two communities. Those on the east side of Nassau Street could use a reminder too.

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