February 13, 2002: Letters

Athletes and alcohol

“Prophetic” words

Irrelevant Princeton

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This statue, The Princeton Student, created in 1908 to commemorate the academic, athletic, and religious values embodied by W. Earl Dodge 1879, was placed in Jadwin Gym in 1987. Originally placed near Firestone, the statue was waggishly dubbed The Christian Student in the early part of the 20th century and was subjected to vandalism, after which it was removed from the campus for decades.

Athletes and alcohol

Having been the manager of the men’s lacrosse team (the first to win the national championship) for four years and having been married to a Princeton football player for almost 10, I found Alan Schlesinger ’68’s letter (November 7) deeply insulting. The implication that the vast majority of athletes at Princeton are a sub-par class of student whose sole means of interaction is through chugging beers together is incredibly uninformed. I have only to think of the football players and lacrosse players turned doctor, corporate executive, teacher, professor, engineer, or officer in the armed forces to be reminded of how horribly wrong Mr. Schlesinger is. I have only to recall long conversations on road trips about our senior theses or philosophical debates at brunch over texts we were reading. I have only to think of the number of athletes who participated in volunteer activities to know that Princeton athletes contribute immeasurably to the university. It would be hard for athletes not to contribute to Princeton, since I recall reading that 75 percent of students are involved in athletics. If Mr. Schlesinger’s ideas of the university held true, then Princeton would be a campus full of hungover dunderheads incapable of real academic work. Instead, it has been ranked, yet again, the number-one university in the nation.

Deb Botha Ryan ’92
Bellingham, Mass.


In my experience, Mr. Schlesinger’s views are misinformed, stereotypical, and irresponsible. In extolling the virtues of Saturday classes, five-course schedules, and the almighty “C,” Mr. Schlesinger’s comments undervalue extracurricular pursuits and portray conjecture as truth.

Princeton athletics is more than simply engaging in sport. It provides a balance and a framework for intense academic pursuits. What is ironic is that all of the “slots” my teammates and I filled in Mr. Schlesinger’s “well-rounded class” were filled with high-achieving students who succeeded at Princeton academically, notwithstanding their athletic abilities. To demean our efforts and claim that “perhaps . . . athletes are also students and will enjoy and be enriched by the exposure to academic life” assumes as a fundamental premise that we did not value or contribute to the academic discussion inherent in the Princeton experience. Such a proposition is simply untenable.

Princeton history is filled with student-athletes who succeeded at the highest academic and athletic levels. Further, as student-athletes, it was clear to my teammates and me that our academic development should outweigh our athletic achievement. In fact, it was this academic focus that drew many of us away from athletic scholarships elsewhere, where our only responsibility would have been athletics.

Ben Pecht ’96
San Diego, Calif.


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“Prophetic” words

William Prickett ’47 must be mistaken in his memories of his course with the empiricist philosopher W. T. Stace (Letters, December 19). Professor Stace was never the governor-general of what is now Sri Lanka (though he was a colonial magistrate and mayor); the founding of the State of Israel could not have been discussed in 1945 or 1946, two or three years before Israel’s birth in 1948; and the Palestinian refugee problem was created when the Arab invasion of the newly established state of Israel failed, an event that in no way involved U.S. military might. In fact, the U.S. imposed a blanket arms embargo on the entire Middle East, including Israel, until the Kennedy administration.

During Mr. Prickett’s studies at Princeton, Britain drew international condemnation by refusing to allow Holocaust survivors to leave displaced-persons camps in Europe and, at their request, join the remnants of their families in Palestine. Stace, long a cog in Britain’s colonial enterprise, seems to have taken personal umbrage at these attacks on British policy, which may explain why he chose to use an introductory philosophy course as a forum to air his opposition to Jewish national self-determination.

Daniel Robinson ’90
Tel Aviv, Israel


The detail in which Mr. Prickett is able to summarize a lecture of half a century ago is incredible. (Professor Stace’s pro-Arab slant, coming as he did from the British Foreign Office, is less surprising.)

Stace’s list of moral justifications for the reestablishment of Israel omits the primary one: The general failure of the civilized world to accept Jewish refugees before and during the Holocaust made it clear that the establishment of an independent Jewish state was a moral imperative.

Finally, it is not a coincidence that the U.S. is known in the Muslim world as “the Great Satan” while Israel is only “the Little Satan.” The anger toward the U.S. is based primarily on the dominance and success of our “infidel,” secular society, a dominance that contradicts the fundamentalist Muslim’s worldview. The Middle East conflict is only a sideshow.

Eugene Packin ’75 *77
New York, N.Y.


Most peculiar is Mr. Prickett’s characterization of Professor Stace’s comments as prophetic. If the Al Qaeda leadership is to be believed — and why not, Professor Stace taught that they’re only trying to right historic wrongs — the principal “justification” for terrorism against the U.S. is our support for the regime in Saudi Arabia, and the stationing of non-Muslim American troops in the land of Mecca and Medina.

Pierre Gentin ’89
New York, N.Y.


William Prickett ’47’s arguments are more a reflection of his particular worldview than an unbiased presentation of the facts. The Jews have every right to self-determination in their own small country. William Prickett may believe that the Palestinian Arabs were expelled from “their land” or that Israeli “terrorists” conspired with the U.S. and the English to establish a Jewish state. These allegations are false, and his attempt to justify them by referring to Professor Walter Stace do not give them greater credibility.

Daniel A. Myers ’89
Silver Spring, Md.

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Irrelevant Princeton

The further in time I am removed from my days as an undergraduate, the more estranged I feel from Princeton.

Maybe it’s the not-so-subtle arrogance that I sense when I read the class notes, or articles about Donald Rumsfeld ’54 (cover story, November 21), or even ads to “date someone in your own league.”

I spend most of my time working with people, the “great unwashed” portion of humanity, about which Princeton seems neither to know nor care. But, somehow, even though they didn’t go to Princeton, or work for Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro, they still have some value as human beings, and I think they still make worthwhile contributions to society.

Perhaps that is why, to me, Princeton is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Ron Halpern ’71
Laguna Niguel, Calif.

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