March 24, 2004: Letters

In the “Nation’s” service

Women in science

Technology on campus

Tories at Princeton


Football woes

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In the “Nation’s” service

It comes as something of a relief to see that there are still some Princeton alumni who cherish and are prepared to defend the liberal values that made this country great.

As both a Princeton alum and a subscriber to The Nation I am proud to support Katrina vanden Heuvel ’81’s struggle against the extremists currently leading America from its most cherished ideals (A Moment With, February 11).

Isaac Boxx ’99
Austin, Tex.


Anticipating a virulent reaction from my fellow graduates to your interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel, I am writing to let you know that there is at least one “old alum” who subscribes to the philosophy of The Nation, the wonderful political weekly of which Ms. Vanden Heuvel is editor.

I believe that her assessment of the reasons for The Nation’s increase in popularity is “right on.” The Bush administration has indeed “manipulated and deceived the American people,” and only an independent voice like The Nation is capable of exposing these frauds.

David W. Pratt ’59
Pittsburgh, Pa.

The interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel was of great interest to me because I have been an admirer of hers for some time.

A few months ago I sent her an e-mail in which I told her how much I enjoy The Nation and the good work she is doing. I cited her as one of my few heroes and assumed that as editor she wrote most of the lead editorials, which continually fan the flames of my liberal passions (Bill Greider ’58 also helps with this). I hope at her 25th reunion there is an appropriate panel on which she will be invited to participate.

Stokes Carrigan ’52
Wayne, Pa.


Only a mushroom cloud over Manhattan might awaken Katrina vanden Heuvel from her pacifist, utopian daydream. Her rat-a-tat-tat of ultraleft rhetoric is, unsurprisingly, devoid of a single pragmatic solution to address the extreme threats facing our nation.

If our shared goals as Americans are long-term peace and individual freedom, U.S. intelligence and military power must eliminate anarchic terrorists and fascistic dictators who threaten free countries, possess no conscience, and are not inclined to reason. Let’s leave the “compassionate” hand-wringing over what causes psychotic international behavior at the door, along with many tenets of Vanden Heuvel’s self-proclaimed “progressivism.”

The claim that the U.S. is not acting in self-defense is a canard. We were attacked in September 2001 and have rightfully gone on the offensive to avoid loss of innocent lives on our own soil. The results, so far, speak for themselves: no terrorist attacks in the U.S. and moderating positions from dangerous regimes.

And what if we had not gone on the offensive? Curiously, Vanden Heuvel would be the first to attack the government for not anticipating and preemptively stopping any disaster that ensued — including any that involved the Saddam Hussein regime.

The other great lie of the ultraleft is that Islamics will hate America more than they will love the individual freedoms we help them achieve. Let’s have an accurate polling of whether the Afghani and Iraqi people believe they have a brighter future now.

As the likes of Vanden Heuvel co-opt the Democratic party and use every breath to advocate a less-safe America (and world), I will continue to be counted as a former Democrat.

Francis J. Weller ’81
Greenland, N.H.

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Women in science

In his letter in the January 28 issue, Brian Hoffman ’46 criticizes President Tilghman’s efforts to increase the representation of women in the science and engineering faculty, appealing to logic and fairness to conclude that “consideration of the sex of an applicant always is impermissible.”

Numerous studies document the fact that females leave the sciences in disproportionate numbers for reasons that have nothing to do with their individual talent or “perceived promise,” as Hoffman puts it. (See, for example, the landmark study Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences, by Seymour and Hewitt, 1997; as well as Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing, by Margolis and Fisher, 2001.) They cite the lack of female role models and the unwelcoming environment fostered by the current predominance of male faculty members. Increasing the representation of women in the faculty is a vital step toward stemming the current hemorrhage in the science and engineering talent pool.

Research has also shown that women who do remain in the sciences and engineering often receive less credit than men do for equally valuable contributions – witness M.I.T.’s well-known 1999 self-study that found that women faculty experienced inequities in salary, space, and access to resources as compared to their male colleagues of the same academic rank. Women who succeed in the sciences and engineering do so despite the difficulties; attempts to evaluate their “demonstrated accomplishments and perceived promise” are likely to underestimate their true value.

We applaud Princeton’s efforts to increase female participation in science and engineering at all levels.

Nicholas Howe ’93
Susannah Howe ’96
Donna Riley ’93
Drew Guswa ’94
Glenn Ellis *87

The writers are members of the science and engineering faculty at Smith College.


