February 27, 2002: 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).
What a surprise to see my fathers face in PAW (Letters, December 19) and to read his words, recalled by Mr. William Prickett 47 from a lecture given 50 years ago. I remember those days when I was a kid the fear I felt for my dad who was under attack from those who criticized his position. If your readers are interested in the subject and my fathers opinion, I refer them to his own words, The Zionist Illusion, an article published in the Atlantic Monthly, February 1947.
I am writing in response to the letter from William Prickett 47 that places sole blame for the September 11 assault and, by implication, the feelings of some elements of the Muslim world toward the U.S., on our support for the establishment of Israel. I do not intend to debate the wisdom, morality, or politics involved in that support, but to point out that this unidimensional view greatly oversimplifies the issue. If one listens to Osama bin Laden, it is clear that his primary goal is to get the infidels, as currently represented by the U.S. military, out of Saudi Arabia, the land of the holiest Muslim sites. (By the way, sir, you and I both are infidels). His second goal is to bring his view of fundamental Islam to the Middle East and eventually to the rest of the world. Israel ranks no higher than third on his list.
It is hard for us in this country to accept that there are people out there who do not like us. In this case we are hated for who we are, what we stand for, and how we act in the world. If Israel had never existed, we still would be on the top of the hate list of the Osama bin Ladens of the world.
Gerald S. Golden 57
I am very surprised to hear that Burnet Fisher 46 (Letters, December 5) believes that there is no country (besides the U.S.) in the world that provides its citizens with the protection from government embodied in our Bill of Rights and that the American concept of rights he has mentioned are not specified anywhere else in the world. Or that as a direct result we have been blessed with one of the longest surviving governments in the world.
As a fellow graduate of Princeton (major in European history), I contest such statements. They indicate that the author forgets that many countries protect their citizens in the same way as the U.S. Constitution protects its own. We could mention, for example, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany, the Benelux countries, Switzerland, and all the Scandinavian countries, all of which protect their citizens by guaranteeing all the rights Mr. Fisher enumerates.
Regimes of a democratic nature have existed in Scandinavia and Western Europe for centuries. English civil rights began to take shape with Magna Carta (1215). The Swiss experience of democracy began in 1292. Greeks consider that their country is the cradle of democracy. Democratic regimes began to exist even under European monarchies at least 200 years ago.
Moreover, as have many European and other countries, the U.S. has been obliged to restrict freedoms at times of crisis.
Mr. Fisher should have confidence that the U.S. must work in cooperation with many governments around the world which (like the U.S.) are promoting the unique values of their own democratic systems.
Charles Graves 53
The letter by Alan J. Schlesinger 68 (November 7) is a distillation of much of what the universitys alumni have been learning, with mixed feelings, for decades about life on campus. Though there can be no doubt that many contemporary undergraduates neither drink excessively nor direct most of their energies into nonacademic pursuits, it seems certain that a cultural gulf has widened between the old Princeton and the new. Mr. Schlesingers forthright, even brave, reflections on the ramifications of that gulf are addressed to fellow alumni as a kind of update or report. I wish that todays undergraduates might also read the letter. They could get a clearer picture of life on the campus prior to their time, a picture that has sadly drifted into a distorted backward glance at supposed legions of indolent preppies, undeserving of admission in the first place, whiling away their four years in pranks, parties, and prejudice.
The reality: Undergraduates in the late 1950s were half from private and half from public schools. They did about 60 percent more course work to graduate than do todays Princetonians in the humanities, and they usually worked over a five-and-a-half-day class week, including Saturday labs, in their underclass years. Partying in the official sense of organized entertainment was limited to three or four approved weekends during the academic year; I do not recollect any Thursday or Sunday evening booze-enhanced revelry even on those occasions. The era was more one of well-balanced individuals than of a well-rounded class. In short, back then we had more amateurish athletic contests, a more demanding academic program, far less opportunity to socialize between the sexes, a much lower incidence of abusive drinking-related behavior, and greater occasion for male friendships to evolve.
