January 26, 2005: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
In the 26 years since graduation I have never written a letter to PAW, although I have read it faithfully. But after reading “Off the Barricades” (cover story, Dec. 8), I experienced such sadness and dismay, I felt I had to write.
Author Mark F. Bernstein ’83 displays a rather biased point of view about the decline in political activism on campus, almost as though he wanted to provoke alumni to write PAW letters of protest. If that was his goal, he succeeded with me.
As someone who participated in the daily protests against the University’s investments in corporations doing business in South Africa in the late 1970s, culminating in our sit-in overnight in Nassau Hall in 1978, I think Mr. Bernstein glosses over the intensity with which University students protest against things that disturb them. In addition, including the student comment that “cultural diversity” has contributed to the decrease in student protest movements at Princeton is a low blow, verging on racism.
Princeton has always existed in a “bubble,” as he writes, but students always had and still have an obligation to acknowledge that decisions made in the larger world impact them. Even more disturbing are students’ remarks such as, “Princeton students don’t like to offend people” or “you don’t like to get into a fight with your friends” (when discussing politics) or exhorting “politeness” instead of making strong beliefs known.
Wake up, people. Kids your age are dying in Iraq for no discernible reason, and before we know it, a draft could be reinstated. South Africa and apartheid were very far away, but that didn’t keep us from saying for months on end: “Princeton divest, oh yeah, just like the rest.”
To those who claim they are too “busy” to look at the outside world and register an opinion, remember that these four years of your life represent the moment when you have the luxury and the resources to dissent.
This is your time: Don’t squander it on “politesse.” Contrary to the isolationist views portrayed in the article, you can make a difference.
Julie A. List ’78
I was interested to read about the “jowled for Jesus” research being conducted by religion professor R. Marie Griffith (Reading Room, Dec. 8). I suspect her studies will find a link to the phenomenon of the “snack,” an 18th-century term referring to food eaten between regular meals (and raised to a perfected art in America). Professor Griffith cites 1957 as being the year that Pray Your Weight Away (the first religious book of the American diet culture), was published. This seems to coincide with Madison Avenue’s concentrated marketing of everything, including snacks, to the newly prosperous post-war American public.
That marketing encouraged the nation to eat at any time and in any place, and is still present in advertisements encouraging us to eat while watching television, while driving, while rollerblading, while on the playing field or the playground. The newest baby strollers now have cup holders. We are anesthetized to the act of eating, and programmed by marketing to fill our mouths without any awareness or appreciation of the act. It is no wonder we are becoming gospel gourmands (referring, at least, to the New Testament crowd).
I think it was Mohandas Gandhi who said something to the effect that “a friendly familiarity with the world’s religions is a benefit to all.” Perhaps there is a related lesson about this American Christian diet culture to be found in some Buddhist teachings. There is a story that the Buddha was once asked what was the method of his dharma, to which he replied, “We walk, we sit, and we eat.”
“But,” responded the interlocutor, “that is not unusual; everyone does these things.”
“Yes,” the Buddha is said to have replied, “but when we walk, we know we are walking; when we sit, we know we are sitting; when we eat, we know we are eating.”
Rocky Semmes ’79
It was nice to see the news about the University’s endowment nearing $10 billion (Notebook, Nov. 17).
It would be nicer if the trustees were to publish more details about the endowment, such as:
• A breakdown of the assets including the numbers associated with securities that are traded publicly.
• A periodic update on the above. It could look a bit like the report from a mutual fund.
Then those of us who haven’t done as well as has the endowment might be able to improve our results. Maybe then we could afford to increase our support to Annual Giving!
Don Tocher ’59
Let’s hope Princeton has the good sense to accept R. Mark Grady ’84’s daughter if and when she applies (Letters, Dec. 8) because the University would do well to have more students on campus who know how to just “hang out” with friends and family. (Besides, if she’s anything like her father, she’s bound to be a star, in a modest, entirely likable sort of way!)
