July 19, 2006: Letters
To our readers: This is PAW’s final issue of the 2005–06 academic year. Our next issue will be Sept. 27. For more letters during the summer, visit Letterbox by clicking here.
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
I applaud Dan-el Padilla Peralta ’06’s courage in sharing his personal story (Perspective, June 7). For two years, I have directed a college readiness program in a large Boston public high school. It has been both inspiring and heartbreaking to journey through the college application process with undocumented students. The odds are fierce and some lose heart. A few with exceptional academic or athletic talent have a shot at full scholarships.
Unfortunately, so many other worthy students encounter a series of dead ends. Partial scholarships are nearly useless, since undocumented students cannot access student loans, in-state tuition, or many private sources. Federal legislators would do well to address a fundamental component of immigration reform: access to higher education for hard-working undocumented students.
MARK WIRANOWSKI ’95
Your thoughtful article (feature, May 10) worries that only about a quarter of Woodrow Wilson School graduates actually choose to serve in the federal government. That percentage will, of a certainty, get much worse.
In federal agency after agency, department after department — and this extends from State to Agriculture to Interior, from the National Park Service to Treasury to the FDA and the FAA — hardly a month goes by without new horror stories of across-the-board “hollowing out,” incompetent cronyism, ham-fisted management, and tanking morale.
The Robertson family may actually believe that 22 to 23 percent is lousy performance by the Woodrow Wilson School — but those figures may soon be reckoned as high-water marks.
JAMES C. WARREN JR. ’49
“Princeton in the nation’s service” has a nice ring but may overlook something. All service to the nation is not government service. The private sector is the nation, in service of which government performs many indispensable janitorial functions.
Measuring the Woodrow Wilson School’s service to the nation by parsing where its graduates go is not the best metric. It smacks of functional autonomy, that Peter Principle, which states that “getting the job done right is more important than getting the job done.” Product matters, not process.
THOMAS H. POWELL ’54
I was astonished to read in “In Other Words” by David Marcus ’92 (cover story, May 10) that a translator may make a translation from a language he doesn’t know. Professor C.K. Williams openly admits that he employs “someone” to do a literal translation of the original, which he then doctors into literary form.
So a translation may be the work of two people — the “artist,” who gains the recognition, and the mere journeyman who made the literal translation. Yet this foundational stage is just as important, if not more so, than the later “shaping.”
I think that both functions properly belong in the same mind, and that it is somewhat duplicitous to use a “pony” to make what is passed off as “your” translation.
The ultimate aim of the translator is to produce a work that provides a total experience as close as possible to that produced by the original. In order to do this, he must himself be able to feel the poem deeply and to be aware of all the nuances of the language in which it is written. Without this direct emotional connection with the original, a translation may be mechanical and, even though a perfectly good poem in its own right, invalid as a translation. If a translator is not fluent in the language and the culture of the original poem, he should leave the translating to someone who is.
STEPHEN E. SILVER ’58
I enjoyed the article on “Shaping Princeton’s Campus” (President’s Page, May 10), featuring architect Jon Hlafter ’61 *63’s thoughtful and reasonable comments on future construction on the Princeton grounds.
But here’s another idea: Stop — at least for a decade or two. Hlafter talks about preserving a “park-like character,” but can anyone remember a Princeton campus free of construction fences and building equipment? Why do we keep building? I guess because we can.
CHARLES C. BAUM ’64
I was heartened to read the May 10 President’s Page by Jon Hlafter regarding architectural planning for the University. This kind of thinking seems to have been lacking in recent decades. I’m referring to the disastrous soapbox design of Butler College and some forgettable buildings by name-brand architects.
The rave reviews for the Frist Campus Center raised my hopes that the curse had been broken — until I visited this sterile structure with an interior as welcoming as a food court at O’Hare. It might be instructive for Princeton planners to visit the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs. There they would discover older buildings interspersed with striking contemporary architecture that borrows traditional motifs to create a harmonious academic park. Further, the interior spaces open to the public are warm and inviting in their scale, materials, and lighting.
