January 28, 2004: Notebook
The humanities at Princeton have a new home: the Andlinger Center, an expanded facility in the heart of campus. Located next to Nassau Hall, the new center, named for Gerhard Andlinger 52, comprises four buildings: East Pyne, Chancellor Green, the Joseph Henry House, and a new building, as yet unnamed, that is similar to the Joseph Henry House in size and style.
The Andlinger Center brings together a number of departments and programs, including classics, several foreign languages, Judaic studies, Hellenic studies, and the Council of the Humanities, which encompasses more than 20 interdisciplinary programs and attracts outstanding scholars and professionals to do research and teach at Princeton.
Humanities Council director Tony Grafton, the Henry Putnam University Professor of History, sees the center as a campus hub especially the renovated Chancellor Green, which has been restored to its Victorian-era grandeur. The space, once a library, is now a common area with comfortable seating and display cases where the stacks used to be. Below, a new, Internet-friendly café is expected to draw students and faculty from the four buildings and beyond.
Andlinger, who immigrated from war-torn Austria to the U.S. in 1948 and two years later came to Princeton on a scholarship, is a businessman who specializes in turning failing businesses into profitable ones. He has given more than $25 million to Princeton, including $23 million earmarked for the Andlinger Center. When I heard that the humanities was one of the top projects that needed funding, I said that this was a worthwhile cause, says Andlinger, an economics major who also studied Arabic at Princeton and says he believes that the basis of our civilization is the humanities.
The Andlinger Center points to a renewed focus on the humanities at a time when they appear to be falling from favor on other campuses. The number of students choosing humanities majors has declined significantly in the U.S. in recent years. According to the 1997 book Whats Happened to the Humanities?, edited by Alvin Kernan, the Avalon Foundation Professor of the Humanities emeritus at Princeton, humanities majors received 21.4 percent of all U.S. bachelors degrees conferred in 1969. By 1993, that number had dropped to 12.7 percent.
Princeton has stayed above the curve, graduating 25.8 percent of the Class of 2003 in the humanities, compared with 31.2 percent in 1973.
Through the Humanities Council scholars have an opportunity to exchange ideas with one another and work with students. Some of those who have come to Princeton this year through the Council include Michael Ayers of Oxford University, who studies 17th-century British philosophy; Maryse Condé, the prize-winning French Caribbean author; Leslie Kurke *88, professor of classics and comparative literature at Berkeley; and Yopie Prins *91, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Michigan.
The Council also brings together Princeton faculty who meet regularly for lunch and conversation, and offers a faculty seminar sponsored by Miles Gilburne 72, in which professors from different disciplines lead discussions on a particular theme.
The Society of Fellows program, underwritten by Lloyd E. Cotsen 50, brings in up-and-coming scholars for research and teaching. Their research fields are wide-ranging and include such topics as rural migrant women in post-Mao China; problems related to the creation of stars; and witchcraft politics in South Africa.
Former Princeton president Harold W. Dodds *14 announced his plans to create the Humanities Council in 1952, in a speech that set a high standard for instruction in the humanities. The end of liberal education is wisdom, he said. I hope that we in common with all other institutions of liberal learning will never be satisfied with anything less.
Fifty years later, Grafton still sees the paramount importance of humanities. Those in the humanities, he says, are the ones who first open up foreign languages and literatures, old forms of art and classical music, eastern religion, and western civilization to most educated Americans. And studying the humanities is a must for creative artists, he notes. The more you know about traditions, in many cases, the more you want to change them and the better the job that you do. he says.
Looking beyond the major majors
In 200203, 134 seniors majored in Princetons Department of Politics, the most popular concentration in the University. The 16 smallest departments graduated a combined total of 133 students. Forty-six percent of the senior class pursued one of five majors (politics, economics, English, history, and the Woodrow Wilson School), and as the University prepares to expand the undergraduate student body in 2006, the large departments seem likely to get even larger. The uneven distribution of majors has become a topic of concern for administrators like Nancy Malkiel, dean of the college. Weve naturally asked the question what will it do to each department? she says.
Ask politics department chairman Jeffrey Herbst 83. Before 2000, his department had a steady enrollment of 110 to 115 majors in each class. But the 2000 presidential election and the events of September 11, 2001, generated even more interest in politics, adding students and stretching advising resources. Especially at Princeton, where there is so much emphasis on independent work, the marginal effect of each individual major is significant, Herbst says.
The University plans to equip departments with new full- and part-time faculty when the student body expands, but Malkiel also aims to encourage students to examine some of the less-populated concentrations. A professor in the Universitys fourth-largest department, history, Malkiel is hardly an academic Robin Hood. She says she simply wants students to follow their intellectual passions and take advantage of the entire range of faculty resources.
Exploring new subjects comes naturally to many Princeton undergraduates. On average, 70 percent choose a major different than the one indicated on their applications, often flocking to fields in which they had limited exposure in high school. But while the social sciences thrive on attracting neophytes, areas such as Slavic languages (three majors in the Class of 2003) and Near Eastern studies (four majors in the Class of 2003) do not. They would love to have more concentrators but dont really quite know how to get them, Malkiel says. Using dynamic teachers in introductory courses is one strategy for attracting majors, and departments can reach out to natural constituencies, such as students with high Advanced Placement scores in related fields.
Smaller departments fight the perception, among both students and parents, that the popular majors are the only ones that lead to jobs, business school, or law school. To provide a different perspective, Malkiel has solicited success stories from the smaller departments for a new booklet that will highlight the range of career paths open to all Princeton students and show that music majors can be investment bankers.
