September 27, 2006: Letters
Letter Box Online
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The women of ’71 who came back as a group to the reunion breakfast featured in the July 19 PAW enriched the class and Princeton tradition (even if men — except an able PAW scribe — weren’t included). In paralleling women’s (and men’s) consciousness-raising groups of our era where individuals could connect with community by sharing experiences against individual isolation, this late opportunity seemed a powerful celebration and healing for attendees. Event organizer Tina Sung’s analogy of these pioneers’ Princeton introduction to the immigrant experience is apt.
As a classmate, I appreciate colleagues’ sharing what they had to work through to attend, and what others who haven’t gone back yet may still be addressing. The leadership and policies of President Tilghman and Margaret Miller ’80 are smoothing the way to more receptivity to a diversity of students and to facilitating Princetonians across generations in going back. Beyond addressing the strong cultural and class traditions and experiences that may still alienate some applicants, students, and alums — male and female, majority and minority —
from the campus, the Alumni Council Reunions survey’s asking about less-expensive attendance options and registration-fee financial assistance raises issues to address now for the future.
When everyone can consider applying to Princeton and returning to Reunions as a choice, Princeton will be an even better place. An event like the ’71 reunion breakfast creates another milepost on the road to quality, equality, and inclusion.
Princeton colleagues and I have proposed a study of the pioneering generation of women and minorities at several schools. If anyone is undertaking or interested in contributing to such an effort, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RICHARD SOBEL ’71
We send a big locomotive to Tina Sung ’71 for her hard work in bringing us together. The breakfast during Reunions was a wonderful experience and brought many of us back to Princeton for the first time since graduation.
In a thoughtful and beautifully written article, “Going back: After 35 years, the pioneering women of ’71 reconnect with each other” (feature, July 19), Merrell Noden ’78 captured the poignant counterpoint between the isolation so many of us felt on campus and the community that Tina has managed to build, largely single-handedly, over the past year.
Better late than never, and our heartfelt thanks to Tina!
WOMEN OF THE CLASS OF1971
Thanks to Merrell Noden ’78 for his important, moving, and beautifully written report on the reunion of the pioneering women of ’71. Their early months on campus must have been difficult, with groups of men (boys) outside their dorm chanting, “Girls go home!”
In the early ’70s I attended one of the weekends designed to bring alumni up to date on the University. At every one of the (all-male) sessions, the burning question was: “What do women want with a Princeton degree?”
Thankfully, that question has now long been settled.
CHARLES B. SAUNDERS JR. ’50
Reading Amy Sennett ’06’s piece, “Work and Family” (feature, July 19) felt like reading my own biography. As young Army officers, my husband and I decided to put off starting a family until one of us was willing to stay home full time. When that time came, there was little discussion as to whose career was to be cut short, and I didn’t have much objection. However, after just six months of staying home with our son, I started to feel both restlessness about my own intellectual needs and personal ambition, and resentment about the fact that being a stay-at-home mom meant spending the day doing a literal laundry list of tasks that I hated.
I went back to work, but my husband’s career still takes precedence. Last year, that meant giving up a great full-time job that allowed a nice work/family balance when his job called for a move. I’m currently working part time, but have realized, like Nannerl Keohane, that it really just means getting paid part time for what is actually full-time work.
The point Ms. Sennett’s article leads to, but does not say explicitly, is that the entire issue surrounding the conflict of work and family revolves around the choices women make, and not around those of fathers. Countless books and studies focus on whether and how women can “have it all,” but there is little attention to the fact that men have had it all for quite some time with little fanfare. Our society, including the educated, ambitious, female part of it, assumes that the responsibility for taking care of domestic tasks, whether actually doing it, or being the one to arrange for someone else to, falls on mothers. Until that assumption changes, women will not be able to take advantage of the “opportunities to pursue their passions” the way men always have.
JESSICA LOVEJOY *04
I read the article about Dan-el Padilla Peralta ’06 (Perspective, June 7) and his intellectual drive and passion with interest and admiration. I am proud of Princeton and all of those who have aided him in his quest. His story shows a side of the illegal immigrant issue that has not been considered in the often-acrimonious debate.
I would like to offer a personal story that is pertinent to this topic. My father was an illegal immigrant, one of those Chinese “paper sons” who came to the United States as a young boy during the time of the Chinese Exclusion Acts. After learning English, he graduated from high school and then earned a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. He spent many years in the chemical industry, obtaining a couple of patents for chemical processes, and being a productive person. He finally became a citizen during World War II when FDR decided that Chinese could become citizens. He, of course, never talked to his children about how he entered this country. After his death, I learned about paper sons from a workshop attended by my wife, who concluded that my father must have been one of these folks.
