January 28, 2004: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
Princeton is to be commended for bringing another fine architecture and planning exhibit to the Art Museum (cover story, November 19). Architects, planners, and all others can learn much from studying Italian Renaissance cities, modern planning, and our everyday environment.
Looking at the illustration of Mantova in the article more closely, one sees an exaggerated view of the Renaissance city as an island separated from the mainland. This depiction is akin to modern depictions showing exaggerated urban concepts. Often these illustrations are nothing more than
pretty pictures commissioned at the behest of commissioners and developers, but sometimes their formulaic ideas are adopted at the expense of the community. Perhaps the best lessons our current architects and planners can take are from environmentalists, social workers, and educators.
Peter Kohn 96
In a letter in the November 19 issue, Larry Campbell 70 told a story about Bruce Partridge 62 and wondered what had become of this brave Princetonian. As a Haverford College alum, I am pleased to report that Bruce Partridge is a professor of astronomy at Haverford and has previously served both as provost and as dean of the college. The story Mr. Campbell told shows that Dr. Partridge was upholding Haverfords Quaker ideals long before he became a valued member of our faculty.
Jill M. Emmert s90
Several alert readers of PAW have pointed out to me a letter in the November 19 issue in which I am referred to as a courageous hero for having announced in a tense meeting 30 years ago that I would no longer accept Department of Defense funding for research then being carried out in Princetons physics department. I am certainly uneasy about being described as a hero, whether courageous or not. But I am very pleased indeed that my act of a third of a century ago is remembered by some present at the University then. I take particular pleasure in Larry Campbells observation that what I did was in the nations service. He makes an important point: One does not have to be secretary of defense, or majority leader of the Senate, or for that matter even in agreement with prevailing government policies, in order to join the long and honorable tradition of Princetonians acting in the nations service.
Bruce Partridge 62
Does anyone know what is wrong with the once-great Princeton football program? I have been a devoted fan since the 50s and am puzzled by the losing trend of recent years. Given the persistence of the trend, I wonder whether the University even cares to tackle the problem.
On November 22, 2003, the Tigers lost to Dartmouth, 2115, completing yet another losing season with two wins and eight losses. Since 1970, Tiger teams have lost a majority of their games. The record is 151 wins, 168 losses, and seven ties. It was not always so.
For the first 100 years of football, from 1869 to 1969, Princetons record is 598 wins, 174 losses, and 43 ties. This is a remarkable winning rate of 73 percent. Football is a venerated tradition at Princeton. It is time to reclaw the Old Tiger.
Robert C. Lang Jr. 70
Jim Paulson 72 *77s letter (November 5) not only smacks of the closed-minded intellectual elitism that has become so prevalent at Princeton, but clearly contradicts his own case. While ridiculing creation science and intelligent design, he asserts . . . natural selection recruited one gene duplication after another, gradually fashioning a system . . . Both recruitment and fashioning are functions of intelligence, and in applying these terms, Paulson characterizes the powerful opportunistic pressures as nothing less than a creating force. It is a very small step from Paulsons statement supporting a fashioning, or creating, force to a creator. This is the historical tightrope that evolution scientists have walked, and conscientiously tried to avoid.
As one of the laymen at whom Paulson looks down his nose, I sincerely hope that Princeton will shake off its intellectual stupor and reengage in open and constructive debate, on this topic and many others. Where is the danger in open, honest intellectual exchange? Perhaps Paulson and his ilk fear losing the intellectual crutch that the evolutionary theory provides them, and have to face the fact that there is an intelligence greater than their own, one that has been inside the door of biology all along.
Gerrit L. Wright 70
In the November 5 issue, President Tilghman presents arguments that Princeton should increase the representation of women as students and faculty members in the sciences and engineering (Presidents Page).
Unfortunately she does not support this claim by demonstrating why the increase would be justified. If male and female scientists and engineers can be expected to make equally valuable contributions through research and teaching, then in terms of desired outcomes it makes no difference if a department is staffed only by men, only by women, or any mixture thereof. A perceived need to add more women to science and engineering departments in preference to men necessarily assumes that females will make more valuable contributions than will males. History does not support this assumption.
We must be certain that our science and engineering departments base selection of new faculty members solely on demonstrated accomplishments and perceived promise. Consideration of the sex of an applicant always is impermissible.
Brian F. Hoffman 46
So the physics department is trying to recruit undergraduate majors (Presidents Page, November 19). I dont know whether to say What a joke, or if things have really changed. I was enrolled in Physics 105 (same lectures as Physics 103, but more intense class sections) in the fall of 1979, and I struggled in the class sections despite having a great interest in physics and astronomy and having come from an excellent public high school with a strong science-oriented program. I asked the adviser what they really expected out of students in Physics 105. I cant remember everything he said, but it finished with . . . and a working knowledge of differential equations.
