Tilghman discusses campus priorities
Tilghman discussed her vision for the planned increase in the student body and the four-year residential college system, as well as future campus construction and enhancements in engineering and the creative arts. She then engaged students in a conversation covering an array of issues, including diversity, civic engagement, admission policies, housing affordability for graduate students, faculty entrepreneurship and campus social life.
"I thought the questions were all serious ones, and ranged over a great deal of the University's activities. I enjoyed it enormously," Tilghman said after the forum, which was held as part of the regularly scheduled meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community in McCosh 10.
"I thought President Tilghman offered honest and thoughtful feedback on sensitive and controversial issues," said P.G. Sittenfeld, president of the class of 2007.
"She presented a clear vision for Princeton's future, and I was impressed with the substance of her responses," Sittenfeld added. "My hope is that a 'town hall' meeting with the president becomes an annual or semi-annual tradition and that more students will take advantage of it."
Looking ahead to the planned addition of 500 undergraduates, Tilghman noted the tremendous amount of work required at all levels of the University's administration to prepare for the influx from addressing curricular concerns to ensuring proper staffing levels in health services, help desks and other support services.
"Much of the time of many administrators in the University has been focused in on how we can increase the student body roughly 11 percent and yet guarantee to the students who arrive in the [enlarged classes] that they are going to get the same quality of education as the students who are here today," she said.
Tilghman added that, with the plans for the new four-year residential college system, "we have done something that Woodrow Wilson dreamed about 100 years ago, which is to try to integrate graduate students more effectively into the residential life of the campus by having all of the residential colleges have housing opportunities for graduate students who want that kind of college living experience."
Tilghman also pointed out that the construction of Whitman College, which will be erected on the longtime site of the Pagoda Tennis Courts, actually will enhance the green space on campus with three spacious courtyards and eventually lead to renovations to the dormitories in neighboring Butler College.
In response to student questions about the impact of the new students, Tilghman noted that every building being constructed or renovated will include additional classroom space, including a possible classroom inside Nassau Hall. She also expressed hope that Princeton's renowned financial-aid program will continue to attract applicants from a broader range of U.S. and international schools, to ensure that the larger student body is also a more diverse one.
In addition to planning for the increase in students, Tilghman has worked with the President's Advisory Committee on Architecture, which includes students and faculty members, to identify a set of guiding principles for campus planning over the next 10 to 20 years.
Tilghman stressed that Princeton will remain a walkable campus, noting that she has no plans for future academic buildings on University-owned land on the other side of Lake Car-negie. The vast majority of those areas should remain as green space, although some portions could possibly be used for additional housing for graduate stu-dents, faculty and staff, she said. Sites along Alexander Road and parking lots behind the Prospect Ave-nue eating clubs also could offer opportunities for expansion, particularly for science and engineering facilities.
Turning toward her academic priorities, Tilghman lauded the "extraordinarily exciting" strategic planning initiative undertaken by Maria Klawe, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. After months of meeting with faculty, students, alumni, repre-sentatives from other engi- neering schools and leaders of technology companies, Klawe intends to soon release a final plan with key initiatives for the school.
"At the heart of this strategic planning effort is understanding that engineering works in the real world and that the goal of engineering is to make the world a better place," Tilghman said.
Tilghman, a molecular biologist who became Princeton's president in 2001, also has spent the past year learning more about the creative arts. "We now have a student body that is so gifted and talented and whether they want to be a physics major or a mathematician or a politics major they want to pursue those creative arts interests in their years, and they want to do it academically," she said. "We have to find a way in which we can expand the opportunities for students in creative arts, both to concentrate in areas of the creative arts as well as to have them as part of their broad education at Princeton."
Junior Matt Margolin, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, said he appreciated Tilghman's effort to discuss campus issues directly with students. "Princeton is an incredible place because we combine a tight-knit community with a major research institution. I think President Tilghman's contact with undergraduates is important in maintaining this balance," he said. "She is a very thoughtful person, and her answers showed real concern for a Princeton that is students' home and her home."