My father’s story and Mr. Padilla Peralta’s have led me to the thought that the framework of the immigration debate needs to be changed. I don’t have a definite answer as to how we should approach the immigration issue, but I do believe that talking solely about exclusion and deportation is not what is needed. And a guest worker program is both exploitive and patronizing. Certainly we should exclude people with criminal records, but immigration itself should be decriminalized. Instead, we should be thinking about potential contributions to the health of the country by all immigrants — day laborers, as well as classicists and chemical engineers.
LELAND YEE ’62
I read the article by Dan-el Padilla Peralta concerning his illegal status and life circumstances. I was first moved by the tragedies he had to deal with, and then I was thrilled by his shining example of being a true over-comer. He is the type of immigrant that this country needs to welcome. He seems to have access to the legal means to accomplish legal citizenship.
He has, however, obscured the central issue in the illegal immigration question. The issue is not personal, nor is it emotional. A sovereign nation has the right — no, the responsibility — to secure its borders for the protection of its population and its shared cultural, political, religious, and economic values. That nation may set up pathways to permit the immigration of those it believes would be an asset to the growth of the society. This country, like all the other countries in the world, has these regulations and pathways. Those policies may be changed at the behest of the legal population.
Unfortunately, today members of the politically correct minority, in their effort to promote nonjudgmentalism, advocate open borders. They do not believe in absolutes, either moral or secular. They believe that America is the problem in the world today, not the solution. They resent our single-power place in the world and are opposed to the United States as a moral, political, or military force for good in the world. Open borders would dilute any unified and absolute set of common values needing to be defended. Secure borders with legal access for valued applicants are imperative, but if we don’t close the door to illegals, we might as well invite Osama to tour the White House with a backpack.
I wish Mr. Padilla Peralta well on his quest for legality, but he should not become the poster child for open borders. Remember the 9/11 terrorists were illegal, also!
RICHARD GREMINGER ’61
Dan-el Padilla Peralta is an appealing fellow for sure, and his tale is filled with paradoxes — not the least of which is that the sins he suffers for are largely those of his parents and his educators.
A perfect storm has brought illegal immigration to the forefront for him:
1. A tipping point of illegal immigrants in the country.
2. A president with an attraction for various political third rails.
3. Daily news from the Middle East showing what it might look like to live without the rule of law, therefore reminding us how precious the rule of law is.
4. Frequent news from Europe illustrating failures to assimilate immigrants (even in so refined a nation as France, or so amiable a one as Holland).
We might add terrorism, stories from the border about brazen Mexicans, etc.
But let me suggest that perhaps this all comes at a very good time! If our hero were the member of any other graduating class, I don’t think he’d have made The Wall Street Journal, and gotten all the string-pulling under way the way he has! I think that’s great, and I wish him well at it. It’s part of the American way. And may he always be grateful for it. We would be unfortunate and, dare I say, stupid to lose him — though if we do, I’ll try to call it a victory for equality before the law, and a defeat for string-pulling. This, too, is part of
the American way!
In the latter case I’m sure he’ll have an extraordinary life as a citizen of some other lucky country. Or maybe he’ll stay here. I guess classics is out, but maybe he’ll write a screenplay about his experiences. His situation brings very, very much to mind my own smug attitude toward the draft during the spring of my senior year: Things always work out.
ROB SLOCUM ’71
With regard to the June 7 letter by Princeton defense attorney Greg Reilly ’67 and other subsequent letters, I wish to comment on the portrayal of my family as having too “narrow” a view of the Robertson Foundation’s mission and Princeton’s position that the intended beneficiary of the foundation is not the U.S. government.
I remind my fellow alumni of the precise wording of the foundation’s certificate of incorporation, which was carefully reviewed and approved by the University administration and executive committee: “[I]ts objective is to strengthen the Government of the United States and increase its ability and determination to defend and extend freedom throughout the world by improving the facilities for the training and education of men and women for government service.” The charter charged the WWS graduate school with creating a program where “men and women dedicated to public service may prepare themselves for careers in government service, with particular emphasis on the education of such persons for careers in those areas of the Federal Government that are concerned with international relations and affairs.”
Princeton officials, we’ve learned in discovery, have chafed under those restrictions since the inception of the foundation. Yet they have never once approached the foundation’s board to legally broaden the mission. Instead, they have secretly spread the funds to other departments, as a 1980 memorandum from then-President William Bowen *58 and other documents now in evidence clearly demonstrate. Bowen wrote: “I have had enough experience with Charlie [my father] and Bill [yours truly] to know that they hold tightly to the original promises. Indeed, even to raise the questions with them would seem to me counterproductive in the extreme.” Even more telling is how he ends his memo: “I think that we should encourage the School, and that we can do so, to undertake appointments and responsibilities that will benefit other parts of the University as well as the School itself.”
