Academic Independence

In its discussions with Mr. and Mrs. Robertson, did Princeton discuss the fundamental importance of preserving University control over academic judgments?

Yes. Princeton’s control over the Foundation was a key condition in Princeton’s acceptance of Mrs. Robertson’s donation. In May 1961, Princeton President Robert Goheen submitted a letter to the IRS in support of the favorable tax ruling sought by Mrs. Robertson in which he expressly noted the importance of Princeton control over programs supported by the Foundation, as well as the Foundation itself:

From the very inception of [Mrs. Robertson’s proposal], the prospective donor has fully understood and agreed that the University must have the responsibility for the direction, maintenance and operation of the School in all its aspects. . . . [N]o university could plan so many permanent appointments to its faculty and develop an expanded program of this magnitude unless both policy control and continuous financial support for the program were assured to it.

Thus, there is no question but that the donor intends this gift to be for the sole use of Princeton University. Indeed, the Trustees of Princeton University would not have agreed to accept this gift, and authorized this most important and greatly expanded program of post-graduate instruction for the public service, if they had not been advised and believed that the University controlled the Foundation through its majority representation. [Document: Excerpt from President Goheen's May 1, 1961 Letter (.pdf)]

Are plaintiffs challenging Princeton’s academic judgments in this litigation?

Yes. They have sought to substitute their judgment for the judgment of the educators at Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School with respect to how Foundation funds should be used to prepare students for careers in government and public affairs. For example:

  • Each year, the School makes a number of lecturer appointments to several leading public policy practitioners. Recent practitioner appointments include Joschka Fischer, former Foreign Minister of Germany and one of the most influential policy leaders in Europe; Frederick Hitz, former CIA inspector general; and Ambassador Robert Hutchings, former chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council and former director for European Affairs at the National Security Council. In 2004 Dean Slaughter created a program to bring ambassador-level career U.S. diplomats to the School each year to teach courses on international security and diplomacy and to provide career counseling to students interested in working for the State Department. This year, the School appointed Ambassador Richard Erdman, a career foreign service officer with 34 years of experience with the State Department, and recently U.S. Ambassador to Algeria and Special Envoy/Chairman of the Israel Lebanon Monitoring Group, as a Diplomat-in-Residence. Next fall, Ambassador Barbara Bodine, former Ambassador to Yemen and Deputy Chief of Mission in both Baghdad and Kuwait, will begin her teaching duties as a Diplomat-in-Residence.

    Plaintiffs nonetheless complain that the Woodrow Wilson School does not hire enough government affairs practitioners. Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School believe that practitioners play an important role, but central to the School’s eminence and success is its world class faculty. Students come to the School because of its leading scholars and teachers and governments recruit the School’s students because of the education this faculty provides.
  • The School has always had a small number of sole appointments (i.e., appointment solely to the Woodrow Wilson School). The current faculty includes, most notably, Robert Keohane, considered by many to be the most respected international relations scholar of his generation; Frank von Hippel, a distinguished physicist and arms control expert; and Denise Mauzerall, an atmospheric chemist who is one of the world’s leading authorities on air pollution. For most of the faculty, however, Princeton and the School believe that “joint appointments” (i.e., appointment jointly to the Woodrow Wilson School and to another department) enable the School to build a multidisciplinary faculty that is drawn from the fields of economics, law, political science, psychology, sociology, demography, history and the natural sciences. The knowledge and skills required to produce well-trained public servants cut across disciplinary lines.

    Plaintiffs want more of the faculty of the School to be composed of professors appointed solely to the School. But the School’s ability to appoint public policy-oriented faculty whose appointments are both in the School and in a related discipline allows the School to provide a curriculum that extends across these disciplines and to attract the very best students and faculty. Recent faculty additions that would not have been possible without joint appointments include John Ikenberry, a renowned specialist in U.S. foreign policy and geopolitics; Thomas Christensen, a leading expert on China and Asian security studies who was recently appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs; and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, expert in behavioral economics.
  • Plaintiffs contend that research centers do not further the educational mission of the Robertson Foundation and, therefore, do not want the Foundation to support such centers. Princeton and the Woodrow Wilson School believe that research centers are essential to faculty recruitment and directly contribute to the preparation, education and training of future leaders in government and public affairs. [See: How does Princeton use Robertson Foundation funds?]

    Interestingly, when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke at Princeton in 2004 and was asked to identify the major dangers facing the world, many of the examples he gave (“ignorance, a lack of law, poverty, disease, a failure to believe in democracy”) are topics addressed by the School’s research centers (e.g., the Office of Population Research and the Center for Health and Wellbeing, which focus on issues of poverty, disease and international public health, the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, which focuses particularly on the relationship between democratic ideals and democratic practice, and the Program in Law and Public Affairs, which explores the role of law in constituting democratic politics and societies). Solving these crises, Secretary Powell said, “is the essence of my work and my foreign policy.” [Document: Excerpt from the February 20, 2004 Speech by Secretary Colin Powell (.pdf)]