With so many competitive, highly stressed and already-burned-out students arriving on campus, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that University Health Services is calling for additional staff to address increasing and serious demands, particularly in the area of mental health (Notebook, Dec. 8). As a psychologist, I am aware of growing research on college students indicating that social and affective adjustment may have as much to do with scholastic performance and persistence in school as academic preparation does. So socially and emotionally healthy students are going to succeed academically in ways that their anxious, over-extended, multi-tasking peers may not. Maybe the Admission Office and University Health Services ought to compare notes.
Jennifer Bryan ’83
Thank you for your profile of Michael Graves (feature, Nov. 17). Although we do not yet have a Graves building on campus, we shall soon have a preview: Michael Graves has designed furnishings for the newly restored Chancellor Green. The Humanities Council will phase them in as funds become available.
Thanks to Gerhard Andlinger ’52 and the Class of 1970, we have ordered spectacular Graves-designed turquoise rugs for the rotunda and a handsome library table and chairs for the adjoining seminar room. Future stages include wonderful leather reading chairs and lighting. Students love this new study space so much they have asked for it to remain open 22 hours a day. (Which 22, you will wonder?) We invite you to come and visit the space. It is already exquisite, and will be dazzling when all the components of Michael Graves’ design are in place.
Carol Rigolot h’70, p’01
As a history professor at a small public university in the Upper Midwest, I applaud Princeton’s efforts to combat grade inflation (Notebook, Oct. 20).
I am disappointed, however, at the smug arrogance displayed by some opponents of these efforts.
It is indeed true that Princeton undergraduates mostly arrive with strong academic preparation and a high degree of motivation. They are not, however, of a different species from undergraduates elsewhere. In my own classes, I assign fewer A’s than I would expect to assign at Princeton, but those students who earn an A from me would be just as capable of doing so at Princeton, even under the more rigorous grading standards in place when I was an undergraduate. Similarly, I am quite certain there are many Princeton undergraduates who would not earn an A in my classes.
Princeton graduates already hold an unfair advantage in the job and educational marketplace over equally qualified alumni of institutions that lack Princeton’s pedigree. Inflated grades provide Princeton graduates with a double advantage. The University has an obligation to make sure that the grades it assigns accurately reflect the academic achievements of its students.
Joel M. Sipress ’86
Dean Malkiel could have avoided the specious rationale in support of her
new grading policy, which is severely flawed in many respects, if she had simply stated the following: If a student deserves an A, give him or her an A; if a student deserves a B, give him or her a B; and if a student deserves a C, give him or her a C.
I believe that our renowned and exalted faculty is surely capable of
determining fair and appropriate
Michael Scharf ’64
This is in response to Jane Dick ’91’s letter (Nov. 3) concerning sororities.
The letter’s combination of self-righteousness (“I would like to disabuse our current administration”) and lack of gratitude (giving more money to her sorority than to the University) bespeaks the narrowness and lack of intellectual depth that seem to point those organizations away from the broad spectrum of positive values Princeton represents. Dick’s use of the scientific sample of one — she met one of her best friends in the sorority, therefore sororities are good — and of the fallacy exposed by Hume relating to confusing coincidence with causality, do much more to expose the missing elements in her version of one of the world’s greatest educational experiences than anything I could say.
One to the administration, based on the evidence at hand.
Mike Parish ’65
“Into Africa” (cover story, Nov. 3) overlooked a Princetonian who has been making an outstanding contribution to education in North Africa for more than 40 years.
Joseph A. McPhillips III ’58, is headmaster of two large schools, the American School of Tangier and the American School of Marrakech. The latter he founded himself. Unlike most American schools abroad, which cater to children of American parents, the student populations of McPhillips’ schools are almost 100 percent Moroccan. His graduates have for the most part attended American universities, including Princeton, and now occupy important positions in almost every field of Moroccan professional and commercial life.
John Hopkins ’60
Your account of election-day victories (Notebook, Dec. 8) omitted the re-election of Democrat Jim Marshall ’72 in Georgia’s Third Congressional District, for a second term. While the state as a whole went for Bush and elected a Republican senator, Jim garnered an impressive 63 percent of his district’s votes (versus 51 percent in 2002, when he ran for an open seat against the same opponent).