I might add that I’m mystified by the controversy over whether new buildings in the gothic style are appropriate for Princeton. Not only are the gothic quads the loveliest places on campus, they acknowledge the European origins of the University system and the timelessness of its ideals. It’s a signature style as appropriate as a steeple on a church.
GEORGE E. MILLER ’54
This responds to the letter from William Robertson ’72 (May 10), who is upset that more Woodrow Wilson School graduates do not work for the federal government. Princeton has long espoused the value of public service, which is a larger concept and may involve activities both within and beyond the narrow confines of government employment.
Is a private individual — say, a Jimmy Carter, who intercedes overseas on our behalf — not as equally a servant of the federal government as is a salaried emissary? In our democratic society one can also serve government from the outside as a supporter, or as a member of the loyal opposition, or merely as a voter.
Mr. Robertson has chosen to take a narrow view of the intent of his parents’ generosity. He calls the result a “failure.” I hardly think that Princeton can be counted a failure. Since Woodrow Wilson, and before, Princeton has seen its mission, in the 1896 phrasing, as “Princeton in the nation’s service.” Today Princeton seeks to serve all humankind.
The Robertsons seem enamored of government. Perhaps they envisioned Princeton as a West Point for diplomats. Yet Princeton’s strength lies in the breadth of its outlook, not its acceptance of narrow constraints. Would a federal government recipient of the Robertsons’ generosity have acted as responsibly as Princeton has?
Sure, there is fault on both sides. Princeton seems to feel entitled to the generosity of others. As one example, Princeton’s fundraisers work with alumni solicitors in some cases to determine how much they will ask specific classmates to donate.
But I sincerely hope that neither the current generation of Robertsons nor the sense of entitlement of the University leadership can deter the community of scholars who gather in Princeton. Their mission to educate the future leaders of our interconnected world and to debate the major questions of the day is so much more. Whether government service means government employment or service to the larger community of “We the People” hardly seems like a question of such weight that it should divert the University from its purpose.
JACK CUMMING ’58
In reviewing a letter from President Tilghman summarizing the Robertson lawsuit and the April 5 Notebook article, I’ve seldom seen, outside of Washington, such a phenomenal waste of time, talent, and money, in this case caused by the filing of the lawsuit.
Princeton is having to spend significant sums of money, and more importantly, tie up time and personnel resources that could otherwise be devoted to positive, constructive purposes.
The Robertsons’ millions, were they not expended on the legal wrangling likely to extend for an indefinite number of years into the future, surely could be better employed in helping the less fortunate or improving the lives of certain segments of society.
If the University has indeed veered ever so slightly from the intent of gifts given decades ago, in some literal way or another, let it be noted that word meanings change over time, just as the world itself does. General policy might be examined, but not just literal constraints that time may render meaningless. For example, suppose $50 million had been donated in March 1954 to establish an Institute for the Study of Soviet Military Power, on the occasion of the first hydrogen bomb explosion within the U.S.S.R. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the subsequent changes within Russia itself in the years since, a literal reading of the terms of such a donation would mean that the original agreements were meaningless. Then what?
If there is a useful lesson to Princeton University, or any nonprofit group, it is that some flexibility be assured in any future agreements, so as to provide secondary and tertiary aims and objectives in case the original purpose no longer is relevant.
ALEXANDER M. WILLIAMSON ’61 *62
On reading President Tilghman’s full-page article on the Robertson matter in an earlier issue (President’s Page, March 22), I wondered what would be the response and if PAW would accord the reply the same prominence as the president’s piece.
I see that in the May 10 issue the response is on page 7, mixed in with an ad for gin — hardly the visibility accorded the administration’s piece.
I guess the court will determine who is right, but is it unreasonable to hope that the Princeton Alumni Weekly be true to its name, rather than taking on the coloration of a Princeton Administration Weekly?
GEORGE W. GOWEN ’52
I don’t disagree with Marvin Harold Cheiten *71 (Letters, April 19) that the University should be careful not to alienate potential donors, especially large donors, by appearing untrustworthy. But I do strongly disagree with his implication that the University, as “merely the recipient” of the Robertson gift, should defer to the wishes of the current generation of Robertsons.
