November 21, 2001: Letters
Letter Box Online
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Standing in the center of the twisted rubble that once was the World Trade Center, there was not time to formulate anything more than a visceral response to the horror that surrounded me. Most of the other volunteers next to me on the bucket lines had the same silent reaction to the incomprehensible scene around us. Grim faces said it all. Everyone was too busy trying to get through to survivors to stop and comment for more than a second.
But in the days since then, as some have called for blood, and others for moderation, I have felt a deepening sense of anger, outrage, and helplessness. Some of the most peaceful moments I have known since the attack were in the shock of the aftermath, in lending a hand, in the exhaustion of the relief effort. As strange as it sounds, it is harder to sort through the arguments of peace protesters, war hawks, and insane Muslim extremists than to pick through the ruins of the actual destruction. Evil is clear at ground zero.
I wanted to voice dissent with the Princeton Peace Movement, to ask that they not distort the focus of this conflict, to remind them of the absolute righteousness of the mission at hand. But I find myself thinking back to the innocent dead in New York, and ahead to the innocent lives that have yet to be lost. I understand the protesters position, and the good intentions behind it. So I will instead ask them to take a trip to New York, and to breathe deeply of the stench of what remains of our innocence. Better that they say what they will through the hot choke of rage, and not the cool remove of intellectual relativism.
Mike DEmilio 88
I am a Princeton alumnus who experienced the events of September 11 firsthand. I have been working in the D.C. area since completing my M.A. in Near Eastern studies in December 2000. I serve on the Army staff as a Middle East analyst. I work in Crystal City, about six blocks south of the Pentagon. My sections office space in the Pentagon was being renovated and we were to move back sometime in the fall. Like everyone, I went to work on September 11 having no idea how life would change. After we realized the Pentagon had been hit, several of my colleagues and I went there to assist in setting up a crisis response team to assess the situation for the Army leadership. I got there about two hours after the attack. It was filled with smoke, and people were still trying to get out. I have been working there since the 11th.
As employees began to return to work in the following days, I saw the desire to get back to a normal schedule, but also the reactions of people who were dealing with a great deal of trauma. The shock of what happened really hit me when I went to the Pentagon barbershop a week after the attack. I watched as one woman who worked there burst into tears when one of her regular customers came to say hello and tell her he was all right.
We continue our work as the campaign against terrorism is beginning in earnest. I hope that I can continue to use the perspective and critical thinking I learned at Princeton to assist the decision makers.
Major Robert Friedenberg *00
As a person who was a banker for 35 years and is now retired, I have to comment on the continued mail solicitations I receive regarding a Princeton credit card to be issued by MBNA. These solicitations always state that I have been pre-approved. Pre-approved for what? When I call and ask, the answer is always the same you will have to apply for a line of credit amount. I feel that this is false advertising and might be skirting truth-in-lending laws. I will admit that I am a stockholder of MBNA and very happy with my investment. But I urge all alumni to look carefully at these solicitations.
Allan L. Griffith 60
Robert C. Lang, Jr. 70s letter of concern over not receiving a reply to his communication to the admission office (Letters, October 10) struck an old and unexpectedly powerful chord. When one of my sons applied in the late 70s I wrote a letter, not asking for special treatment, but identifying him as an alumnuss son. When, after eight weeks there was no reply, I wrote another, asking only for acknowledgment of receipt. That was ignored also. I am aware of at least three other alumni who have had similar experiences. I realize that the admission office is busy, but if theyre too busy to check off on a postcard We received your letter, then theyre just too busy, period.
Jack C. Childers, Jr. 60
Princetons constant broadening of the talent pool for its top leadership is commendable and probably overdue, and Dr. Tilghman brings a decidedly fresh and different look to the office. After most of an inaugural century during which Princeton was headed by ministers of the cloth, we finally have a prexy who is neither a minister, nor a practitioner of that faith, nor a male, but hold your hats a scientist! Fasten your seatbelts, folks, for an interesting ride, with new ideas, new perspectives, new mandates. I also hope that, whenever Dr. Tilghman finally retires, the bean-counters wont feel obliged to discount strong future candidates who might be males, ministers, or any other category that has filled the bill in the past. The post should be open to anyone best qualified, with integrity and strong leadership credentials. One thing is certain: Princeton wont be quite the same in the Tilghman era, which is launching the third millennium a.d. Nor should it be!
