April 10, 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).
Certainly, we should all rejoice in the decline of the old boys network. But PAWs celebration of Wall Street executive Alexandra Lebenthal 86 (cover story, February 27) seems to miss the larger point of why we should rejoice.
When women deserving of top-level positions are passed over for senior managerial roles out of social tradition, it offends our belief in meritocracy. While Lebenthals story speaks to the rise of women above the non-meritocratic glass ceiling built on gender, her story also testifies to the persistence of an even more pernicious glass ceiling based on legacy.
Princeton enjoys portraying itself as a meritocratic institution in the public service. PAWs cover story on Lebenthal testifies that Princeton remains far from understanding its own vision. If the university really wants to tear down obstructions to meritocracy, it should start by treating the children of alumni like all other applicants.
Seth Green 01
After reading Ron Halpern 71s letter (February 13) I felt a burning desire to respond. I found myself feeling pity for Mr. Halpern. I do not pity him because of his views, I pity him because he clearly missed out on the wonderful experience that was, is, and will always be Princeton University. Yes, we generally have a not-so-subtle arrogance about ourselves, but that is a pride in ourselves and this incredibly distinguished institution. I do not agree with Mr. Halperns assertion that Princetonians ignore and do not care about non-Princetonians; rather, I think it is our intense love of Princetonians and Princeton that he mischaracterizes as indifference to others. My entire family and the vast majority of my close friends are members of the great unwashed portion of society referred to by Mr. Halpern, yet I love them every bit as much as I would if they were Princetonians. I feel a common bond with fellow Princetonians, and I do not feel that it is taking anything away from my relationships with others. My time at Princeton was filled with excitement, boredom, incredible joy, and sadness, but overall, a sense of achievement and pride. I am sure that I speak with the voice of a great number of Princetonians when I state that I love Princeton, and I sincerely wish that Mr. Halpern did too.
Daniel J. Sattizahn 99
Ron Halpern 71 articulates an important set of concerns that I think many of us recognize. I wonder if the estrangement he describes is more common or more acute among alumni who live in the West? When the attractive forces decrease as a function of both time and space, perhaps the estrangement increases as a power of both. In any event, the rhetorical styles of our undergraduate years (a regular feature of class notes, as Mr. Halpern identifies) seem odd, at best.
Mark Logsdon 71
Regarding H. Lansing Vail 46s letter (February 27) summarizing the opinions of the Princeton Alumni Association of Northern Ohio on the onset of coeducation at Princeton (overwhelmingly . . . NO!): It is my distinct pleasure, as a second-generation Princetonian and member of the Class of 2000, to report that the problems of coeducation foreseen 30 years ago by those living 100 miles west of the Hudson River are more than outweighed by the rewards reaped 30 miles south of it today. I feel very fortunate indeed to have spent four years developing some of the most important friendships of my life based on shared senses of humor and shared intellectual explorations, and not constrained by the gender segregation that so inevitably makes men and women alien to one another.
Sexual harassment is unacceptable; it is also, unfortunately, a fact of our culture. I left Princeton galvanized by what is wrong with gender relations in this country and tremendously inspired by what is right. I also left with the strength, of both intellect and conviction, to work toward a more just and civil society.
Carlynn Houghton 00
I write in response to Hugh M. F. Lewis 41 (Letters, January 30), who suggested that the trustees promptly convert Princeton to a single-sex, female university and be done with it because Princeton now has a lady president and a lady second-in-command.
Based on your letter, Mr. Lewis, it is clear that you are no Tiger, you are a dinosaur.
Betsy Smith Hellmann 93
When I read Hugh Lewis 41s sardonic letter about Princeton becoming all female, I was saddened not so much by his viewpoint as by his brevity. It seemed that he chose to throw his hands up in the air rather than attempt serious debate.
I believe all the characteristics that people have held against President Tilghman will prove beneficial. Her perception of the university has not been colored by the joys and melodramas of youth, as would be the case with an alumna or alumnus. Her Canadian citizenship has a sobering effect on rising American jingoism. And her atheism expresses an objectivity that will steer Princeton through these difficult times. As for gender, I trust that President Tilghman and the other women in her administration will judge men more equitably than they themselves have been judged in the past, thereby giving new meaning to the term the fair sex.