Ed Strauss ’72
As an occasional (and generally pleased) reader of PAW, I must confess some confusion about the numbers that often appear after a person’s name in your columns. I know I am a ’51 (i.e. I am a member of that undergraduate class) and that were I to be a *51, I would have a graduate degree. Further, if I were my own widow, I would be w’51. But beyond that I have questions.
The President’s Page (Nov. 17) speaks of “Sen. John Edwards P04” and I assume that Sen. Edwards was, appropriately, given an honorary degree earlier this year — he certainly never attended Princeton. If he received an honorary degree — right on, Princeton! — I missed it. Or maybe “P04” means something else. That same page mentions “Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin P06” and that leads me to wonder:
Are we now learning about who will get honorary degrees in 2006?
Is David Dobkin a really well-preserved individual with an honorary degree given to him by Woodrow Wilson back in 1906?
Is there some other, more prosaic explanation?
Then there is a reference, on the President’s Page, to “David Knights S77.” Is he married to an undergraduate from the Class of 1977? Meanwhile, a couple of pages later there is a letter to the editor from “Ruth Wielgosz s’93.” Is she a spouse of an undergraduate in the Class of 1993?
If she is, did Ms. Wielgosz present the spouse-numbering style correctly, or did the president, who used “S77” in what may be a similar situation? (No apostrophe there, you will notice.)
Or, perhaps, Ruth gets a lowercase “s” because she is a woman, while David, a male, gets the uppercase “S.” (I am particularly interested in your response on this variable, as I am an alumnus named David with a wife named Ruth.)
Then there’s the question, how do you identify a spouse of someone with a graduate degree? Is that person a — *s, or is that person a — *S? Or is there some other way of handling that situation?
It might help if you ran, perhaps annually, a little box decoding these things.
David S. North ’51
Editor’s note: The “p” designation following Sen. John Edwards’ name indicates he is the parent of a member of the Class of 2004. PAW’s style, which differs slightly from the style of the President’s Page, for that identification is “p’04.” Other designations used in the magazine are as follows: “s” for spouse of a Princeton graduate; “h” for an honorary class member; “w” for widow or widower of a Princeton graduate; and the less commonly used “k” for kin of a graduate. Thus, David Dobkin p’06 is identified as having a child in the Class of 2006, while David Knights s’77 is the husband of a 1977 graduate, and Ruth Wielgosz s’93 is the wife of a 1993 graduate. The same designations apply to graduate alumni but an asterisk is used before the year instead of an apostrophe.
Your article on the cancellation of the online alumni education program (Notebook, Nov. 3) contains factual errors and is misleading as to the true reasons for the termination.
First, the correct name of the program is @princetonCourseware, which, significantly, is a trademark of the University.
Second, interest among alumni has been large and was rapidly expanding. In the first five years, about 3,000 alumni registered some 5,500 times for programs. They came from 60 countries, and every class from the mid-1930s on was represented, including notable graduate-alum participation. In the last year, about 1,000 more alumni (of which 60 percent were young alumni) registered 2,500 times, a rapid acceleration in both participants and number of programs taken. The total participation is much higher than all other alumni education programs combined. As to lack of “follow-through,” there are no statistics supporting this contention, and programming had been changed to single lectures of one hour or less. There was significant participation by parents and the campus community, even some current students.
Third, costs were actually declining and in fact had dropped precipitously. The last program, by Professor John Murrin, had nonsalary costs of less than $2,000, versus the first program’s cost of more than $50,000. Two years ago, five Educational Technologies Center staffers devoted more than half of their time to developing courseware, and in the last year only two did so.
Finally, alumni programs of any sort rarely involve untenured faculty, who cannot afford the time in activities not leading to tenure. But one need only peruse the courseware list to see broad participation of prominent senior faculty who unanimously complimented the program and its results. Other faculty continued to approach ETC about future programs. The technologies involved have been successfully employed in classroom activities, as well.
So if cost, alumni interest, and faculty acceptance are not the real reasons for @princetonCourseware’s cancellation, what is? Earlier this year, I wrote to Serge Goldstein (director of academic services, Office of Information Technology) explaining the importance of the program’s outreach to alumni, faculty, and the campus community — even to the public, as some of the newer programs were unrestricted. He replied that “this kind of ‘outreach’” is not “mission-critical” to OIT.