Has everybody, including the Robertson plaintiffs, forgotten how the concept of “giving” works? A gift is supposed to be a unilateral transfer of both ownership and decision rights. There is no satisfaction guarantee, and certainly no provision for a refund if the donors (or their children) are unhappy 45 years later.
It’s too bad that “restricted” gifts are so popular these days. The main effect of such restrictions is simply to create accounting complexity. Better just to give money to charities you like and then trust them to use your gifts wisely. Too bad also that charities are so hungry for money they feel compelled to accept gifts with all kinds of strings attached — even very wealthy charities such as Princeton University.
WILL FRENCH ’90
As a Princeton student, I was a member of the Undergraduate Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid, as well as the Hillel liaison to the admission office until the year before Dean Hargadon arrived at Princeton. As a result, it was with great interest that I read the excerpt from Jerome Karabel’s book, The Chosen (cover story, Feb. 15), as well as Dean Hargadon’s response (feature, April 5).
With respect to the issue of Jewish admissions, Dean Hargadon’s response overlooks certain critical facts. Prior to his arrival, there was significant cooperation between the admission office and Hillel in recruiting admitted Jewish students. For example, the admission office identified students with Jewish activities on their applications so that Hillel could contact them. Curiously, at a time when Princeton was fighting to improve its yield of admitted students, under Dean Hargadon, Hillel was denied this information.
This is but one example of the attitude that Dean Hargadon maintained toward the Jewish community. He rejected repeated outreach efforts by Hillel’s directors during this period. In fact, relations with the admission office only began to improve (and then only somewhat) after a 1999 article in The New York Times titled “Princeton Puzzle: Where Have Jewish Students Gone?” This article reported that since the early 1980s, the percentage of Jewish students at Princeton had dropped from a high of almost 18 percent to under 10 percent. While the accuracy of this number is subject to debate, there are several ways to provide meaningful year-over-year comparisons of Princeton’s Jewish student population, and each points to a significant decline in Princeton’s Jewish community during the Hargadon years.
This decline is even more noteworthy in light of the fact that during this period Princeton opened its outstanding, University-owned and -run Center for Jewish Life and greatly expanded its Program in Jewish Studies. One would have assumed that these twin magnets would have served to increase the Jewish population. Instead, during a period when Jewish enrollment at other Ivy League schools increased or at least remained essentially the same, the undeniable decline at Princeton raises valid questions about recruiting and admission policies during the Hargadon years.
DROR FUTTER ’86
I particularly enjoyed the letters of Charles Saydah p’99 and Mary Ellen Curtin ’78 (Letterbox, at PAW Online) that penetrated some of the hype and desperation surrounding Ivy admissions by questioning fundamental assumptions about the extent to which attendance is related to past or future material advantage.
I’d like to remind Michael Scharf ’64 (Letters, March 22) that we Jews have very low representation among Asian-Americans and African-Americans. Therefore, a 10 percent drop in the fraction of whites in the student body (comparing, say, 1990 and 1960) would likely mean a corresponding drop in the number of Jews on campus. Accurate statistics about the religious affiliation of Princeton students would be useful, because vague numbers are not a good basis for declaring or denying that a problem exists.
I find it curious that Elise Wright ’83 neglects to mention John Osander ’57, director of admission from 1965 to 1971, in her request for a sampling of views on “the meaning of merit.”
Perhaps her omission was intentional, because Osander had already made a public statement in support of The Chosen (“Spotlight Review” at www.amazon.com). He sums up: “But the good and bad practices have persisted, ebbing and flowing, very bad in the 1920s, not very academically oriented in mid-century, perhaps peaking with the positive movements in the late ’60s and early ’70s, only to level and then decline at century end.”
I hope Dean Rapelye will find time during the summer to compose a statement of current policy that addresses key concerns raised in this discussion.
