Letters - October 20, 1999

Diversity on campus

In a letter dripping with sarcasm, Robert H. E. Hein '56 remarks on how "pleased" he is to see that "Princeton is now graduating only females and blacks" (Letters, September 8). Unfortunately, this letter is just one in a long line of similar alumni letters that have been published in Princeton Alumni Weekly from "old boy, white conservatives" who are upset because Princeton now has women and a few minority students in its ranks. The substance of these letters has ranged from tirades by irate alumni whose sense of entitlement has been damaged because their grandchild was not admitted to Princeton, ostensibly because their slot was occupied by one of the "unqualified minority students" in attendance, to criticisms of a professor's observations concerning the lack of diversity among certain racial groups on the campus and attacks on affirmative action generally. These alumni laments are often accompanied by threats that future financial support to Princeton will not be forthcoming. If Mr. Hein and others like him believe his graduate school is less supportive of the presence of women and minorities, and value homogeneity that much, let him send his money to that institution. As an African-American alumnus, I am tired of reading letters from whining alumni longing for the "good old days" when Princeton was all-white and all-male. Hopefully, those "good old days" are long gone, and those alumni who do support women's equality and educational diversity will support Princeton for as long as achieving these objectives remains a part of the institution's core values.

Keefe B. Clemons '89

Cambridge, Mass.


The perception of Princeton University as the main turf of wealthy white males (Letters, February 24) seems to persist. Despite the politically correct veneer, the ambiance reflects otherwise.

As a minority student (son of poverty-level immigrant parents), even I, a white person, felt pressure from the Ivy Club blue bloods. Perhaps Dean Hargadon and his fellow administrators could somehow deliver the message to the skittish minorities that a Princeton education is well worth the slights "from above."

Philip D. Diggdon '54

Tulsa, Okla.



How the university deals with racism is a difficult question. Being outside an urban environment forces the university to create artificial institutions and programs that would come more naturally or maybe not even be part of the campus in a large city. In the end, I am convinced that the best answer will not come from the university administration but from each class that will decide for itself whether or not it wishes to tackle the problem.

Robert S. Altman '82

Whitestone, N.Y.


I was interested to read Dean of Student Life Janina Montero's comment in The New York Times: "I think there are problems with selectivity of any kind on the college campus, because selectivity excludes people." ("At Princeton's Ivy Club, Elitism Is Back on the Menu," May 16, 1999).

I have experienced both the pain of exclusion and the pleasure of selection by Princeton's eating clubs and a capella singing groups. To abolish selectivity on campus would not only be absurd and impossible, but it would ultimately do students a great disservice. Selectivity, both social and occupational, is a fact of life from the playground onwards. It pains me to see such a facile statement coming from a Princeton administrator.

Vera Hough '92

Little Silver, N.J.



Responding to the letter by James Cunningham '73 (April 7): Given that we, as women, provided gender diversity to a university where only a few dozen "Critical Language" upperclasswomen had previously attended, I would say that Mr. Cunningham recognized that diversity no more than he did any other, be it racial or ethnic. He joined an all-male Ivy Club, and reveled in it. He is honest, I will give him that. But the old-boy, all-male club is foundering as an institution, and though he will rue its demise, I am sure he will be able to find all-boy bastions in Europe, especially in Switzerland.

I am director and head teacher of a school where children who have disabilities and those who do not learn together. Our students represent six major religions, at least 20 countries, and every color of skin.

I am in the nation's service because I teach the children of many persons who serve in the government and foreign service. I teach them a gifted cognitive curriculum and a tolerant social curriculum. Early Years School is the antithesis of Ivy Club, thank God.

Barbara A. Cunningham '73

Arlington, Va.

Single-wing football

How can 50 years of Princeton football devolve from a buck-lateral offensive, where few spectators could follow who had the ball, to single back formation where everybody knows who has the ball-particularly the defense. Tight ends appear to block, seldom to receive, until long yardage.

Princeton from the stands looks like a frantic amateur touch football team with each play a crisis calling for a new someone to orchestrate a "hail Mary" play. There is no quiet calm or invincibility as team and spectators participate in the orderly decimation of a proud opponent. Leaving the stadium my heart goes out to the players as I remember Charlie Caldwell '25 and envisage what could have been if there were now a thing called "Princeton Football."