OIT is the largest department at the University, and its one-sentence mission is “to enable the effective use of information technology in support of the University.” Incredibly, that support excludes alumni.
Douglas Blair ’71
(Douglas Blair was director of Production and Client Services for @princetonCourseware until the program was cancelled.)
I don’t disagree with any of the facts Martin Feder ’78 cites in his letter to PAW (Nov. 17). Unfortunately, his letter does paint a clear picture of the Middle East today. But I find his conclusion from these facts absolutely terrifying.
The fallacy of this type of logic, which seems to be becoming increasingly popular in the world, is that one can eradicate ideas by forcing new ones on people. The lessons of Napoleon’s march across Europe almost 200 years ago should have taught us that this isn’t possible.
If there’s going to be peace in the world, we’re going to have to forgive each other for what has happened, and work together to find new alternatives to fundamentalism, terrorism, and warmongering. That isn’t idealism, it’s pragmatism, and it is a better choice than more tank democracy.
Tim Dowd ’04
Imagine my joy when a former Princeton roommate, Neal Grenley ’69, called to tell me I was in From the Archives (Nov. 17). Now I can die happy!
I’m sure PAW has received tons of e-mails detailing who all those cute men/girls are in the kickline from Enter Venus, but let me say I’m the one with the really nice legs, and Peter Orton ’70 and Tom Hudnut ’69 will have to battle it out for ugliest. Bill Bowers ’68, our president, was smart enough to get a costume with pants!
What readers may not know, and what may give this photo historical significance, is that it’s the very last kickline photo before Triangle became co-ed. When I became Triangle president the following year, fellow officers Paul Latchaw ’69, Dick Drennan ’69, and I decided to put the first-ever woman in a Triangle Show. (We had just seen Hair on Broadway and were feeling rebellious.) The Triangle trustees said OK, but it “had to be a Princeton student.”
Perhaps they thought this was a clever way to thwart our plans, I don’t know. I do know that the officers spent all of Freshman Week in 1968 courting the 15 Critical Language students who were living at the Graduate College, trying to convince them that, sure, Princeton was hard as hell and they had only one year of study there, but wouldn’t they like to spend 15 to 20 hours a week rehearsing and then all of their December holidays on a bus? Amazingly, Sue Jean Lee ’70 was courageous or crazy enough to say “yes.”
We were worried about the long-term effect of adding a woman to the show: What would it do to the tradition of the all-male kickline? Subsequent Triangle shows proved the tradition has survived just fine.
The officers, cast, and company of A Different Kick, Triangle’s 1968 show, can be proud of their part in introducing coeducation at Princeton. And I am proud to be seen struttin’ my stuff in this 1967 photo. Seeing the picture brought back many happy memories of my time in Triangle, one of the great institutions that make Princeton the best damn place of all.
Granville Burgess ’69
Editor’s note: Three other Triangle Club members wrote in to identify men in the kickline. Geoff Peterson ’69 explained that the photo shows “a fictitious kickline, created (as was then customary) especially for the publicity photo that would adorn the centerfold of the souvenir program for Enter Venus.” Peterson, Bill Bowers ’68, and Tom Hudnut ’69 identified the “ladies” as, from left: Charlie Black ’69, Burgess, Peter Orton ’70, George Cowen ’69, Dave Tundermann ’68, Bowers, Hudnut, the late Paul Latchaw ’69, and David Baker ’68. All were Enter Venus cast members except for Tundermann, who was program manager on the business staff. Coincidentally, Marcus Burke ’69, a Triangle business staff member for that show, was also profiled in the Nov. 17 issue, on page 43.
The image accompanying the Dec. 8 Notebook “Of Interest” item on the “Derso & Kelen: Cartoons and Carica-tures” exhibition at Firestone Library came from the Derso & Kelen Political Cartoon Collection, which was donated to the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library in 2002 by Emery Kelen’s wife, Betty, and their daughter Julia Kelen.
The Nov. 3 From the Archives photo incorrectly named Penn as winner of the 1939 intercollegiate table tennis championship. Princeton hosted the tournament that year, and its team of Daniel P. Kreer ’41 and Walter Petit ’40 was runner-up. Penn did not participate.