March 23, 2005: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters. We may edit them for length,
accuracy, clarity, and civility.
Thank you for both articles about Geoff ’01 and Bethany Witmer ’01 Gasperini (Oct. 22, 2003, and Feb. 9, 2005). I have very strong ties to all ROTC alumni and to this day struggle with my feelings toward the University and those who were there in the late ’60s and early 1970 for how intolerant they were to a lot of us. Most of their opinions were completely ill-informed and based only on the emotions of the times. I truly appreciate the space you have given to those who have served. Since the volunteer military began in 1973, there are fewer and fewer of our national leaders (including Princetonians) who have even an inkling of what it is like to serve. Keep up the good work.
DOUG STINSON ’70
At the outset, I want to express my deep admiration for the courage and commitment proven by Geoff and Bethany Witmer Gasperini (cover story, Feb. 9). As we near the second anniversary of Iraq hostilities, they reminded me of other, vital varieties of moral courage, displayed (on facing editorial pages of the Feb. 17 New York Times) by Andrew J. Napolitano ’72, a lifelong conservative whose op-ed piece stakes out a perilous stand in defense of an attorney exercising her constitutional rights on behalf of an unpopular defendant; and also by the Times’ Judith Miller *72, who faces the prospect of 18 months imprisonment for her audacity in protecting the very free press and informed consent on which our democracy rests.
My regard for the sacrifice of the Gasperinis and their comrades is undiminished by my conviction that hostilities likely would never have been commenced had these press freedoms been more vigorously exercised, and if Americans had known in February 2003 all that we know today.
Coincidentally, it was two years ago that classmates joined the entire University community at Alumni Day 2003 in honoring Sen. Bill Frist ’74 with the Wilson Award. Clearly, Bill’s achievements in medicine and over his first decade in the Senate merited that day’s recognition. Yet I — and, I believe, many others present that day — now wonder whether we would reach the same conclusion if, as with the war, we had known then all that we know now of the apparent failure of Bill and the Senate party he now leads to match the moral courage of Princetonians cited above, and many others, in confronting the selfishness and shortsightedness of his colleagues on issues ranging from media regulation to intergenerational debt, and from civil liberties to climate change.
ALAN S. FINTZ ’74
It is heartening to see that Princeton still produces graduates patriotic enough to serve their country in the military like Army Capt. Geoff Gasperini ’01.
When I got my second lieutenant’s commission in the Marine Corps Reserve an hour before graduation in 1950, I joined an officer corps that was then heavily Ivy League in all the services. World War II was fresh, and many of us felt it an honor to serve as many of our classmates already had. I personally thought that a commission in the armed services was an obligation that went with a college degree. Many of the faculty then were veterans.
I was called to active duty when the Korean War started two weeks after graduation and fought as a Marine infantry officer in Korea. Fellow club member and Marine Lt. Allen Dulles Jr. ’51 was seriously wounded in Korea, as were a lot of my Yalie and Harvard buddies. Many of us remained in the reserves; I temporarily left my civilian career and volunteered twice for the Vietnam War and, out of retirement at age 62, for the Gulf War. I went through the middle of that war with the 1st Marine Division and was one of the first into Kuwait City.
Aside from outstanding Princetonians in public service like James Baker ’52, John Danforth ’58, and Robert Mueller III ’66, we have had some outstanding military officers like former Navy pilot Donald Rumsfeld ’54, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Henry Stackpole ’57, Marine Corps Reserve Brig. Gen. Andrew Davis ’70, and current Princeton director of development relations and retired Navy Reserve Rear Admiral Kirk Unruh ’70. I would hope there have been more distinguished senior officers from Princeton since then — and that Gasperini stays with the reserves and becomes one himself.
I am proud to see Princetonians in the nation’s service like Rumsfeld, Mueller, and Danforth, but rather than more Princetonian bureaucrats, I’d be prouder to see more of our best and brightest with requisite leadership qualities represented in the military officer corps.