MARTIN SCHELL ’74
Displayed on the cart I was riding in the P-rade was an enlarged photo depicting a partial reenactment of a football play. I have received quite a few inquiries about the origin of its caption, which reads “End Around Jones.” It comes from a play put into our 1935 football playbook. The left end steps back, runs right parallel to the line of scrimmage, the fullback hands him the ball, and he continues to run around our right side down the field. Meanwhile, the left halfback runs wide to the right and follows the end, being accessible for a lateral from that end. This play was first used in the opening game of the 1935 season against Penn, which was leading 6–0 into the fourth quarter. I relieved our injured starting left end. In mostly successive runs, I helped advance the ball some 60 yards to the Penn 2-yard line, where it was bucked over for a touchdown. The quarterback kicked the extra point for a final score of Princeton 7, Penn 6.
A trick variation of this play was used in the 1935 Yale game. Our scouts thought Yale’s right end, Larry Kelley (our nemesis who scored the touchdown the year before that gave Yale a 7–0 win), might be tempted to follow me around. Accordingly, we set up a “Cousin Kelley Special.” Early in the game I relieved the starting left end. Immediately, the Yale team hollered: “Jones — end around!” Kelley indeed tailed me. This time the fullback did not give me the ball. Instead he tossed it back to the left half, who had started right but reversed himself and took the ball over the area Kelley had left to score a touchdown.
The blown-up photo, conceived by George Scheele ’61, is a reenactment of a sequence of this play. Kyle Harrington ’92 portrays the fullback handing me the ball.
The Class of 1936 football players on the freshman team were undefeated, untied, and unscored-on. As varsity members in 1933 and 1935 we were undefeated and untied. During our tenure the only game we lost was in 1934, unfortunately to Yale.
JOHN PAUL JONES ’36
PAW described the Class of 2006’s selection of former President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker at Class Day as “bucking a recent trend of choosing comedians and entertainers” (Notebook, May 10). That is a matter of opinion, open to interpretation.
MAX MAIZELS ’72
What Robert Becker ’55 observed (Perspective, April 19) in his rural Massachusetts hospital — physicians determining not only that a patient wouldn’t but shouldn’t live — was an egregious abrogation of physician responsibility. I had a similar medical school epiphany in the ’80s when the chief resident in surgery admonished me for wanting to sit with a newly diagnosed cancer patient. “Your job,” he informed me, “is not to be nice to patients, but to make the correct diagnosis as quickly as possible.”
Fortunately, instances of paternalism and reductionism like these have largely disappeared from modern American medicine. Unfortunately, they have been replaced by uninformed autonomy, unrestrained medicalization, and unapologetic avarice. While “trying” would have been appropriate in the situation Dr. Becker describes, too often today it results in trying too much.
WILLIAM M. PLONK JR. ’83, M.D.
Another irony surrounding the 150th anniversary of the birth of Woodrow Wilson 1879 (cover story, April 19) finds another U.S. president planning to send National Guardsmen to the Mexican border. President Wilson in 1916 called up the National Guard to defend the border against the depredations of Pancho Villa, while regular troops under Gen. Pershing actually crossed into Mexico. Among the border soldiers were my father, J. Berry Underhill Jr. ’16, a trooper in Squadron A of the New York National Guard, and other Princetonian cavalrymen (who rode real horses) in this and other units from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Border duty trained these young men in the field for their onerous future service in the American Expeditionary Force, also under “Black Jack” Pershing, in 1917–18. May they all be remembered.
JACOB B. UNDERHILL III ’48
The April 5 Notebook section states that former president Robert F. Goheen ’40 *48 “took a few jabs at the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, the defunct group that made headlines during the confirmation hearings of Samuel A. Alito Jr. ’72 for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. ‘In the 1960s and 1970s, there were those of our fellow alumni who were vehemently opposed to racial integration and coeducation,’ Goheen said. ‘I regretted that some of my classmates, indeed some of my clubmates, were among them.’”
Mr. Goheen may have had racists among his classmates and clubmates, but to accuse Concerned Alumni of Princeton or its members of opposing racial integration is a gross libel. What CAP opposed were the quota policies in effect at Princeton, which have recently been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court when adopted by public institutions of higher education. As for coeducation, it had been in effect at Princeton since 1969 — three years before CAP was founded.
WILLIAM A. RUSHER ’44