October 5, 2005: Letters
Letter Box Online
PAW welcomes letters on its contents and topics related to Princeton University. We may edit them for length, accuracy, clarity, and civility; brevity is encouraged. Letters, articles, and photos submitted to PAW may be published or distributed in print, electronic, or other forms. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to publish all letters received. Write to PAW, 194 Nassau St., Suite 38, Princeton, NJ 08542; send e-mail to email@example.com
I am certainly not a militarist, but I hope the current initiative to ban ROTC and military recruiters from the Princeton community (Notebook, June 8) gains no further traction.
Along with a high percentage of my classmates, I was a “citizen soldier” with an ROTC commission upon graduation, serving three years active duty and another five on reserve. Most of us would agree (see many of the bio-essays in the recent reunion book “1955 at Fifty”) that this was a positive, formative experience. Further, it introduced an educated class of “quick-study” junior officers into the military.
Over my 50-plus years of being a Princetonian, the school motto has been “in the nation’s service.” I ponder what the state of today’s world might be, were it not for the recurring presence of American military forces. The current war in Iraq/Afghanistan, with the American military very much in the vanguard, has focused and occupied our jihadist enemies thousands of miles from our own soil. The result is that our citizens at home have not suffered a single fatality at the hands of terrorists since 9/11/01.
To accede to the politically correct wishes of the pro-gay petitioners — who object to “don’t ask, don’t tell” — would make a mockery of any claim that Princeton is dedicated to serving the nation.
B. BECK FISHER JR. ’55
The presence of ROTC at Princeton offers the University connections that should not be overlooked.
First, it gives a number of young men and women an opportunity that they otherwise would not have enjoyed to attend Princeton. In turn, this means Princeton and colleges like it have the chance to educate students who in time may become the leaders of the military. The military itself benefits from having an officer corps that includes graduates of the best colleges. Finally, the nation, whether in time of war or peace, should always have the best military leadership our society can produce.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” has become a vexing public issue. But it does not trump Princeton’s commitment to “the nation’s service,” if that phrase retains any meaning today. There may be no immediate solution to this problem. All that dropping Army ROTC will produce is one less college with such a unit. But Princeton, and all those associated with it, will be the poorer for the move.
Keep ROTC. Argue with the Pentagon. Don’t give up the ship.
BRUCE R. CARRICK ’58
I agree wholeheartedly with John F. H. Schenk ’69 (Letters, June 8), writing in regard to the recent initiative to abolish the Army ROTC presence on campus: “Who are they to tell others that they cannot participate in ROTC?” That choice (and the freedom to exercise it) should be made available and remain for those who would choose it. But then I disagree with his tirade against undergraduates, berating the erosion of their “moral fiber and ethical compass.” And to his citing the dated nationalist “grand mission” of Princeton, I suggest that Princeton consider a more magnanimous objective of humanitarian service (for the benefit of all nations). Schenk might climb down off his high horse and reflect on the wisdom of Bertrand Russell, who once noted sagely that “war never determines who is right, only who is left.”
ROCKY SEMMES ’79
Where have you gone, Number 42? Tiger fans turn their lonely eyes to you ...
Princeton’s once-great football program is in a steep, decades-long decline. During the Tigers’ first 100 years of competition, 1869–1968, the teams achieved a sparkling record of 592–171–43, a winning percentage of 76.1 percent. Of our major opponents, only Yale had a positive series advantage, 44–37–10.
Since 1969, the Tiger football record is 165–175–7 (48.6 percent). During those 36 seasons, Yale’s games-won advantage has ballooned to 21; Dartmouth now has a positive series record of 42–38–4. In 36 years, Princeton has won or shared the Ivy League title just four times, and only one title was not shared.
The performance of the past decade is worse: 44–54–1 overall (44.9 percent) and 31–38–1 (45 percent) in the Ivy League. Harvard and Penn have beaten us nine straight games.
The administrations following that of Harold Dodds *14 have allowed the football program to decline to its present mediocre status. Particularly puzzling is the admission office’s approximately 10-year-old no-transfer policy (for any reason), the only one of its kind in the Ivy League. During the 2004 season, our chief gridiron tormentors — Penn (four football transfers, from Duke, North Carolina, Navy, and Grand Valley State) and Harvard (at least one football transfer, the formidable running back, Cliff Dawson, from Northwestern) — once again prevailed.
In a letter to PAW (Letters, Feb. 11, 2004), Cameron Atkinson ’03, Princeton’s gifted running back, made a strong argument for balance in athletic priorities to improve the football program. Let’s hope that the present administration and the trustees will take the necessary steps to restore Princeton football to its historic excellence. Then, perhaps, those thousands of empty Princeton Stadium seats will have paying occupants.
DONALD GROSSET ’54
The cover story (June 8) on Bob Massie ’78, aka HIV patient 161J, touched a sore spot for me. During the three years I spent helping to curate the world databases of HIV data at Los Alamos National Laboratory (hiv-web.lanl.gov), I read many patients’ stories. These included, most tragically, stories of entire families — father, mother, and all their precious young children — dying one by one from a staggering number and variety of very rare, untreatable, and utterly horrible diseases. Bob Massie and his family, and many others, are fortunate to live in a country where, if his particular strain of the HIV virus were more virulent or he were less able to resist it, nonetheless there is hope, thanks to drug therapies. As a rule, HIV does not kill, but merely “opens a door” to other infectious disease agents, viruses and bacteria among them, many of which do kill. HIV has revealed to us the surprising likelihood that many rare diseases are, despite their rarity, of infectious origin.
UNA SMITH ’87
I’m glad to hear that the new Frank Gehry-designed building is under construction (Notebook, May 11). When finished, it will provide some much-needed comic relief from the gloom of self-importance that pervades the campus — and a good laugh for those coming up Washington Road.
I think we old grads should have a contest to try to guess what nickname the students will settle on this building. I vote for either the “Silver Burp” or “Pete’s Diner.”
JOHN BRITTAIN ’59
Princeton, as well as other Ivy League universities, was founded by Christians whose main concern was to educate collegians of the good news that salvation is a free gift through Jesus Christ. Apparently, Princeton has done a 180-degree turn from its original founding purpose.
For Princeton University to give its blessing to a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center (Letters, June 8) surely flies in the face of God. I can think of nothing more disgraceful and inappropriate for the University than to lend credence to such a center.
What do you suppose President Witherspoon would think of the policies of President Tilghman? She obviously has bought the twin lies that there are no moral absolutes and that we must tolerate anything and everything except intolerance!
J. PRESTON SELVAGE JR. ’51
I am thrilled to learn that Princeton is supporting students identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender by creating a LGBT Center. I came out while I was at Princeton, and am thankful for the many supportive friends and allies I found on campus. Reading PAW, sometimes I forget how supported I felt by leaders and peers alike while I was at Princeton.
Today I work in clinical social work, specifically with LGBT youth. Statistics show that it is crucial that the LGBT community is supported and all
identity development affirmed. Suicide rates and the incidence of hate crimes are far too high. I challenge people to respect each other’s differences and value safety and basic rights for all human beings. I thought this was at the core of a liberal arts education.
ANDREA RAZI ’96
The unidentified student in the middle of the From the Archives photo (Letters, June 8) is Chambless Johnston ’51, who became a champion fencer (saber).
WILLIAM PARK ’51