The current interest in majors originated in a November 2002 meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community, a group of faculty, students, and staff devoted to examining issues related to the welfare of the University. Chemistry professor Michael Hecht, who serves on the C.P.U.C. executive committee, says that the oft-mentioned concept of diversity is at the heart of the issue. When students flock to a few departments, the breadth of knowledge suffers. I would think that the most important form of diversity, on a college campus, is intellectual diversity, Hecht says.
But for the students, who ultimately hold the power for change, the issue seems less pressing. Allison Arensman 04, an independent concentrator in bioethics and an undergraduate representative to the C.P.U.C., has heard all sides of the issue in C.P.U.C. and student government meetings. While she agrees that more one-on-one interaction with professors is ideal, she does not sense regret from her peers in large departments. I dont know if I would classify it as a problem, she says. I think its an interesting trend. Its troubling if students are majoring in things they are not passionate about.
Nye and Shapiro honored
On Alumni Day, Joseph S. Nye Jr. 58, dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, will receive the Woodrow Wilson Award, presented annually to an undergraduate alum whose career embodies Princeton in the nations service. Former University president Harold T. Shapiro *64 will receive the James Madison Medal, given to a graduate alum who has had a distinguished career, advanced the cause of graduate education, or achieved an outstanding record of public service. Both award recipients will lecture on Alumni Day, February 21.
This year four Princetonians are headed to Oxford University two as Rhodes Scholars, and two as Marshall Scholars.
David Robinson 04, a philosophy major from Potomac, Maryland, and Willow Sainsbury 04, an art history major from Auckland, New Zealand, were each awarded a Rhodes. Maia Schweizer 04 and Daniel Pastor 03 also will study at Oxford next fall, on Marshall scholarships.
Robinson, an opinion editor for the Daily Princetonian and a former Time magazine intern, plans to study moral philosophy in preparation for a career in journalism. Sainsbury, continuing work she began on a Martin Dale 53 Summer Fellowship, will catalog artifacts of New Zealands Maori people as part of her studies in material anthropology and museum ethnography.
Schweizer, a geosciences major from Pasadena, California, plans to explore the origins of life on earth and complete a masters degree in earth sciences. Pastor is currently in Chile researching that nations political history for an independent project. The politics major from Dallas plans to work in government or public service after finishing his masters degree in political theory.
Forty years after their construction, the five dormitories in the New New Quad are scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt, in preparation for Butler Colleges new four-year program and the expansion of the undergraduate student body. Lourie-Love, 1922, 1940, 1941, and 1942 Halls were due for renovation, but the University decided to rebuild because the cost of replacing the buildings was not very different from the cost of making repairs and upgrades, according to former Vice President and Secretary Thomas H. Wright 62, who retired January 1.
Designed by architect Hugh Stubbins, who also designed the Mudd Manuscript Library and Jadwin Hall, the modernist residences of Butler are not especially beloved on campus, but Wright said appearance was not the primary reason for razing the dormitories. Its as much a matter of the way the buildings are arranged, in terms of planning, as it is their architecture or design that is the problem, Wright said. The buildings do not create Princeton-like courtyards and Princeton-like vistas. Existing cul-de-sacs and blockages, he said, will be replaced with pathways and openings, so that students will be able to stand at the door of Wilcox Hall and see the distant green of the athletics fields.
Wright vowed to preserve the history of the gifts that funded the original buildings, citing the example of Palmer Stadium, which the University memorialized by embedding its original stone carving at the entrance to Princeton Stadium. Renovation funds will finance some of the construction of the new Butler dormitories, and the University will seek additional gifts.
The University currently is interviewing architects for the project. Demolition will begin in 2006, after Whitman College is completed and there is sufficient dormitory space for all students. Tentative plans aim for the new Butler quad to be ready for students in the 200809 academic year.
Butler, Mathey, and Whitman will become four-year residential colleges in 200607, the first year of an expanded student body. Wu, Walker, and 1915 Halls will remain part of Butler, in addition to the new ellipse dormitory under construction on the border of Poe and Pardee fields.
NASA named a new companion telescope to the Hubble Space Telescope after Lyman Spitzer 38, who served on the Princeton faculty for 50 years and died in 1997. Spitzer proposed the idea of launching a telescope into space in 1946, long before the technical capacity to do so existed, and worked for decades to convince doubters of its worth.
C. K. Williams, creative writing professor, won the 2003 National Book Award in poetry for his most recent collection, The Singing. Williams has won several major awards in recent years, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his 16th book of poetry, Repair. He joined the Princeton faculty in 1995.
James McPherson will be this years Baccalaureate speaker May 30. McPherson, the George Henry Davis 86 Professor of American History, is widely known as a preeminent Civil War scholar. His bestselling book, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize in history. He will retire at the end of this academic year after serving on the faculty since 1962.
Charles F. Kalmbach 68 *72, the first person to hold the position of senior vice president for administration at Princeton, resigned at the end of December, citing a desire to return to the corporate world. A search for his successor is under way.
Isabelle Sayen w43 died of cancer September 29, 2003. A tireless community activist with long-standing Princeton ties and known to many Princeton alumni, Sayen took classes for years at the University and was involved in numerous local organizations, including the New Jersey Safe Energy Alternative Alliance and the Coalition for Peace Action, of which she was a cofounder. Her husband, Henry, died in 1999. Memorial contributions may be made to Coalition for Peace Action, 40 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ 08540.