I was distressed to read Brian Hoffman’s letter about women in science. Science is a creative endeavor, and as such its practitioners need to come at a problem from different angles. A homogeneous group is more likely to look at things from a similar angle. While any two people may be equally good scientists, a woman may approach a problem differently, and that difference may be responsible for a breakthrough.

The same goes for any minority or underrepresented group. To enrich and further the cause of science, or any field, it is imperative to gather not only the best minds, but also a diverse group of minds. If a field is seen as comprising predominantly white males, then female and minority students may feel there is no place for them and will be less likely to pursue that field. We all lose when this happens; therefore we must actively try to recruit the best and most diverse practitioners. I agree with Professor Hoffman that “demonstrated accomplishments and perceived promise” are the most important criteria, but Princeton clearly perceives promise in difference, and has enriched the University and the larger world immeasurably as a result.

David A. Ganon ’84
Coral Gables, Fla.
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Technology on campus

Edward Tenner ’65’s piece on electronic resources available to the Princeton community particularly resonated with me (feature, December 17). An academic librarian for close to a decade, I can identify personally with the comments decrying today’s students’ research habits.

As the article rightly points out, the proliferation of such “information illiteracy” is aided and abetted by the seductive allure of the Internet, which beguiles users with the prospect of immediate gratification. The easy and convenient Google has come to overshadow the cornucopia of resources, resulting in a fundamental change in the conduct of research in the information age.

I could not agree more with those, like Professor Stanley Katz, who recognize the important role librarians can and should play in the development of information gathering and evaluation skills among students, which should be considered an essential part of their Princeton education.

David Ettinger ’76
Washington, D.C.
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Tories at Princeton

In response to the Princeton Tory and Evan Baehr ’05’s criticism of President Tilghman, which appeared in the New York Times January 21, I feel compelled to remind him and those who believe that Princeton, under her leadership, is moving in a dangerously un-Tory direction, that Princeton was, from its inception, a hotbed of anti-Tory radicalism.

John Witherspoon, who served as president, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. James Madison, who went on to become president of the U.S., was a revolutionary when he completed his education at Princeton (then, the College of New Jersey). James McCosh, who also served as president of Princeton, was a religious freethinker and an educational reformer in a decidedly radical mode.

When Princeton became a bastion of anti-intellectual snobbery, Woodrow Wilson 1879 opposed the eating clubs and fought to establish a distinguished graduate school. As someone who was at Princeton in the ’50s, when anti-Semitism was rampant, I always lamented that the spirit of Witherspoon, McCosh, and Wilson had languished. Tilghman is in the great tradition of the Scottish Enlightenment that has always been at the heart of Princeton’s greatness. I celebrate her presidency and deplore the reactionary backlash now in vogue. If this group wants to be really Tory, then they should emulate Margaret Thatcher, the only woman prime minister of Britain, and Benjamin Disraeli, who was born a Jew. Indeed, Michael Howard, the current leader of the Tory party, who is also Jewish, has actively promoted women in positions of leadership. These so-called Princeton Tories need a lesson in what it really means to be a Tory.

Richard Cummings ’59
Bridgehampton, N.Y.
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Hearty congratulations to filmmaker Laurie Kahn-Leavitt ’78 on her outstanding PBS special, Tupperware!, and Kathryn Beaumont ’96’s interview (A Moment With, January 28). I came across the interview while perusing PAW as I was watching the show.

As a Rexall executive when the company bought Tupperware, I learned the inner workings and motivations of Tupperware home parties. I am pleased to say that Ms. Kahn-Leavitt’s documentary showed it just the way it was. In these days of Hollywood hype and media negativism, it is a pleasure to see a program depict the good and bad responsibly . . . and make the point that Tupperware created a milestone in female opportunity for success in the business world. Our country was just learning, by giving women opportunity, to use the other half of the brain power, desire, and drive that our nation offers. Let us hope there are more Tupperware parties in the Middle East, where they have yet to see what this “other half” can do.

Freeman Gosden Jr. ’50
La Quinta, Calif.
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Football woes

I should like to remind letter-writer Robert C. Lang ’70 (January 28) — and other disgruntled football fans — that football is only a game (among many others), provided by the University to support the concept of mens sana in corpore sano, keeping the undergraduates off the streets until they are mature enough to enter (1) business, (2) government, (3) graduate studies, or (4) professional sports.

W. W. Keen James ’51
Albion, R.I.
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