Four University administrations have lacked the courage and integrity to face this problem in an honest way, but have eagerly spent the Robertson Foundation money. That is the plain and simple reason for this unholy mess.
The administration is mortally afraid to have this case go to trial and is using every tactic at its disposal to delay it, while the University as a whole suffers.
I welcome your comments via e-mail at email@example.com or fax at (239) 649-7664.
WILLIAM ROBERTSON ’72
There is another dimension to the excellent article (feature, June 7) by Mark Bernstein ’83 about Joseph Ralph Moss ’51, the first black student to matriculate through the regular application process at Princeton in 1947.
Four black men in the regular Navy transferred to the Navy V-12 program on the Princeton campus in May 1945. In September, however, they became part of Princeton’s Naval ROTC. I was with two of them on the Princeton basketball squad starting in November 1945. One, Jim Ward, didn’t make the cut. The other was Arthur “Pete” Wilson, who was a starter in every game throughout the season.
Since no captain had been elected for the upcoming season, interim coach Wes Fesler named a team captain for each game. Because of a number of his coaching decisions and an obvious bias in not ever naming 5-foot 11-inch Pete Wilson, the best player on the team, as a game captain, I quit in mid-season. Happily, at the end of the season the players elected the very talented, very likable Pete as season captain.
Wilson and Ward became civilian undergrads in the fall of 1946 along with two other black students, Melvin Murchison and John Howard. Murchison later left Princeton, while Howard and Wilson graduated in June of 1947 and Ward graduated in September of 1947 (though they were in the Class of 1948). Their graduation was therefore four years before that of Moss, who had entered Princeton through the normal admission process.
Lt. Cmdr. Cappy Cappon returned from Navy service in February 1946 to find he had no basketball coaching job. I sat with him in Baker Rink to watch the basketball games in the transformed hockey rink (the old gym had burned in 1944). One night he told me he had been offered the job as head coach at Penn. Further, he had to give a decision the next day. Miraculously, Fesler accepted a football coaching job at Ohio State the very next day and thus, by a whisker, Princeton got back its great basketball coach.
That same week during bicker, I asked Pete Wilson if he would like to join Tiger Inn. He said, “Yes, but not if I am controversial.” The membership voted something like 23 for and 20 against Pete. Those negative votes caused Pete to decline membership. Forty years later while serving on Tiger’s board of governors, I successfully polled his Tiger Class of 1948 about membership for Pete, who was very pleased at long last to become a member.
Princeton’s first black captain of a major sport lived in Chicago, worked as an accountant, and died in December 2000. Jim Ward is retired as an attorney working for the State of Texas and now lives in Oklahoma.
HERBERT W. HOBLER ’44
I commend the founding of the Southern Society (On the Campus, June 7). However, I would caution the members to consider that celebrating Southern culture and heritage is not limited to the roasting of pork and the spitting of watermelon seeds. In fact, these activities are the very sorts of things that encourage contemptuous, oversimplistic stereotypes of what it is to be a Southerner. Perhaps these students should find a way to celebrate the emphasis on honor, courtesy, and loyalty that is the real value of the Southern way of life. The photograph showing glib, smirking faces gathered around a slaughtered animal did little for the reputation either of the society or of the featured students.
AMY HALEY ’96
Harold Shapiro *64’s confession that eliminating the men’s wrestling team in 1993 was a “misstep” (Notebook, April 5) will pass with little fanfare. It is nevertheless worth noting that the hundreds of alumni who expressed support for wrestling at the time considered the decision more of a blunder than a misstep and, along with me, take satisfaction in seeing for the first time in print the University’s admission that the decision was a mistake. We left this chapter in Princeton’s sports history behind us when Coach [Michael] New took over and helped the Tiger wrestlers claw their way back to new respectability, and now look forward to the next chapter beginning with the appointment of Chris Ayres (Lehigh ’99) as Princeton’s 10th wrestling coach.
H. CLAY MCELDOWNEY ’69
“Quintessentially Princeton” without Blair — or at least one of the older dorms (Notebook, July 19)! No Witherspoon or Alexander? Where is the sense of history! With the exception of Nassau Hall, none of the five selected views would likely be recognized by the world (and many alumni) as views of an Ivy League university, much less Princeton.
FRANK SLOAT ’55
Juliet Eilperin ’92 has worked at The Washington Post since March 1998. She covered the House of Representatives for six years before she became the national environmental reporter in April 2004. She continues to write stories about Congress. Some details of her Washington Post work were incorrect or unclear in a July 19 Reading Room article.
A July 19 memorial incorrectly reported the rank of William Whittle Richardson ’38 at the time of his retirement from the Army Air Force. He was a lieutenant colonel.