October 11, 2000


Forced Extinction?

Cuban Missive Crisis

Lingua Liberia?

Shorter Memorials

Spelling those Yalies

Caldwell and the Babe?

PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length, accuracy, clarity, and civility. Our address: Princeton Alumni Weekly, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton, NJ 08542 (paw@princeton.edu).

Forced extinction?


I was dismayed to learn that the university plans to close the Natural History Museum in Guyot Hall in order to convert the space into offices. Over 25 years ago the museum provided me with daily inspiration on my way to and from classes in Guyot. More recently I have taken the opportunity whenever possible to bring my two young children to the museum, for their learning experience. The museum and its specimens and displays represent part of the history of the university, and are symbolic of a past era of scientific discovery that has helped to make the university the great institution it is. I believe the museum should not only be maintained but fully restored to its former condition and greatness.

Gregory T. Greene '75

Bluepoint, N.Y.


I was surprised, and saddened, to learn that the Natural History Museum will be eliminated to make way for office space to accommodate a new multidisciplinary environmental science program. As I understand it, the exhibits will be relocated, though I have not heard details. I respect the administration's desire to build a first-rate environmental sciences program, and understand that space is a real constraint on campus. However, to scuttle the museum is a mistake because it takes for granted the value of the museum, a century-old landmark, whose style and character cannot be replicated. Perhaps the exhibits can be safely moved and updated, but once the current museum is gone, it is gone for all posterity.

If it hasn't done so already, I hope the administration will reconsider doing away with the museum, and, instead, update it and make it even better.

If there is a will, I have no doubt that Princeton has good people in place who will work hard and succeed in finding acceptable accommodations for the environmental sciences program that will not diminish its potential for excellence.

Patrick Swearingen '84

New Canaan, Conn.

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Cuban missive crisis


I want to comment on the article "In search of the real Cuba" in your May 17 issue. Like most academics who travel to the island, the students in Princeton-in-Cuba visited the usual haunts the Communist government prefers for


Admittedly, the article was brief and was not a comprehensive representation of the trip. However, the group's itinerary, as listed in the article, is all too predictable. The group went to the University of Havana to attend seminars given by the faculty. Those faculty are the members of the Cuban intelligentsia who choose to be Communists. What about the members of the Cuban intelligentsia who refuse to be Communists? Did any person in the group visit them? Government officials routinely confiscate their antiquated typewriters and even their pens and paper. These journalists endure physical abuse and incarceration. Why? Because they write news articles not sanctioned by the government.

Princeton-in-Cuba traveled to the countryside by hired car. The Cuban government prefers that foreigners not squeeze into overcrowded buses and trucks. The government saves that experience for Cubans. Considering the gasoline shortage on the island, it follows that foreigners use a precious commodity, gasoline, for a tour.

The author explains that the group stayed in a converted convent. Did any members of the group inquire about the previous occupants of the convent? Perhaps the previous occupants were the same clergy who had to leave their native Cuba because of their "counterrevolutionary" activities.

Kirstie Hodge-López s'93

Middletown, Conn.


PAW's editorial discretion certainly slipped in its rose-colored approach to the Cuba story - which, by the way, says nothing about "the real Cuba" of its title. The Princeton group may have "traveled the countryside by hired car" and "toured museums," but the story neglects to mention that Cuba's poverty-stricken, fear-ridden populace is rarely able to do either of these things. The trip these students took is not all good: It underscores this country's continuing acceptance - even endorsement - of a terrorizing totalitarian regime.

Monica T. Pelaez '97

Providence, R.I.


I want to respond to Neil D. Chrisman '58 (Letters, July 5), who wrote concerning PAW's article about the Princeton-in-Cuba trip I led in the spring. While he commended "the ingenuity and intellectual curiosity of the students for organizing the effort," he found "the representation of their endeavor idealistic if not naive - at least as it was reported." In my view, the PAW article accurately conveyed a sense of the ambiguities and contradictions these 18 students faced in their effort to discover the "real Cuba."

