November 7, 2001: Notebook

FACULTY FILE
Web economics

Princeton to acquire land across Route 1
Sarnoff Corporation to sell 90 acres to the university

Nobel shared by Princetonian

New trustees named

Afghani speaks

Princeton contingent helps assess WTC damage

In Brief


FACULTY FILE
Web economics

(Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Long-venerated economic theories have been put to the test by the newfangled, cybernetic way of doing business, and nobody understands this more than John Morgan, an assistant professor of economics and public affairs.

In one facet of his research, Morgan, who earned his doctorate in economics at Penn State, used the Internet to price millions of consumer electronics products at various sites. He found that there can be as much as a 40 percent difference from Web site to Web site in pricing for the same item.

Morgan has also done field experiments on price setting at Internet auctions. Using www.ebay.com, he repeatedly auctioned off popular CDs. Morgan discovered that it was 10—15 percent more lucrative to set bidding at $0 and mention a $3.50 handling and shipping price than to start bidding at $3.50 and promise not to add anything later.

Microeconomics and connecting its theories with reality are passions for Morgan. “Of all the social sciences, I find economics the most useful way to view the world,” he says.

Morgan created two of the courses he offers — www.auction-course.com and Game Theory Approaches to Bargaining, Conflict, and Negotiation; he also teaches Microeconomic Analysis.

When the subject is public policy, Morgan tries to clarify some of the discrepancies between theory and practice. “Students often believe it’s better to collect a tax from firms, since it means consumers bear less of the tax burden,” he explains. “Basic economic analysis shows that price will adjust given supply and demand conditions regardless of the person from whom the tax is collected.”

By Rob MacKay ’89

 

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Princeton to acquire land across Route 1
Sarnoff Corporation to sell 90 acres to the university

Princeton has agreed to purchase 90 acres from the Sarnoff Corporation across Route 1, the multilane highway that currently abuts university property in neighboring West Windsor. The agreement is contingent on West Windsor’s approval of Sarnoff’s own plans for development. The terms of the purchase were not revealed.

According to Richard Spies *72, vice president for finance and administration, the university has no immediate plans to develop the property, and the acquisition is to give the university a place to expand in future decades. “We are interested in purchasing these lands for the same reason that the university obtained lands in West Windsor between Route 1 and Lake Carnegie in the 1920s and the 1940s, to ensure that we can accommodate future academic, research, residential, and other educational needs over the very long term,” he said.

The Sarnoff Corporation, which owns 345 acres at that location, also agreed that the university, under certain circumstances, will have the first right to purchase more acres should Sarnoff decide to sell them.

The university’s current land holdings for academic purposes include approximately 400 acres in West Windsor, 500 acres in Princeton Borough and Township, and 177 acres in Plainsboro.

 

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Nobel shared by Princetonian

Michael Spence ’66 shared this year’s Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences with George A. Akerlof and Joseph E. Stiglitz for their work in the 1970s that laid the foundation for a general theory about how investors with differing amounts of information affect a wide range of markets. Their research involves how the control of information influences everything from used car sales to the recent boom and collapse in high-tech stocks. Spence, who earned his A.B. in philosophy at Princeton, went on to earn his doctorate at Harvard. He is currently an emeritus professor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford. His son J. Graham Spence is a member of the Class of 2001. Spence’s brother William is also an economist and is a member of the Class of 1967. Stiglitz taught at Princeton from 1979—88.

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New trustees named

Top row, from left: Dennis Brownlee ’74, Karen Magee ’83 (Photo by Liana Miuccio for Time) , Peter Wendell ’72, William Ford ’79; bottom row, from left: Elizabeth Duffy ’88, Richard Krugman ’63; Wesley Harris *68, P. J. Kim ’01

Eight alumni joined the Board of Trustees on September 28. Named as charter trustees are Dennis Brownlee ’74, Karen Magee ’83, and Peter Wendell ’72; they will serve until 2011. William Ford, Jr. ’79 was named a term trustee and will serve four years.

Joining the board as alumni trustees, who serve four-year terms, are Elizabeth Duffy ’88, Richard Krugman ’63, and Wesley Harris *68. P. J. Kim ’01, the young alumni trustee, will serve four years.