That was the Princeton that nurtured the alumni generosity of today, and one wonders whether the new Princeton will prove as successful in generating loyalty and the altruistic belief that one should repay something of what he has been given. It is the size of the universitys endowment that now permits large numbers of todays undergraduates to attend without paying much or perhaps any of the cost themselves. Shouldnt these lucky young people feel something more akin to gratitude to their forerunners rather than the vague feelings of superiority and mild disdain evidently based on what is just a caricature of the original?
C. Webster Wheelock 60 *67
The type of alcohol-related sexual harassment of women at Princeton described by Liriel Higa 02 in her On the Campus column (December 19) comes from a powerful mishmash of nature or nurture gender differences in regard to the biology/physiology of the sexual urge and the different rates of attaining a mentally and socially competent state of maturity. In short, most boys will be boys. That is, most of them will exhibit their inherent tendencies toward sexual frustration and social immaturity while under the influence of too much alcohol.
At the risk of sounding patronizing or like an apologist, I urge Ms. Higa and similarly intelligent and perceptive young women at Princeton not to waste their time taking the generalized actions of Princetons male louts personally. I also ask them to consider that what makes Princeton Princeton is called a character warts, frogs, rogue princes, and all. Of course, I am not condoning physically threatening words or behavior wittingly directed toward specific individuals, male or female. Yet, within that constraint, I urge Princeton students and faculty to have the patience to give all students, particularly those struggling with the inherently challenging hurdles of being young and male, some space to howl at the moon while growing up. I also urge all Princetonians, particularly Ms. Higa, not to let their college experience go by without just once getting uproariously and obnoxiously drunk, albeit safely please. I would argue that it is all part of a lifes education and a life lived.
Reed M. Benet 84
Regarding Liriel Higa 02s On the Campus summation of the social situation (turmoil?), sex harassment, etc., it is no wonder that when the elite moneyed eastern alumni establishment suggested Princeton go coed, we at Princeton Alumni Association of Northern Ohio voted overwhelmingly (over 70 percent) NO! I guess thats what happens when you live more than 100 miles west of the Hudson River you rest on old-fashioned moral standards and can foresee the problems.
H. Lansing Vail, Jr. 46
The story of the Dwyer/Steinberg collaboration (cover story, December 19) is as touching as it is riveting. Ive known Michael Steinberg for two decades; in his own modest, self-effacing fashion, he never talked once about the narrow escape he had from Nazi Germany. But quiz him about his days at Princeton or the tutelage under composer Bohuslav Martinu, and you will get torrents of fascinating prose, impressions, reflections, analysis. A very special man and music critic, one who well warrants being out there into the spotlight for a change, in a very timely film and article for which all concerned are to be commended.
Paul Hertelendy 53
The Notebook story Near Eastern Studies Grow (December 19), claims that Princetons Department of Near Eastern Studies is the oldest of its kind in the country. In fact, Yales Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations enjoys this distinction. Americas first professor of Arabic, Edward Salisbury, was appointed at Yale in 1841 and taught the first courses in Arabic and Sanskrit in American history.
Princetons innovation was to stress contemporary, rather than medieval, Arabic, using an inductive method developed by the late Philip K. Hitti. Princeton also took a leadership position in teaching all three major Islamic languages: Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, including speaking and listening comprehension.
Benjamin R. Foster 68
I was delighted to see you focusing on our department in your Notebook. Allow me a slight correction that is statistically of great significance: We currently have five rather than four undergraduates majoring in the department. This figure does not include the 12 to 15 certificate students the Near Eastern Program regularly attracts.
Erika H. Gilson
Regarding Hugh OBlearys Inky Dinky Do column of December 19 (PAW Online), I was struck by his down-to-earth common sense in reaction to the students fall from a chapel staircase.
It would be a sad world if young people at 20 behaved as people do at 40 or even 30. Youth is the time to stretch our wings, to try new things. But the risk can be too great and some will make foolish decisions. This has nothing to do with Princeton and everything to do with being young.
