December 20, 2000:
Clinton and Shapiro
in the nations service
doesn't lead to community
loss, astronomy's gain
is no hieroglyph
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We may edit them for length, accuracy, clarity, and civility. Our
address: Princeton Alumni Weekly, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton,
NJ 08542 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Clinton and Shapiro
I hope not too many
members of the Princeton family agree with Jason Brownlee GS, who
was reported in the November 8 issue of PAW to have written an editorial
in the Daily Princetonian suggesting that President Clinton
would make the ideal 19th president for the university.
Should Princeton, home
of the honor system, have as its president a person who perjured
himself before a grand jury and hedges about the meaning of the
word is? If Clinton is considered seriously by the selection
committee, I would like to join a resounding chorus with one accord
to keep him out.
Another Bill named Bradley
might, on the other hand, be a candidate most worthy of consideration.
Kent Young 50
While I suppose Jason
Brownlee had his tongue in cheek when he suggested that President
Clinton would make the ideal 19th president of Princeton, such a
macabre presidency would necessitate extra security in the coeds
dorms, a paid-up university sexual-harassment insurance policy,
the formation of a Princeton University Clinton defense legal department,
or the reversion to an all-male school (in which case President
Clinton would probably decline to continue serving).
The travesty of the
Prince censorship issue which I embarrassingly heard about
on a national TV news show, which announced that censorship had
come to Princeton University, where the first amendment no longer
exists is dwarfed by the fact that Bill Clinton was allowed
to make a second appearance at the university. He is the antithesis
of everything for which Princeton should stand, but doesnt.
I felt sorry for the dignity of President Shapiro, once again sharing
the stage with Bill Clinton.
Max S. Maizels 72
The photograph of President
Shapiro and President Clinton in Richardson Auditorium on page 13
of the November 8 issue shows President Shapiro smiling broadly
at the congratulatory linking of his position as president of Princeton
to the presidency of Bill Clinton. Among the reasons for their joint
appearance was Clintons acceptance of the James Madison Award
for Distinguished Public Service.
The professor who orchestrated
President Clintons visit, Sean Wilentz, is a well-known partisan
with transparent intentions. What interests me are the thoughts
of President Shapiro. When he agreed to participate, and as he listened
to the deliberate intertwining of the traditions of Princeton and
the Clinton legacy, did he ask himself whether the actions of Bill
Clinton as a public official might be inconsistent with the core
values of intellectual life and academic community? What was the
effect on President Shapiro of his knowledge that as sworn chief
defender of our nations laws, President Clinton repeatedly
perjured himself and attempted by his lies to subvert the equal
application of those laws to his own behavior?
If truth is a luxury
to be jettisoned with impunity whenever its personal consequences
seem too demanding, how does this affect an institution like Princeton?
In such circumstances, what is the point, what is the value of impartial
scholarship and disinterested intellectual pursuit? How can a university
honor a notorious liar as a distinguished public servant without
undoing the very reason for its existence?
Dial Parrott 66
Not in the nations
At the risk of heresy,
Id like to offer my perspective on two of Princetons
icons, James Baker 52 and Ralph Nader 55. In the recent
presidential election, Mr. Nader let pretension of fame and glory
divert him from the issues to which hes been dedicated for
decades environment, consumer rights, and health care
jeopardizing the chances of the one major candidate whod been
Naders long-term ally on these issues.
Mr. Baker? Well, what
can one say about a bright guy whos become the indefatigable
consigliere of the less-bright Bush clan? Watching him one day decrying
the Gore camps legal action to settle the outcome of Florida,
and the next day launching a flurry of legal salvos of his own,
made Baker look pretty sad indeed. Alas, from secretary of state
to party apparatchik. I guess well have to look to others
to uphold the tradition of Princeton in the Nations
Service. More than service to party or self.
John W. Milton, Jr.
Your recent article
Profs and Jocks: Crossing the Great Divide helped address
the challenges faced by student-athletes at Princeton (feature,
October 11). I was a four-year member and cocaptain of the mens
track and field team, and my body often waged battles against my
mind for the right to sleep instead of reading late into the night.
Recognizing the academic potential of student-athletes is critical,
and I salute Professors Bressler and Wilentz for their efforts.
Yet I hope that their proposed advising system for student-athletes
will keep two things in mind.
often enter Princeton hyper-motivated and ambitious, seeing their
academic careers as simply another challenge with a prize waiting
at the end. Soon, however, they realize that their biggest challenge
is not simply time management, but finding a way to take advantage
of all the different courses and areas of study that Princeton has
to offer. The current residential advising system fails student-athletes
by treating their time constraints with disdain and effectively
giving them an uninspired to-do list filled with distribution
requirements. Often, student-athletes simply pick the easiest courses
that fulfill the distribution requirements; then they do only what
it takes to get by. If they seem unmotivated, thats because
they are, and this lack of motivation creeps into the student-athletes
study habits in other, more important courses. The proposed system
must recognize and capitalize on the drive to succeed that exists
within most student-athletes, and encourage them to take courses
that may seem more difficult on paper, but have a narrower focus
or a more concrete purpose than broad-based gut courses.
