March 22, 2006: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The excerpt printed in the Feb. 15 PAW from The Chosen, Jerome Karabel’s book about Ivy League admission policies, mentions nothing about Princeton’s initial outreach to high school juniors or seniors, perhaps because it is nonexistent. (I have no experience with athletic recruiting, and so cannot comment about that.) And if Princeton wants to compete for the best students, it has to communicate to distinguished applicants that the University is a welcoming and inclusive place to live and learn.
Through the good graces of the College Board, my son had received brochures from many fine institutions by the end of his junior year in high school, but not from Princeton. On the one hand these marketing tools aren’t much more than an expensive bag of glossy recyclables, but they do get kids thinking about the possibilities, and Princeton’s policy — at that time, at least — of sending information only upon request, and only in the fall of an applicant’s senior year, may discourage some outstanding students from thinking seriously about applying.
Perhaps my son would still have picked Harvard over Princeton even if the University had taken a more active approach in identifying and appealing to prospective applicants. But with what seems like studied disinterest, Princeton seems not to understand the consequences of failing to recruit academically gifted students. When someone doesn’t feel wanted, they may decide to go elsewhere.
SUSAN POST LICHTENSTEIN ’77, s’72
I found Professor Karabel’s article on admissions fascinating, challenging, and a bit disturbing, even though I have long felt that Princeton, the other Ivies, and, yes, Stanford and perhaps three dozen other outstanding undergraduate colleges across the country have so many first-rate applicants that they cannot possibly admit them all. In that sense there’s a tempest-in-a-teapot quality to the issue.
Nevertheless, I am glad that you have invited Fred Hargadon to respond (at www.princeton.edu/paw), and I would urge that you print his comments in PAW and not only on the Web. I ask partly in fairness to him and partly as a concession to old-timers like me who prefer the printed page to a screen.
REDWOOD WRIGHT ’50
Please print Mr. Hargadon’s reply to Karabel. It is concise, informative, and non-inflammatory. Karabel is trying to sell his book and make himself an instant authority. Hargadon is telling what has happened. Swarthmore looks like a good place to get your start.
ROBERT LEACH ’53
Editor’s note: Several readers have written to request that PAW print former dean of admission Fred Hargadon’s response in the magazine, and we are happy to report that it will run in our April 5 issue.
Former dean of admission Fred Hargadon’s long ramble still fails to answer two questions. Why has the percentage of Jewish students remained basically static since I attended in 1960–64, when there was an apparent 10 percent quota? Why are other minority groups who suffered from discrimination being sought in large numbers, and indeed being given preferential treatment under the rubric of “diversity,” while Jews are not? For too many years Princeton has had the reputation of being relatively inhospitable to Jews, and, unfortunately, Mr. Hargadon did not see the need to remedy this perception during his long tenure.
MICHAEL SCHARF ’64
As an arts graduate of Princeton, I am delighted to see that my alma mater is finally taking the creative and performing arts seriously. While Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and the other Ivies have taught the arts most effectively over many years, until now Princeton has always lagged embarrassingly behind. That the first Princeton art instructor was the former boxing coach — the most accomplished Joe Brown — seemed to sum up the sorry state of the arts on campus.
Now what joy to read that President Tilghman has initiated a Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. What a brilliant decision to resist the lure of creating yet another academy like Yale’s professional art and theatre schools. Princeton’s approach will ensure that as many students as possible will have access to the arts, and the Society of Fellows in the Arts will bring the best young artistic minds in the country to campus for two-year residencies. This is an inspired approach to incorporating the arts into the curriculum and the life of the campus, and it will establish a model that I believe other institutions of higher learning will follow in decades to come.
I salute Shirley Tilghman for her vision and initiative, I thank the Allen Committee for its diligent good work, and I praise Peter Lewis ’55 for his great generosity.
HUGH M. DAVIES ’70 *76
I read with dismay the Feb. 7 article on the front page of The Wall Street Journal that described the Robertson family’s dispute with Princeton University regarding the use of funds donated in 1961 by Charles Robertson ’26 and his wife, Marie, for the intended purpose of “training graduate students at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs to serve in the federal government, particularly in foreign relations,” to which Princeton agreed at the time of the donation. My reaction to the article, and presumably the reaction of other alumni, was: If I were to make a large donation to Princeton targeted at a particular purpose or objective, can the University be trusted to adhere to the conditions that come along with the gift when accepted by Princeton?