Paul Hertelendy 53
When I first started reading the letters in PAW shortly after my graduation, I was alarmed by the notion that I might hold a degree from a lunatic asylum. Indeed, based on the Letters section, it seemed that large numbers of Princeton alumni were misogynists, jingoists, 17th-century Puritans, and extremists of every possible persuasion. After some reflection, I realized that PAWs Letters section was simply dominated by a few alumni who had convinced their holders to allow them to have Magic Markers with which to scrawl their latest musings on higher education, architecture, student-body diversity, and a host of other topics.
The latest discussion over Professor Shirley Tilghmans appointment as Princetons president has certainly shaken out the padded-cell contingent of alumni. Personally, I do not know President Tilghman. Nor did I see her application for the position, and I was assuredly not present at any of the many interviews she had prior to her appointment. As such, I am in the same position of considerable ignorance of her prospective strengths and weaknesses as Princeton president as almost all other alumni. This ignorance has not, of course, prevented a number of alumni from commenting acerbically on her qualifications for the Princeton presidency. All that can really be said is that Princeton has had an outstanding track record of finding superb scholars who became extraordinarily effective university presidents. I have no reason to suspect that a historically almost flawless process has suddenly gone awry, and I expect the best from Professor Tilghman in her new office.
I would comment on one special skill that she must have shown in abundance during her interviews. At many points during her tenure, she will come face-to-face with alumni like Stephen Dartt 72 (Letters, September 12). Her response is easy to predict. She will shake hands, smile, say a few soothing words, and move on. The ability to be diplomatic in the face of hostile idiocy is a difficult skill that is incredibly uncommon among excellent scholars (the vast majority of whom do not tolerate fools gladly). It is, however, absolutely required of a Princeton president. My own conclusion is that, in addition to her scholarship, Professor Tilghman must have an extraordinary and possibly unique temperament, and I suspect we probably need look no further for why she is Princetons new president. Kudos to all involved in her appointment!
Quentin Williams 83
There was one startling sentence in the article on Princetons new leaders in the New Jersey section of the New York Times (September 30, 2001) startling to me, at any rate. It said that Princeton now had a growing tier of faculty elite who do not teach.
This used not to be the case. In my years as a student, both undergraduate and graduate, and as a faculty member, all faculty members taught. There were some few whose teaching was almost entirely at the graduate level, like the late great Jacob Viner, whose lunchtime conversation was an education in itself. But everybody taught, and it was the administrations policy that everybody teach. Has the policy in fact changed, and if so, when, and under what circumstances? Can PAW provide a list of these privileged folk? I, for one, would be most interested to see it.
Maurice Lee, Jr. 46 *50
Joseph Taylor, dean of the faculty, responds: I can well imagine that you were surprised to read the startling sentence asserting that Princeton has a growing tier of faculty elite who do not teach. So was I!
The sentence in question was not the only one in the article showing evidence of loose writing for journalistic effect, without regard for the facts but to me it was the one that most egregiously conveyed an incorrect impression of Princeton University today.
Princeton most assuredly does not have a cadre of faculty who do not teach. Indeed, virtually all of our faculty (no matter how elite they may be, both individually and as a group) are regularly involved with teaching undergraduates as well as graduate students. Potential faculty members with other aspirations need not apply, and that fact is well known among academics.
Since in the past you have received pleas to make some changes, this time I want to compliment you on the changes that have been made apparently to the satisfaction of just about anyone who may have complained.
Youve kept the logo and pumped up Princeton Alumni Weekly on the cover. Very nice compromise.
Mostly, your Class Notes is outstanding with the alternate black and orange at the heads. Very, very nice. Keep up the good work.
Herbert W. Hobler 44
Congratulations on the appearance of Volume 102 #1 (September 12, 2001). You really responded to the criticism of the alumni and yet moved forward to a contemporary format and presentation.
Ted Meth 44
I am searching for information relating to visits by Dylan Thomas to Princeton. If you have personal memories, photographs, or even film footage of the poets trips to America between 1950 and 1953, I would be grateful for your help. The year 2003 is the 50th anniversary of Dylans death, and Princeton was high amongst Thomass favorite reading venues. I can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.