Secondly, the advising
system must not limit its advising role to course selection. Advisers
should be able to tell a student how to get bedboards to improve
sleeping conditions; inform them about late-dinner and other food
options; perhaps provide them with counseling resources that specialize
in athletes (athletes dont like to seem troubled, and walking
into a counseling office in McCosh can by itself seem like an admission
of failure or weakness); and provide a picture of career options
available to student-athletes in liberal arts areas. (Keep in mind
that student-athletes often represent a segment of the student body
that doesnt always come from a well-connected
background, and they may not even be aware of certain professions
available to Princeton grads. Picture the hard-working varsity athlete
who goes premed almost reflexively as a freshman only to become
a philosophy major as a junior. I think all will agree this student
still has many career choices upon graduation.)
In short, utilizing
the talent and motivation of Princetons student-athletes will
not only get them through, it will allow them to excel.
Dan Wennogle 97
doesnt lead to community
A Sense of Belonging
by Alex Rawson 01 (On the Campus, October 25) raises serious
questions about community at Princeton. Particularly significant
was the statement by sophomore Shaka Smith: Community, for
me, is more students than it is faculty. I see faculty in [Frist],
and I feel like theyre kind of invading my space. What,
then, is community? Is it defined by exclusion or inclusion?
Community, in the end,
cannot be created by fiat. It comes about organically through interaction
and identification. Most of all, it happens because, as German philosopher
Martin Heidegger pointed out, human beings care about each other.
The forces of alienation at work at Princeton are the same ones
at work in the society at large; isolation, suspicion, and self-absorption.
The Princeton community, if there is to be one, must find new ways
to celebrate itself constructively and not fall victim to the false
god of technology (alone in ones room, online for hours on
end) or be swept away by mass culture. Community means a unified
body of individuals. The challenge at Princeton is for this
unified body to come about through respect and caring. When faculty
and students can truly identify with each other, the new Princeton
community will emerge.
Richard Cummings 59
For a longer essay by the letter writer about the subject, please
go to PAWs Web site, www.princeton.edu/~paw
loss, astronomys gain
The article by Billy
Goodman 80 on Lyman Spitzer, considered by all of us who work
in astrophysics as the father of the Hubble Space Telescope,
raised a point that has always bothered my conscience a bit, but
then went on to relieve my long-standing concern at least partially
(feature, October 25). The author made much of Princetons
failure to win the competition for hosting the Space Telescope Science
Institute nearly 20 years ago, a competition that Princetons
astrophysicists believed was destined to end in their success. Instead,
the winner was the much smaller, less distinguished department
at Johns Hopkins University.
I can corroborate this
characterization of the Johns Hopkins physics department at that
time (though we have improved it greatly by now and added astronomy
to the title), since I was then one of only two members of the department
who held degrees in astrophysics. Had we been much stronger we still
would have deferred to Lyman Spitzer for his great distinction in
the field. I for one viewed him with awe from my undergraduate days
in the outstanding department he chaired. When I first thought about
mounting a campaign at Johns Hopkins to win the prized Space Telescope
Science Institute, my love of Princeton made me hesitate briefly,
but soon the thrill of intense competition took over, and there
was no turning back. Even then I approached the task with the understanding
that Princeton was almost certain to win. My initial goal was simply
to put together a very credible alternative, since that would certainly
have helped to raise Hopkinss profile in the astronomical
community and my departments standing within the university.
After more than a year
of hard work on our proposal, I began to feel we had a real chance
of winning, because, unlike Princeton, our strategy had been to
try to team up with the one consortium we thought most likely to
mount the strongest effort, and to put all our resources into helping
them develop the enormously detailed management plan that was required
by NASA. As described in the PAW article, the Princeton astronomers
approach was to try to be named the preferred site on all
five bids. They were consequently unable to devote the same
level of intense effort needed to help each of the organizations
prepare an outstanding proposal.
Throughout the next
10 years I worked closely with Lyman Spitzer as a member of the
Space Telescope Institute Council, which he chaired. And though
I always felt a little sorry to have interfered with his hope that
the Institute would have gone to Princeton, he certainly never revealed
anything but kindness toward me. He was a very fine gentleman, in
addition to being one of the great scientists of the 20th century
and an excellent teacher.
It was good to read
Professor Ed Turners remark that, in hindsight, it may have
been better for astronomy as a whole not to put the Institute in
Princeton. The outcome has certainly had an enormous positive effect
on Johns Hopkins. We too now have quite a distinguished program
in astronomy, and we are currently collaborating with our colleagues
in Princeton on another astronomical project of great significance
that was born of the genius of certain members of Princetons
illustrious faculty the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
Arthur F. Davidsen 66
is no hieroglyph
Alan Berlind 56,
in his letter to the Alumni Weekly (November 8), wonders parenthetically
whether the new PAW logo is cuneiform or hieroglyphic. After consulting
numerous Assyriological and Egyptological resources, I can say with
some certainty that the blame for this new design does not rest
on the civilizations of Near Eastern Antiquity. However, I have
heard that Rome changed her logo just before the Goths arrived.
J. L. Goldstein 98
For an exhibition opening
April 22 I would like to contact alumni who knew or worked with
Elmer Adler in the Graphic Arts program at Princeton between 1950
and 1952 (or before or after in his other ventures).
Archivist, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, 65 Olden Street, Princeton,
NJ 08544, email@example.com
Allan Demaree 58,
the writer of our story on Princetons endowment (Notebook,
November 22), worked at Fortune magazine, not Forbes.
The credit accompanying
the photograph of President Shapiro and President Clinton (Notebook,
November 8) was incorrect. The photographer was Richard Krauss.
PAW regrets the errors.