COL. H. AVERY CHENOWETH ’50
Re “Turned Back at China’s Door” (Perspective, Feb. 9): Professor Perry Link indulges himself in believing the existence of a semimythic “blacklist,” which has never been proved. After all, it is the government’s prerogative to implement its border-control policy, which applies to both China and the United States.
Unfortunately, the United States has failed to do so.
XINPING ZHU *02
Perry Link has written a persuasive, courageous piece about one aspect of China’s handling of dissent amid a seemingly flourishing economy.
What makes his appeal for taking a stand on blacklisting China scholars from the West all the more poignant is the fact that Professor Link has been clearing the way for authentic relations with the United States for decades as one, with Professor C.P. Chou, in the vanguard of superb instruction in Mandarin here and in the intensive 11-week “Princeton in Beijing” language program.
The situation is a clear contrast to how we as a nation have long neglected studies of Arabic language and culture, and thereby mishandled many moves in the wake of the tragedy of 9/11.
Perry Link and C.P. Chou are protégés of the inimitable T.T. Ch’en, a professor of Chinese studies at Princeton for a quarter-century.
The fact that today 300 schools across America teach 25,000 students Chinese every day is in part a result of their exemplary teaching at Princeton, Middlebury (16 summers), and Beijing (13 summers so far), and their textbooks.
In October 1982, professors Ch’en, Link, and Chou met with our trustees at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to help make the case for a national initiative to teach Chinese in leading high schools. The result today is the most successful language intervention in American schools in 60 years.
Best of all, with the learning of a language begins the penetration of a society that can allow for a genuine meeting of minds between two disparate cultures — precisely what we have failed to do in the Middle East.
Last November was Shirley Tilghman’s first trip to Asia as president, seeking to advance Princeton’s myriad interests there. It may take a little more time to stop the blacklisting of scholars.
Hopes for long-term peaceful relations between China and the United States will be enhanced when the Chinese understand that blacklisting works against their own aspirations and dreams.
SCOTT McVAY ’55
I am writing concerning your piece in the Jan. 26 Notebook section, “Students urge University to invest ethically.” Alumni would be interested to hear that the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees has just announced that it has asked the Resources Committee, a University committee that is supposed to deal with all issues relating to Princeton’s investments, to institute a formal review of the University’s proxy voting policy and report back in the spring with recommendations for any changes that should be made.
This committee, in its deliberations, will consider the opinions of various University community members. If students and alumni are apathetic, then the committee will be much less likely to recommend any significant changes. I urge alumni who care about socially responsible investment — and the social and environmental impact that large corporations have on our world — to express their opinions and be heard by the Resources Committee, either by communicating directly with the University or through the Princeton Coalition Advocating Investor Responsibility (PCAIR), at email@example.com. We at PCAIR hope that the University recognizes and decides to deal actively with the ethical implications of investment decisions, but we recognize that all alumni who want to be heard on the issue should be, regardless of their opinions.
BEN SHELL ’05
In examining issues in proxy voting (Notebook, Jan. 26), PCAIR, University Vice President Robert Durkee ’69, and Princo should be sure to read “The Good Company,” a survey of corporate social responsibility [CSR] in the Economist of Jan. 22.
Noting the current widespread promotion and advertising of CSR’s importance, this survey: 1) observes that the nature and value of CSR activities are nearly impossible to measure, 2) reminds company executives that they are spending or giving away other people’s (stockholders’) money, and 3) urges corporations not to confuse CSR with business ethics.
R.G. WALKER ’41
Change the lyrics to “Going Back” (Letters, Feb. 9)? Have you no respect for tradition? The next thing you know, they’ll be trying to change the lyrics to “Old Nassau” ...
STEPHEN BAN ’84
I applaud the concern of the Princeton faculty, as reported in your article (feature, Jan. 26), for the education of students in moral and ethical values, but I doubt the effectiveness of requiring them to take courses of the sort you describe.
One cannot teach students the principles of physics merely by exposing them to the philosophical difficulties of quantum mechanics; indeed, without a substantial prior background in the subject, those difficulties will not make much sense. Similarly, while discussing practical ethical dilemmas in various courses can be quite valuable for those who already have an appropriate basis for thinking about them, for others it will be like trying to tighten up a machine by applying an excellent wrench to a nonexistent bolt.