Now, if you were lucky enough to have a year of calculus in high school and were smart enough to ignore all the naysayers advising you to repeat calculus at Princeton because the classes would cover so much more than your A.P. calculus class did (actually, it was about 5 percent more), then you were just starting to see differential equations as part of multivariable calculus as a freshman, and not showing up with a working knowledge. Then you would gain more extensive knowledge as a sophomore by taking Differential Equations, a 300-level course whether you took the math department version or the engineering school version.
Basically, if you werent some type of prodigy, they didnt have time for you, didnt have the patience for you, and didnt want you. No wonder they are under-enrolled. I, along with so many others who thought they were interested, ending up flunking out of being a physics major. This is why Princeton is the only university in the nation where as many people flunk into the engineering school as out of it.
Rich Clarvit 83
In Seats of Learning (feature, November 19) the No. 14 café chair is described as requiring . . . only seven pieces of bentwood, 10 screws, and two washers. The chair illustrated could not possibly be stable with fewer than 15 fasteners of some description.
Jack C. Childers Jr. 60
Its hard to convey the grief that the Princeton-in-Asia community is feeling, having lost Carrie Gordon in September (Notebook, November 5). As director of PiA, she gave so much to the organization and to the interns who are its ambassadors and its beneficiaries. Her stories made us laugh and her e-mails sustained us while we were abroad. After we came back, Carrie celebrated with us at our weddings, kept up with our career plans, and helped us keep Asia, and PiA, a vital part of our lives. Her energy, sense of humor, and selflessness prevented many of us from believing that her illness could ever slow her down, much less take her away from us altogether. She is truly irreplaceable.
Hilary Smith 98
I enjoyed reading about Professor Robert George (cover story, October 8). I dont recall Princeton as being a hotbed of knee-jerk liberals in my time there, but perhaps things have changed. He sounds like a refreshing challenger; I am reminded of the style of the late Admiral Hyman Rickover at the Naval Academy, who answered any students assertion with What makes you think so?
I must take issue with one point in the article, however, and that is the reference to David Hume, who is dismissed as an advocate of secular nonsense. For the record, Hume was an outstanding thinker and philosopher of his time, who thought long and deeply about the subject of religion. He made particular inquiry into the question of miracles, as recounted in the Bible, and came up with essentially a twofold conclusion: One cannot prove that Biblical miracles didnt happen, but there is no rational basis to think that they did. That of course is heresy in Christian orthodoxy and would have got Hume burned at the stake in earlier times. It was this inquiry that led Hume to reject the concept of the Trinity and come out as a Unitarian.
One can attach all kinds of pejorative terms to Humes conclusions on religion, but that doesnt lessen their validity.
Stuart Hibben 48
Bravo, Robert Lang 70, for iterating the distinction between conservative and right-wing ideologue: Calling Professor George a conservative is akin to calling President Bush one (Letters, November 19).
Journalists have long denigrated humane and responsible conservatives and have corrupted dialogue by applying conservative to right-wing zealots.
Gene McNulty 49
Your article about George Kennan 25 was well done (Notebook, December 17), but you failed to mention that he had been ambassador to the Soviet Union and to Yugoslavia as well as director of the Policy Planning Bureau in the State Department. To say that he never rose higher than a midlevel position is inaccurate and does not do justice to one of the most outstanding Foreign Service officers in the 20th century. Many of us Princetonians who served in the Foreign Service looked up to him as a role model. I am pleased that Princeton will honor him February 20.
Alan W. Lukens 46
The November 19 From the Archives photo was taken in front of the Woodrow Wilson School, probably between 1966 and 1968. The pipe smoker is Donald Weiss *71; the gentleman who is suggesting that we de-escalate is Ivan Sygoda *72. Everyone knew that the hippies were against the war, and so it was important to convey the image that so were more establishment types. Everyone showered, shaved, and dug out their best duds. There was even some discussion of wearing academic robes, but this was dismissed because, since we ate in them each evening at Procter Hall, they looked more disreputable than the usual jeans.
Howard Wainer *68
I think I am the one flying above the others (From the Archives, October 22). It could have been a few other guys (including Curt Hayes 78), but I think it looks most like me. And yes, I did make it across! I think Lynn Lucas-Fehm 78 and Betty Ann Cisco 78 are second and fourth from the right.
Tom Bowden 78
For the Record
In our November 5 Perspective, the television show The 700 Club was improperly identified; it is hosted by Pat Robertson.
In the same issue, the caption that accompanied our From the Archives photograph had an incorrect year for the last Big Three bonfire. It was in 1994.
PAW regrets the errors.