October 25, 2006: From the Editor
This is not your grandfather’s Princeton,” Janet Dickerson, the vice president for campus life, told a large group of alumni at a dinner celebration during the last weekend of September. It was the University’s first conference for black alumni, and 530 African-American Princetonians had made the trek back to campus.
Merrell Noden ’78’s coverage of that conference, which included social and academic events and concluded with a performance by jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan ’81, begins on page 10. As Noden writes, the relationship between many black alumni and their alma mater has been in need of repair. One conference participant, Brian Stephenson ’78, told Noden that he had been “personally angry at this university,” and could not appreciate Princeton for years. He and others had tough questions for University officials and student panelists: about black faculty recruitment, African-American studies, and how the University was working to improve the social and academic environment for black students. By most accounts, they were pleased with the answers.
The conference is not the only example of Princeton’s increasing diversity that is covered in this issue. On page 20, Mark Bernstein ’83 writes about Khalid Latif, Princeton’s first Muslim chaplain, who was appointed recently to meet the needs of the growing number of Muslim students.
The same weekend that African-American alumni came together, another event was taking place across Washington Road. At the Center for Jewish Life, Jewish and Muslim students shared a meal on the Jewish Sabbath, and then spent the evening discussing the significance of fasting in their lives and religious traditions. The students spoke freely and showed great interest in learning about each other’s faiths. The event was organized by Rabbi Julie Roth, who joined the Center for Jewish Life in 2005, and Latif, who had arrived on campus early in September. Roth and Latif were hoping to plan other joint events.
Latif’s arrival was a comfort to Princeton’s Muslim student body. Until he arrived, the students had to make do on their own, without the guidance that Princeton students of other faiths have received from clergy. At the CJL dinner, Latif expressed gratitude for his warm welcome, and said he hoped to be a resource for all Princeton students.
University and Alumni Association leaders say they want to increase the participation of all alumni, and that recent events are just a start. From Nov. 9 to 11, the Alumni Association, along with affiliated groups representing minority alumni, will hold a conference on “race and community,” called Kaleidoscope. Events include sessions on admissions, campus life, and religious diversity. For information, visit http://alumni.princeton.edu/main/news/calendar/kaleidoscope06/. The conference is open to all.