Charter and term trustees are nominated through a committee of the Board of Trustees and elected by the whole board. Alumni trustees are nominated and elected by alumni. Young alumni trustees are elected by the junior and senior classes and the two most recent alumni classes.

dennis Brownlee is the chairman of Space Station Television, a media development company. He started his career at IBM, marketing early computer systems, and went on to become a partner of U.S. Satellite Broadcasting Company. He served as a trustee from 1995 to 1999.

Karen Magee is vice president of strategic planning at Time Inc., where she has worked in various positions related to finance since 1984. She earned an MBA from the Wharton School in 1989, and served as a trustee from 1996 to 2000.

Peter Wendell is the founder and a general partner of Sierra Ventures, a venture capital fund. He has been on the faculty of Stanford University Business School since 1991. He is a director of Princo, which manages the university’s endowment.

William Ford, Jr. is chairman of the board of Ford Motor Company, where he has worked since his graduation. He holds a master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Elizabeth Duffy is executive director of the Ball Foundation, which develops career and educational initiatives to foster human potential. She has also been an executive at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

Richard Krugman is the dean of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a professor of pediatrics there. Since 1987, he has been the editor-in-chief of Child Abuse and Neglect, The International Journal.

Wesley Harris earned his doctorate in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 1968 at Princeton and is a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously he was an administrator at NASA and dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Connecticut.

P. J. Kim, the young alumni trustee, graduated with a degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and is now a business analyst with McKinsey & Company. President of the Undergraduate Student Government in his senior year, Kim was selected by classmates as the senior who had done the most for Princeton.

The board meets five times each year.

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Afghani speaks

In a talk to more than 900 people on October 12, Ravan Farhadi, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, addressed his country’s needs once the ruling Taliban has been removed. “A multiethnic government must be the successor,” said Farhadi. “Afghanistan is a country of minorities — no group has an ethnic majority, including the Taliban, which explains why they won’t survive.”

Farhadi represents the Northern Alliance, the loose tribal coalition that occupies the northern 10 percent of Afghanistan. Formally known as the United Front, it is recognized by all but two countries as the legitimate Afghan government.

“The United States is always considered a friend and will be listened to,” Farhadi said. “It is responsible for advising the Afghans, and therefore can play a big role.” He also asked that the U.S. pledge $30 billion in economic aid.

In concluding his talk, which took place in McCosh 50 (and was simulcast to other campus locations), the ambassador apologized for the events of September 11, but said that the United Front had warned of Osama bin Laden’s dangerous activities five years ago.

During a question-and-answer session, Curtis Deutsch GS, using information gathered from the State Department and distributed by the Princeton Peace Network, accused the United Front of human rights abuses and asked Farhadi to explain.

“I know nothing of such human rights violations,” the ambassador responded, attributing the State Department facts to “Pakistani propaganda.”

The audience appeared dissatisfied with his response, and with help from security guards present, the event’s moderators quelled the brief shouting match that ensued and, after a tense silence, announced the end of the question session.

By Patrick Sullivan ’02

 

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Princeton contingent helps assess WTC damage

Clockwise from top left: George Deodatis, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Brett Schneider *00; Michael Tantala GS; and Guy Nordenson, associate professor of architecture, study building plans and photographs. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

wo days after the terrorist attack in New York, the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) organized its members to work 24-hour shifts advising search and rescue teams and helping contractors with demolition and site safety. The association was cofounded eight years ago by structural engineer and Princeton Associate Professor of Architecture Guy Nordenson, who has a firm in New York City.

“This effort continues with four SEAoNY teams of three structural engineers, each team from a firm, on 12-hour shifts,” said Nordenson. “We alternate days so that makes for 16 teams, which are mostly from New York but also from Boston and Chicago. This will continue for weeks.”

Nordenson is leading the building evaluation work and coordinating those efforts with an engineering firm co-owned by Charles Thornton, a visiting lecturer in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton. The Thornton-Tomasetti Group Inc. is spearheading the engineering efforts at the World Trade Center site.

Finding the most effective response to the situation was the biggest hurdle facing the structural engineers and architects. “The greatest challenge was making judgments based on limited information with little or no documentation in the first week,” said Nordenson.

This difficulty was compounded by the fact that the office of Guy Nordenson and Associates was just a block from ground zero. “It’s been challenging to try to stay organized in the face of incredible pressures of time and necessity without the benefit of a consistent place to work from,” said Brett Schneider *00, who works at Nordenson’s firm. Schneider has a master’s degree in civil engineering from Princeton and is working for an architecture degree.