Martin Schell 74
If Hugh Lewis 41 is perturbed by the fact that President Tilghman, almost all of her top-dog appointments, and almost all of PAWs staff are female, hed better sit down before he looks at the roster of the Alumni Council staff. Its currently 100-percent male-free.
Terry Wintroub 69
One of the delights of PAW is reading the letters from disgruntled alumni. Normally I chuckle at these letters and move on, but the January 30 issue contains such a classic collection that I cant resist commenting.
First is a fine example of an old favorite, the women are ruining Princeton genre, from Hugh M. F. Lewis 41. Mr. Lewis includes the always-fun assertion that he doubts youll dare to print his letter even though lots of alumni agree with him. Unfortunately, the declining number of PAW letters complaining about women suggests there may not be many of this kind of old fogey left after all.
Next we have another familiar complaint, this one about architecture, from James F. Lotspeich 44. Mr. Lotspeich decries the decision to have the new science library designed by Frank Gehry, who is considered the greatest architect of our time by many critics and working architects.
The most virulent of the letters, and the only one that bothered me, is from Robert 0. Woods 62 on the familiar theme of people I disagree with who therefore shouldnt be allowed to speak on campus. The object of Mr. Woodss ire is Danny Glover, who gave a speech opposing Americas use of capital punishment (a view shared by a hefty percentage of Americans). My concern about Mr. Woodss letter, however, is not its substance or even its overheated language. It is that Mr. Woods is from a younger class than I am. Please do not print any more old-fogey letters from classes younger than 1955. They make me fear that I am getting very old.
John Tucker 55
It is rewarding to read about the exciting innovations now occurring at the university. I was especially interested in the January 30 issue with the article titled, Welcome to Princeton. What a wonderful introduction for incoming freshmen to have seminars taught by some of the finest minds and teachers in the university. How fortunate they are!
Mrs. John B. Purnell w39
I read with interest President Tilghmans letter on early decision (Presidents Page, February 27) and was thrilled to see that fairness and equity were among the important goals of the admission process. In her essay, she also talks about enrolling the strongest possible class. And therein, it seems to me, might be a little contradiction.
The admission process as it exists is inherently unfair. It favors families who can afford SAT tutoring, good school districts, private education, trips abroad, music lessons, sports camps, and special instruction. It ultimately serves to widen the gap between an educated elite and those who are not so fortunate. Early decision in particular favors the cynical and savvy who understand the statistical advantages of applying early.
My proposal: Eliminate early decision. Accept applications only from students who are among the top 10 percent of their high school classes. Then, using a lottery, pull out twice as many applications as the number of students Princeton intends to admit. Let people know their status after the lottery. Read only the applications that make it through the lottery and choose the class from these. The admission staffs work would be dramatically cut, and they would truly be able to get to know the applicants and choose the strongest. Princeton would be pulling from a wider pool and opening the gates to students who might not otherwise even consider applying. Perhaps Princeton would end up with a class that has fewer highly accomplished young people. But even if that were the case, the quality of a Princeton education is so extraordinary that surely the end results for any class admitted this way would be no different from what they are now.
Such a plan would be a powerful statement of confidence in the quality of the education offered, even if you admitted only a portion of a class this way. But it could also have some more valuable effects. It could create a more democratic Princeton. It could make for a more diverse class, representing more types of schools and communities than Princeton does currently. And it could change a campus culture by replacing the undercurrent of privilege with one of luck. That would be truly fair and equitable.
M. F. Badger 83
According to the From the Archives Web page, nobody has yet written in to tell you that the four celebrants in the November 7 issue are from the ancient and crusty class of 1995!
We recognize, from left to right, Vaise Lawhorne, Natanya Holland, maybe Melissa Floren 96, and Jennifer Case. I would guess that the picture was taken our freshman or sophomore year. P-Party, if we recall correctly, was a (nonalcoholic) party thrown by the university to which all students were invited. The dining halls were closed, and food was served down on Poe Field, where a band played and spoiled kids from Rocky and Mathey colleges grumbled about making the long walk just for a cold hoagie and some potato chips.
Chris Jones 95 and Julie Polhemus 95