Size and Personnel
The problems of size and personnel are obviously related. The programs need the resources to hire additional faculty members to meet student demand—demand not only from the students who are already present on campus, but also from the additional students who began to arrive last fall in anticipation of the 11% expansion of the undergraduate student body, and, eventually, from other students who are passionately interested in the arts and do not now regard Princeton as an ideal place to study them. To use those resources effectively, the programs will need to hire faculty who are not only great authors, artists, and performers but also superb teachers.
The Allen Committee recognized the challenges that confront Princeton when it seeks to hire faculty in the creative and performing arts, and it recommended a solution that included two components. The committee identified a need to expand the number of senior faculty, most likely through tenured appointments, in each of the programs. (To give an idea of the distance we need to travel, currently there is but a single member of the regular faculty teaching dance.) The success of the programs is completely dependent on the presence of an energetic and able resident faculty capable of administering the programs, coordinating the hiring of new faculty and fellows, anchoring the educational curriculum, teaching the central courses in both artistic practice and criticism/history, and supervising most senior theses. The committee recommended, and I agree, that Princeton must be willing to show some flexibility in the arrangements it is willing to make when hiring artists for the permanent faculty: some distinguished teacher-artists, for example, may be willing to join Princeton’s faculty only on a half-time basis so they can pursue their artistic vocations full time for one semester each year. On the other hand, no such flexibility is desirable when it comes to the fundamental issue of faculty quality: in the arts as elsewhere, faculty appointments must be held to the highest standard.
The Allen Committee also observed that Princeton would be unable to achieve critical mass for teaching and intellectual exchange in the arts solely through tenure-track appointments. Attracting professional creative and performing artists to full-time teaching positions is difficult, and therefore the committee recognized the need to supplement the contribution of Princeton’s permanent faculty in the creative and performing arts with two other categories of artists. First, the University should evolve a variety of visitorships that can accommodate the extraordinarily busy schedules of world-class artists and enable them to bring their talents to Princeton and invigorate our programs in the arts. Through the Atelier directed by Professor Toni Morrison and existing fellows programs in the Council of the Humanities, Princeton has already hosted distinguished musicians, painters, playwrights, and other artists who conduct classes and work on productions with students. By virtue of its reputation, its ensemble of superb faculty and students, and its location near New York City and other major East Coast cultural centers, Princeton has shown that it can attract to its campus the most brilliant stars in the artistic firmament. Such visitors might come for just a week, for a few weeks, for a semester, or for a year. While at Princeton, these visitors might perform, co-teach a short course, give master classes, participate in a design jury, collaborate with students working on a project, or simply mix with students and faculty in the arts. The presence of these extraordinarily creative visitors will add a special, lustrous dimension to the University’s programs.
Second, as I have already mentioned, the Allen Committee recommended the creation of a new Society of Fellows in the Arts that would bring more junior artists to Princeton for one-year or two-year term appointments. This inspired suggestion will enable Princeton to attract to its campus a cadre of artists who will substantially augment the University’s teaching capacity in the creative and performing arts. The Fellows will play a role midway between Princeton’s permanent faculty and the artists who visit on a short-term basis.
Novelist Chang-rae Lee teaches introductory and advanced fiction courses in the Program in Creative Writing. A Princeton faculty member since 2002, he is the author of "Native Speaker," "A Gesture Life" and "Aloft." He has won the Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the American Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Prize and the Myers Outstanding Book Award, among other honors. Photo credit: Denise Applewhite