In todays world college men and women have not yet left childhood. As OBleary points out, we need to trust them to be the people we know them to be and treat them as we would want our own children to be treated. In the post September 11 world if we havent learned that life is precious and that we need to take care of those who are too careless about themselves, it will take a lot more than education at Princeton to save us.
I used to agree completely with Charles W. Bray 55 (Letters, December 5) that one could not make an informed voting decision based on the information, or lack of, contained in the trustee ballot.
Several years ago, I changed my mind after receiving a reply from the university secretary to my letter of protest. I remember him stating that this was not comparable to a national political election, so one should not expect candidates to reveal positions on issues. He also wrote that the Alumni Council nominating committee did such a thorough job of selecting excellently qualified candidates that whoever won was superbly qualified to serve, so we did not need any more information than the background provided with the ballot.
Since coming around and now understanding the true meaning of these elections and how the nominating committee knows what is best for me and the university, I now summon up all the knowledge and critical thinking skills acquired by me as an undergraduate. I vote for the candidate with the most pleasing photograph or the one with the easiest name to spell.
Max Maizels 72
The current Triangle show is vulgar and unfunny. I invite the chair of the sociology department to put this show in a sociological context to help me understand why there was no wit, charm, grace, or much redeeming social value. Biting satire and clever irreverence are fine, but there was precious little of that. Goethe said that what a person laughs at reveals more about him than anything else. What does the show say about the players? About Princeton?
My expectations had been so high when I first walked into the auditorium that to see an entire Dutch skit based on the single, vulgar pun a finger in the dike was more than a letdown. What was unsettling was that I assumed I was glimpsing the humor of the future leaders of the country.
Although I realize that Shakespeares plays included bawdy puns and ribald humor, he was playing to a wide range of taste and intelligence and he had to appeal to an audience on several different levels. That is not the case with the Princeton University audience. Had the show been, for the most part, funny, I would have excused it and not written this letter, which is my first ever to PAW. I am truly sorry for the undergrads in the show because they obviously do not know how bad the show is.
Arch C. McColl, III 70
Recently, the American Red Cross announced that all of the more than $500 million contributed to its Liberty Fund for September 11 victims will be used to aid those affected by the terrorist attacks. It abandoned an earlier plan to divert some $200 million of the Fund to other Red Cross projects. In so doing, the Red Cross has taken a stand for the principle that charitable organizations have a moral obligation to their contributors to use contributions in support of the stated purpose for which they were solicited and not for any other purpose, no matter how important to the charity.
Sadly, this principle has not yet reached Princeton. Since 1969, Princeton has been soliciting contributions from alumni for Class Memorial Funds, but it has used about 70 percent of those funds for Annual Giving, which does not create memorials of any kind. These funds have been diverted to Annual Giving without prior notification to the individual contributors and without obtaining their consent.
Let us hope that the Tilghman administration reconsiders the Shapiro administrations ill-advised refusal to remedy this abuse of alumni trust. Doing so will cost Princeton little more than the production and installation of two or three dozen memorial plaques. All that needs to be done is to compensate each affected class (most of the Classes of 1944 through 1976) by providing it with a memorial(s) of a value commensurate with the amount diverted from the Class Memorial Fund. Each class could select its memorial(s) from a list of existing naming opportunities scholarships, professorships, classrooms, etc. These would be true, lasting memorials that would bear the name of the class they are intended to memorialize.
The Red Cross has concluded that, in the long run, retaining the trust of its supporters and upholding its reputation for honesty and integrity in fundraising is more important than gaining a short-term financial advantage (even one as substantial as $200 million). Princetons administrators and fundraisers should take note.
John Stryker 74
I am very grateful for the article L.A.s little orange book (November 21) about me and the Princeton in Hollywood directory. After I read the article, it occurred to me that some people might have the impression that this is a for-profit business. I would like to make it clear that the Princeton in Hollywood organization is part of the Princeton Club of Southern California, which funds the directory, and that all proceeds are returned to this nonprofit organization to fund PiH events.
Alison Graham Faggen 84