The reason Princeton cannot provide its students with anything approaching a sound moral education can be distilled from an article by then-President Harold Shapiro *64 in the Jan. 27, 1999, PAW: While individual faculty members believe they know what is right and wrong, they do not trust the judgment of their colleagues in these matters, most especially when it comes to the fundamental principles upon which moral judgment is to be based. To which I add: What is not understood cannot be taught, and perhaps the beginning of wisdom is to admit that this is so.
Outsourcing might be a way to escape the dilemma: Direct students to resources for moral education located outside the official walls. I mean going beyond the standard courtesy listing of priests and rabbis, maintained by the dean’s office in any university, to incorporating external resources in the University’s program in such a way that no future issue of PAW devoted to ethics would dare be bereft, as was the most recent one, of any reference to them. And academic credit would seem to be appropriate when students learn valuable things missing from the official curriculum because of disagreement among the faculty. To the objection that students might receive instruction in sectarian, controversial, and even crackpot viewpoints, there is a ready reply:
Would the danger be any greater than in Professor Peter Singer’s courses?
ROBERT G. GRIFFITHS ’57
It is ironic that Ralph Nader ’55 (Reading Room, Feb. 9) still has the gall to complain about the shift of political power from individual citizens toward large corporations when, in 2000, he helped to expedite that shift. He did so by taking enough votes from Al Gore to ensure the election of George W. Bush.
EUGENE F. CORRIGAN ’47
While I wholeheartedly support the University’s decision to expand enrollment, I could not agree more with the Prince in its position against the recently dumbed-down version of the Princeton application for admission.
Perhaps it is my nostalgia for Old Nassau or the fact that I was one of Dean Fred (Hargadon)’s students, but the process of applying to Princeton was in many ways my first introduction to this special place. Personable, thought-provoking, and unique, Dean Fred’s application stressed “fit” as well as academic and extracurricular prowess, and challenged prospective students to look carefully at themselves as they answered the questions. The common application, for all its convenience, simply fails in this regard. Copying and pasting one’s way into the best school in the country is not what should become the norm.
During my sophomore year, I had the pleasure of meeting the famed Dean Fred in person. Eager to test the rumor that he remembered something about each admitted student’s application, I introduced myself and immediately put him to the test. He looked at me, asked me where I was from, and then paused to think for a second. Then he cited my answer to the first essay question. “It was a good one,” he told me with a smile.
So to Janet Rapelye, I level that same challenge: Continue with the common application, and see if you can recall something unique about each student you admit. I certainly would be surprised if you could.
PATRICK A. SULLIVAN ’02
Re the Task Force on Health and Well-Being: Sometime ago it was announced that 9 percent of Princeton students have contemplated suicide.
Unfortunately, the task force missed a significant opportunity to discover the major etiologic factors leading to this depressive illness. This might have been accomplished by having all the students complete a confidential health questionnaire that included detailed psychological questions. A copy of the responses would be available to them to assist them in seeking professional help. An equally important outcome could be a database resulting from collective responses that would allow the task force to provide the students a better, more effective, structured mental health educational program that dealt with the common etiologic factors.
President Tilghman reported that the task force has enhanced mental health services and benefits. However, the mental health programs could be better designed to help the problems of depression among the students and subsequently reduce the 9 percent rate that the college now has.
C.G. WEIMAN ’47, M.D.
The person at the far left of the Feb. 9 archives photo is my classmate Jimie Kusel (his name is incorrectly spelled in the 1955 Nassau Herald as “Jimmy Kusel”). Since our time at Princeton was 1951 to 1955, the earliest possible time of the photo was November or December 1951, and the latest possible time was January or February 1955. Jimie didn’t call the sculpture to my attention. I would have enjoyed seeing it.
THEODORE CHARLES MILLER ’55
Editor’s note: Also contacting PAW was John F. Graham ’48, who identified himself as the fourth person from the right, and John Rock ’49 as second from right.