December 18, 2002: Notebook
The class: The Historical Roots of the Bin Laden Phenomenon
To most Americans, the attacks by Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon seemed to have come from nowhere. But Near Eastern studies professors Michael Cook, a medievalist, and Michael Doran *97, a modernist, knew differently. They developed a course, NES 367, to help students figure out why members of Al Qaeda are doing what theyre doing and what their strategies are, says Cook.
The course traces the history and culture of the particular part of the Islamic world from which Osama bin Laden and his movement of radical Islam grew, focusing on the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
More than 130 students signed up for the course, most of whom are not Near Eastern studies majors. Rami Ajami 04, a Muslim whose parents are from Lebanon, says the course has clarified many things for him. He says he has learned that Islam is more than a religion, but a form of governance and that Islam in the Middle East has become the primary source of self-identification, before nationality or ethnicity.
Students attend two lectures a week, read from a wide range of sources, including the Koran and an Al Qaeda training manual (discovered by police in a house in Manchester, England, and thought to have come from a training camp in Afghanistan), and write four papers.
Selected reading list: Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid (2000); The Life of Muhammad, by Ibn Ishaq (1955); Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, by Gilles Kepel (2002); Egypt in Search of Political Community, by Nadav Safran (1961); The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence, and Coexistence, by Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela (2000)
Graduate housing project breaks ground
Local environmentalists oppose destruction of area trees
Photo: Plans for a new graduate student complex near Lawrence Apartments include 206 units in seven buildings of varying heights, and two courtyards.
Construction of 206 graduate-student housing units near Lawrence Apartments began in October after university officials agreed to resolve several environmental issues.
To make up for the loss of 1,000 to 1,200 trees and shrubs in the heavily wooded area the main point of contention for opponents the university has pledged to plant 400 to 500 trees plus 3,800 shrubs and bushes around the new buildings and also will donate $50,000 to the Princeton Township Shade Tree Commission for plantings throughout the town.
The issue of tree removal is being taken extremely seriously by the university, said Thomas Wright 62, Princetons vice president and secretary, who stressed that the university is preserving the trees along the stream next to the construction site. Wright added that old aerial photos show that the land in question had not always been wooded and was farmland as recently as the early 1950s.
Some area residents questioned the townships approval.
Obviously 500 saplings and 3,800 shrubs are not an ecosystem equivalent to a 1,200-tree forest, no matter how many trees the university sprinkles around town, said Laura Lynch, conservation chairwoman for the Central New Jersey group of the Sierra Club.
Another issue was the potential impact of tree removal on various birds. In a study conducted in the spring, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs David Wilcove, a bird enthusiast, and Thomas Knight GS found 16 species that breed in the area and another 34 migratory birds that pass through. Wilcove said there were no endangered or threatened birds among those seen or heard. One bird, the black-throated blue warbler, does appear on the Audubon Societys watch list.
To address concerns about an increase in traffic and as a condition for approval of the apartments, the university agreed to a six-month test of a shuttle service for graduate students starting in January.
Mark Kirby, an architect and planner in the universitys Office of Physical Planning, said the new housing should be completed by next fall.
Yale and Stanford adopt early action
Last month Yale and Stanford Universities announced changes in their early admission policies, but Princetons policy will remain the same at least for now.
Yale and Stanford will move from early decision, which is binding, to early action, which will allow students to apply to other schools later, during the regular admission cycle. Both universities, though, will require students not to apply early to other schools. The new policies will affect students who will begin college in 2004.
Princetons early admission policy is binding and requires students to enroll if accepted. Harvard is the only school in the Ivy League that does not currently have binding early decision.
Princetons dean of admission, Fred Hargadon, who is retiring in June, said in a written statement that he does not see Yales decision having any particular impact or effect on Princetons policies. President Tilghman said the university would not review its policy until a new dean of admission is selected next year.
Worker survey shows satisfaction and concern
Results from a survey of 425 university employees last spring show that workers find the university to be a good place to work overall, but many still struggle to make ends meet and are dissatisfied with possibilities for promotion and the pay-for-performance wage increase system.