An atmosphere of mistrust cannot be allowed to fester. It will have a chilling effect on large donors. If Princeton loses the lawsuit it could be costly, and a major negative for the future of Princeton’s fund raising. Recall that Yale University returned a $20 million donation from the Bass family when it was not used for its specified purpose. What have the Princeton trustees done in regard to the Robertson litigation? I encourage PAW to independently investigate the Robertson matter, but also in general the adherence of Princeton to the conditions attendant to large donations, and report back to its readership. Until this matter is resolved, I would not consider a targeted donation to Princeton.
PETER R. BRINCKERHOFF ’64
After reading William Spencer ’45’s attack on this year’s men’s varsity basketball team (Letters, Feb. 15), I would like to commend the team on one of the greatest victories in its illustrious history: the Tigers’ Feb. 17 double-overtime victory over Cornell. In this extraordinary game, Princeton’s Scott Greenman ’06 tied the game with desperation three-point shots at the end of both regulation time and the first overtime. Then the Tigers were able to build an eight-point lead in the second overtime and secure the win. Up until Greenman’s first game-saving shot, Princeton had trailed the Big Red for the entire game.
As a Princeton graduate of the 1970s and a former sports editor of The Daily Princetonian, I personally witnessed some of the greatest moments in Princeton basketball history, including the championship game in the 1975 National Invitational Tournament. From what I saw in the Cornell game, these Tigers displayed the same determination and perseverance that we have come to expect over the decades of great Princeton basketball. Well done, guys.
PETER K. SELDIN ’76
It is a relief to read that Princeton’s architecture school has finally decided to focus on the practice of architecture, rather than just the theory for which it is so well known (Feature, Jan. 25). Upon graduation from Princeton’s undergraduate architecture program in 1999, I’m sure I was not alone in feeling ill-equipped to find a design job, which I largely attribute to an overwhelming lack of emphasis on technology and, in particular, software.
While I have been fortunate enough to find another application for my undergraduate education as a marketer of architectural services, I can only applaud the efforts of Dean Allen *88 in bringing a more professionally oriented focus to the school. I look forward to witnessing the portfolio of built work emerging from future Princeton graduates as a result of this effort, serving as a welcome complement to the rigor of theory that is the school’s trademark. Frankly, it’s about time.
ILEANA LA FONTAINE ’99
There has been a great deal of news coverage of the passing of playwright Wendy Wasserstein, but very little has touched on her time teaching playwriting at Princeton. I still remember the first time I saw her. She was 20 minutes late for her initial class. We were all waiting, wondering if her debut had been postponed. Suddenly, the door opened and she rushed inside. Then she dramatically flung herself down on a table to recover from her exhaustion. We were already laughing when the joke got better; the table — wobbly in the best of times — collapsed, dropping her to the ground. Unscathed, Wendy giggled as if she had planned the whole thing (maybe she had).
Wendy was a wonderful teacher, always supportive of our work and generous enough to write me a recommendation for Yale School of Drama’s playwriting program, which did the trick and got me admitted. I can’t express how important her encouragement was, even during times of doubt.
Wendy was one of the best parts of my Princeton experience. She will be missed.
SEAN CUNNINGHAM ’98
I must take exception to Frank O’Donnell ’73’s claim (A Moment with, Nov. 16) that “the EPA people were too intimidated” to pursue aggressive reductions in gasoline sulfur content. I led the EPA team that quantified the impact of gasoline sulfur on vehicle emissions and was part of the team that worked on further reducing gasoline-sulfur levels in the late 1990s. We were hardly intimidated — despite strenuous opposition from the oil industry and skepticism from Congress, we promulgated a package of stringent vehicle emissions and gasoline sulfur standards. We succeeded due to outstanding technical work by agency staff, the leadership of EPA’s senior management and the Clinton administration, and the automobile industry’s support for gasoline sulfur reductions.
I salute Mr. O’Donnell and his colleagues for the hard work they have done on behalf of our shared environment. Their comments in support of EPA proposals may have helped support the agency’s proposed standards. But his claim that their “back of the envelope” analysis (which was based on EPA data and analyses) played a central role is a distortion of history and denigrates the role that the EPA played in pursuing aggressive standards.
MICHAEL SKLAR ’84