After their return, the students collaborated with me in a series of articles for the Trenton Times that described their experiences in greater depth. As those articles reveal, the students found ample evidence of a Cuba racked by severe poverty and stressed economically by the 40-year U.S. embargo. They also found a Cuba that remains committed to a free public educational and health system that - despite the loss of Soviet subsidies - remains one of the better and more accessible in Latin America.

I do not believe any student was misled by a "Potemkin Village/Disney World" portrayal of Cuba. They explored Havana freely and energetically. They spent mornings in conferences at the University of Havana's Center for Demographic Studies, asking penetrating questions of professors, who answered with apparent candor. They spent afternoons engaged in projects that were as varied as they were often impromptu. Each day we met as a group to review activities and issues.

In the next school year, I anticipate that Princeton-in-Cuba will evolve into an official activity of the Program in Latin American Studies headed by professors Jeremy Adelman and David Myhre, with considerable involvement from the students who made the first Princeton-in-Cuba trip.

I thank Mr. Chrisman for expressing his concerns and ask that he stay in touch with the program as it moves forward.

Bill Potter '65

Princeton, N.J.

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Lingua Liberia?


The article by Constance Hale '80 in the July 5 issue, "The Professor and Little Lei Puahi," illustrates a question that has been raised many times during my 42 years of missionary work in West Africa: At what point does a variant of a language become recognized as a language on its own?

My own experience in Liberia is similar to Hale's. Liberia was settled in the early 1800s by freed slaves from the U.S. The motivating notion on the part of generally well-meaning white people was that these "foreigners," many of whom had been born in the U.S., would be happier in West Africa.

The settlers took with them the English language they had learned in our southern states, and in Liberia this language developed on its own.

What many detractors now call Liberian English is, like the Pidgin English cited by Ms. Hale, a variant of what we in America like to call English, but one that has grown on its own for so long that it is incomprehensible to the untrained ear. Still, it has rules and structure. There are many, myself included, who feel that the term Liberian English is a derogatory name for what should be called simply Liberian.

It would appear to me that the question is one of politics and status, not language. I wonder whether there is a time in the evolution of a language when it can be considered as its own entity, with its own name, and without any connotation of inferiority.

E. Christopher Cone '58

Bolahun, Liberia

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Shorter memorials


As the Class of 1942 memorialist for the past 18 years I must register extreme disappointment at the recent PAW decision to reduce alumni memorials from 200 to 150 words. It is difficult enough to do justice, with sensitivity, to alumni careers in 200 words. But now we are reduced to virtually name, rank, and serial number. It has been my impression, as an alumnus for 58 years, that the Alumni Weekly was for and about alumni. Will class notes be next?

Edward H. Coale '42

Grand Rapids, Mich.


Editor's Note: Beginning with this issue, the length of alumni memorials in PAW will be 150 words, reduced from the previous limit of 200. This change was made so that PAW can accommodate more memorials in each issue and in turn, we hope, reduce publishing delays.

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Spelling those Yalies


It seems like one of the more notable moments in the history of our proud university since the days when Jonathan Edwards and Aaron Burr walked the land that the spellcheck for PAW is set to turn "Elis" into "Ellis," as occurred in the recent Class Notes column regarding the Class of 1965's 35th reunion Memorial Day weekend.

The attempt to set the record straight and the responses from classmates - recalling both Cosmo Iacavazzi's undefeated football team and Bill Bradley's magical journey to the Final Four, the last stepping-stone of which was to defeat Providence, with three future NBA stars and then the number-4 ranked team in the country, by 40 points in College Park, 109-69 - speak for themselves and demonstrate that we still know how to have fun, and we still know what an Eli is. I hope you enjoy the responses as much as we enjoyed the typo.

Michael Parish '65

New York, N.Y.

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Caldwell and the Babe?


The only two tales that I have heard of Charlie Caldwell '25's professional baseball career both involve errant throws. In addition to launching Lou Gehrig's career with his wild throw, I have heard that after Babe Ruth hit him with a wild pitch, the Babe retired from the mound to the outfield.

Legend or fact? Anybody know?

Jack Moore '62 k'25

Woodstock, Ga.

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