The 92-question survey, designed by members of the Workers Rights Organizing Committee in conjunction with Eldar Shafir, professor of
psychology and public affairs, was offered to the 600 workers in the Service Employees International Union and the Princeton University Library Assistants Union. (The university employs about 4,100 people in staff and administrative positions, not including about 1,100 faculty members.) The survey was conducted in April, and the results were collated by Princetons Survey Research Center.
This is the first time Shafir has been involved in a survey for employees at the university. Most interesting to me was the level of contentment among the low-paid workers, he says. As men and women who are working very hard for one of the foremost institutions in the richest country in human history, it would not be hard to make the case that they deserve a whole lot more than they get. But it is well known that people often compare themselves to those less fortunate than they and tend to report relative well-being even in situations which others would find severely lacking.
In early November, members of WROC met with President Tilghman and Charles Kalmbach 68 *72, the universitys senior vice president for administration, to discuss the survey results. Although WROC member Lisa Bailey, a graduate student in history, said the group was disappointed that the administration was not prepared to discuss cost-of-living adjustments, she described the results of the meeting as a promising sign that the university is taking the results of the survey seriously.
WROC was instrumental last year in moving the university to increase wages for its lowest-paid staff members, to shift temporary workers to permanent positions, and to reduce outsourcing. Princeton raised the minimum hourly wage for biweekly-paid staff members to $11 from $7.25.
Of those workers surveyed, 71 percent said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs. Feelings of job security also were very high, with about 79 percent responding that they believed their jobs were either secure or very secure.
Responses to the survey also demonstrated that workers largely felt appreciated by the university community. Seventy percent either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, I feel appreciated by Princeton students. However, 57 percent said they felt appreciated by the faculty, and 51 percent felt appreciated by management or administration.
The survey indicated problem areas as well.
Getting by on university pay is difficult for some. Thirty percent said they had at least one other job, and 42 percent said they had missed paying a utility bill because they did not have enough money.
As for moving upward within the system, 62 percent said they felt they had no possibility of promotion.
When it came to the wage increase system, 74 percent said they did not like the pay-for-performance system and would prefer a cost-of-living adjustment. PULA recently signed a contract that replaced pay-for-performance with fixed increases.
At a Council of the Princeton University Community meeting earlier in the fall, Provost Amy Gutmann said that the pay-for-performance system hasnt been around long enough to have a track record. The system has been in place for less than two years in some departments.
Richard Jeffrey *57, professor of philosophy, emeritus, died November 9. He was 76. An expert in probability and decision theory, Jeffrey joined the faculty at Princeton in 1974 and retired in 1999. He also taught logic and the philosophy of science. Jeffrey earned his Ph.D. at Princeton and began his academic career at Stanford in 1959. He was a visiting faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Study and at Princeton in 196364; he taught at the City College of New York and at the University of Pennsylvania before returning to Princeton as a professor of philosophy. Among his books are The Logic of Decision (1965), Probability and the Art of Judgment (1992), and the textbook Computability and Logic (1974).
Dean of the Faculty Joseph Taylor, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, will step down as dean at the end of the academic year and return to his department. Appointed to a five-year term by President Shapiro in 1997, Taylor agreed to stay in the position during President Tilghmans first two years. A search committee has been formed to name his successor.
Robert A. Caro 57 won a National Book Award in November for Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Knopf, 2002), the third volume of his biography of President Johnson.
Steven Healy, chief of police at Wellesley College, has been named Princetons director of public safety. He replaces Jerrold Witsil, who retired this year. Before joining the Wellesley force in 1999, Healey served as chief of police at Syracuse University.
Five new full professors were named to the faculty by the Board of Trustees: Linda Colley, a specialist in modern British history, comes from the London School of Economics and Political Science; she is the Shelby Davis 1958 Professor of History.
Daniel Garber, whose field is metaphysics and epistemology in the history of science, comes from the University of Chicago and joins the philosophy department.
Daniel Osherson, the Henry Luce Professor of Information Technology, Consciousness, and Culture, comes from Rice University; he specializes in psychology and computer science.
Nicholas Pippenger, from the University of British Columbia, joins the computer science department. His interests include computational complexity and probability theory.
Robert Schapire, who also joins the computer science department, has been on the technical staff at AT&T Labs since 1991. His research focuses on artificial intelligence and machine learning.