To assess the extent of damage to buildings in Lower Manhattan, Nordenson turned to a study that he and fellow faculty member George Deodatis and Michael Tantala, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, had completed. The study determines the effects a medium-sized earthquake might have on Manhattan.

This project created a database that describes the structure of every building in Manhattan. Although the stresses the buildings would have faced from an earthquake were different from the damage caused by the airplanes, the database was invaluable for providing information, already compiled and mapped, about hundreds of buildings in the area. The study also outlines procedures for assessing damage to these buildings.

On September 15, Nordenson began the assessment. “We drew a map of the area between the Hudson River and William Street and Chambers and Rector Streets and divided it into 15 sectors, excluding the part around the World Trade Center,” said Nordenson. “We called around and arranged for 15 engineering teams to do the inspections. These were to be in two stages: a rapid visual inspection from the street followed by a detailed evaluation of the damaged buildings.”

The teams inspected about 400 buildings in two days. Information from the inspections was then entered into a database at Princeton.

“We were able to take the building information, identify pertinent structural and occupational characteristics, and present this information visually to decision-makers using geographic information systems,” Tantala explained. “Additionally, we were able to smoothly link this information with aerial photography and other data recorded by military jets that flew over the area daily. This aided engineers inspecting the buildings by allowing them to identify roof damage or debris that might cause added distress on these buildings.”

On September 19, Nordenson and his colleagues presented a list of damaged buildings and the extent of the damage to the New York City Department of Buildings and the NYC Department of Design and Construction. About 30 buildings required a closer look, and new teams were fielded to go through a more detailed checklist prepared by the Princeton graduate students.

By the end of that week, it was determined that 384 buildings were sound, with no restriction on occupancy; 18 had moderate damage but can be reoccupied following repairs; nine had major damage and are closed to all but emergency personnel; and four are partially collapsed, likely to be demolished. By Karin Dienst

This story is adapted from one that originally appeared in the Princeton Weekly Bulletin.

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In Brief

A peace rally protesting the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan and organized by the Princeton Peace Network took place on Firestone Plaza Monday, October 8, a day after President Bush announced Operation Enduring Freedom. About 150 students, faculty, and community members joined in, many carrying signs that read “Not in My Name.” The previous Friday, another group called the Princeton Committee Against Terrorism had rallied at Whig Hall in support of America’s military plans, calling the actions self-defense.

Judith Miller *72, one of the authors of Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War (Simon & Schuster, 2001) and a reporter at the New York Times, last month received a letter containing an unknown white powder. At press time, the powder had been tested for anthrax but was considered benign. However, the incident shut down the Times’ newsroom while experts decontaminated the area, and Miller and several colleagues were given antibiotics as a precaution.

In response to anxiety about bioterrorism, the university has set up a Web site advising about anthrax contamination and providing links to the Centers for Disease Control and other public health agencies, http://www.princeton.edu/~ ehs/anthrax.html.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Breidenthal has been named dean of religious life, effective January 1. Breidenthal is the John Henry Hobart Professor of Christian Ethics and Moral Theology at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York. Vice President for Campus Life Janet Dickerson, who led the search, said, “He is a sensitive and caring minister who has worked through his career to promote an essential dialogue among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and among Christian denominations. At the same time, he is recognized as a scholar who challenges us to think about some of the most pressing issues in theology.”

Kate Swearengen ’04, whose PAW Online column appears under the heading Raising Kate, was a finalist for an Online Journalism Award, given by the Online News Association & Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Swearengen was up against four others in the Online Commentary category: Dahlia Lithwick, Slate magazine; Steve Kettmann, Salon magazine; Dave Coursey, ZDNET; and Dan Ackman, Forbes.com. Swearengen’s commentary about Princeton can be found at www.princeton.edu/~paw.

Each year the Department of Public Safety publishes a campus crime report. Last year, 485 thefts were reported, of which 194 were for bicycles, and of 82 burglaries, 26 were forced entries. Two sexual assaults were reported to Public Safety, and one resulted in an arrest. There were six incidents of sex offenses on campus that were reported to other university officials and not reported to Public Safety, and therefore not investigated by the department. There were three drug arrests, four alcohol arrests, and 107 people were referred for possible disciplinary action for violations of the university alcohol policy and 18 for violation of the drug policy. These figures do not include those kept by the local police departments for crimes in off-campus facilities owned or controlled by student organizations, or other areas adjacent to campus.

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