Let's find a creative coach whose love is offense through innovation and deception based on a dozen basic plays that will define Princeton football. Then spectators can be proud-win, lose, or tie.

Charles F. Huber II '51

New York, N.Y.


Princeton made a serious error in judgment in the late '60s when it gave up the single wing. All you really need to have is a good center who can snap the ball three yards with accuracy.

The single wing was a great tradition that defined Princeton football. It gave us a tremendous advantage over our opponents, and it is virtually impossible for any school to prepare in one week to face a single-wing offense.

This will go a long way to regenerating interest in Princeton football and putting some fannies in the seats at the new stadium. Right now, we are just a "me too" T-formation football team.

Jack Singer '65

Phoenix, Ariz.

Public school teachers

Public school teachers are, it would seem, getting richer while their students grow dumber. In the May 19 Letters, P. Anthony Kane '91 writes: "It's important that taxpayers hold teachers accountable for this disturbing trend." I've been teaching in a public high school for 33 years, and I'd like to point out something about public school teachers: We don't hire ourselves. We are hired from a pool of applicants that is growing weaker by the year. We can't help that. Perhaps, if the disturbing trend Mr. Kane cites continues long enough, public school teachers' incomes will eventually overtake those of attorneys. When that happens, lots of smart young people will forsake law school for the joys of the classroom, and the problem will be solved. In the meantime, teachers may be held accountable for their students' declining average test scores, but they are not to blame. The main problem with kids nowadays is that their attention spans have been permanently diminished by excessive exposure to television--exacerbated in recent years by countless hours spent playing video games. Put bluntly, they can't focus or concentrate the way we used to be able to in the good old days. Teachers everywhere, even at the college level--even at Princeton--have been forced to scale back and "dumb down" what they ask their students to read. Even my much younger colleagues have noticed this phenomenon. The question is not Whom do we blame? but How can we reverse this ominous trend?

C. Thomas Corwin '62

Chappaqua, N.Y.


The June 9, 1999, Notebook article on Hip-hop culture by Leila Abboud '99 featured a statement from Selwyn Seyfu Hinds '93. He called hip-hop a "bedrock of opportunity" for young African-Americans, urging them to find jobs and work their way up in the industry. While there may be money in hip-hop for a relatively few individuals, a better route for most African- Americans is through traditional vocations. There is always a demand for well-educated teachers, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, bankers, sales professionals, etc. Hip-hop, like other popular music styles, will run its course.

Jeffrey A. Bart '73

Holland, Mich.

Save the trees

As an undergraduate I often wondered why the groundskeepers were always trimming trees. Neither rain nor snow seemed to keep them from their appointed rounds. I remember being unable to concentrate during one midterm exam because of the whining chain saws outside. The following summer, when walking through Prospect Garden, I noticed that one of the tulip trees near Prospect House had been mutilated; the tree surgeons had allowed a mere sprig of two or three leaves to remain at the end of every large branch and had hacked down the rest. Another time I watched tree surgeons cutting down the large, healthy-appearing beech next to FitzRandolph Gate. A new, smaller version was planted in its place, but a year later that specimen was replaced by another.

Is there some scientific reason why the old elms in front of Witherspoon have been removed systematically and replaced with new trees? And the ashes surrounding Cannon Green-were they simply too healthy to be given an unfettered existence?

Evan Adelstein '95

Ardmore, Penn.


I'm writing about the avenue of elm trees that shades Washington Road. Those elms are one of the most precious parts of Princeton's landscape to me. In fact, these trees have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I recently learned that the proposed Millstone Bypass, which is designed to address congestion on Route 1, is also going to involve removing a significant number of these beautiful trees.

To my chagrin, the university has spoken in favor of the bypass. If you feel that this boulevard is worth preserving, let Princeton know you care.

William Pott '99

Trenton, N.J.

My Hiroshima

Herb Bailey's poem "My Hiroshima" (Letters. May 19) really hit the mark.

Too often I have heard what a terrible thing we Americans did in putting a gruesome end to a horrible war. But we forget that we saved many more lives that way.

The important message is to learn from our past.

Forrest C. Eggleston '42

Mechanicsburg, Penn.

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