January 23, 2008: Notebook
New University guidelines aimed at reducing heavy drinking in the dorms would increase monitoring of alcohol use, but students have protested that the changes could drive drinking further underground and change the role of residential college advisers (RCAs).
Under the new guidelines, Public Safety officers have begun to patrol dormitories on weekend nights. In addition, RCAs are now required to “take action to stop the violation” when they encounter a “significant violation” of University rules. A list of frequently asked questions and answers concerning the policy, prepared after a request by the Undergraduate Student Government, is available at http:// www.princeton.edu/odus/.
The new strategies, which were reported in The Daily Princetonian in November, came eight months after the alcohol-related death of a student at nearby Rider University. There has been growing concern about a culture of heavy drinking among students, particularly during dormitory “pre-gaming,” when students consume large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time before going out to “the Street.”
“We have, every year, a number of students who consume alcohol at a level that is really dangerous,” Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan said at a sparsely attended forum on the issue Dec. 6. “We are calling upon some of our best students in important leadership roles to try and help us shift that culture.”
A Universitywide alcohol coalition, composed mostly of students but also including faculty and staff, has been formed to develop a plan by May to encourage responsible drinking behaviors among students.
Under the previous RCA guidelines, advisers were expected to intervene by calling Public Safety in situations where advisees’ drinking behavior presented an “immediate threat” to persons or property. The revisions call on RCAs to intervene in situations that “may become dangerous,” explained Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Hilary Herbold at the December forum. RCAs may persuade students to wrap up dangerous parties on their own, or they may call upon Public Safety. Herbold listed “number of people, amount of alcohol, and behavior of people present” as factors upon which advisers should determine whether and how to intervene.
About 200 students responded to an e-mail from Undergraduate Student Government president Rob Biederman ’08 asking for feedback on the new guidelines. “Only two of them were in favor of the policy,” Biederman said.
While some students expressed concern about the Public Safety patrols, most student complaints dealt with the new RCA guidelines.
A primary concern was that the RCA policy would fundamentally alter the adviser-advisee relationship, turning the RCA into an “enemy” instead of a mentor and friend. Students also mentioned fears that underage students could place themselves in more danger by drinking in greater secrecy than they do now, for fear of being caught. “It’s just going to make the forbidden-fruit problem worse,” said Kyle Smith ’09.
Mathey RCA Julia Schwartz ’08 said that although she believes a good RCA can continue to foster a trusting relationship with advisees, she was concerned that the policy “might encourage drinking in a worse way, such as drinking shots quickly for fear a party will get busted.”
USG vice president Josh Weinstein ’09 said the USG should have been consulted on the policy revisions. “If we were in the discussion at the beginning, we could have helped alleviate some of the concerns,” he said.
Mathey College Master Antoine Kahn replied that RCAs were involved in the discussions and given the opportunity to make slight changes before the guidelines were announced. “At the end, I don’t believe there was more than one or two [RCAs] out of 87 who objected to the situation,” he said.
Butler Master Sanjeev Kulkarni, co-chairman of the new alcohol coalition, said the group is planning a series of workshops in February to examine the problems caused by heavy drinking and to brainstorm solutions that would appeal to both administrators and students.
By Isia Jasiewicz ’10
Heads bobbed and feet tapped to the sounds of soul and funk in Richardson Auditorium Nov. 29 and 30 as scholars and critics gathered for a symposium called “Ain’t That a Groove: The Genius of James Brown.” Recordings of Brown’s music were woven into and between panel discussions, usually to illustrate a specific point but sometimes just to set the mood.
Brown, the soul legend who died in December 2006, “transformed the sonic texture of American life,” according to associate professor Daphne Brooks, the event’s organizer. He influenced a range of artists, from rockers like the Rolling Stones to Afrobeat creator Fela Kuti, and his pioneering funk sounds provided a foundation for hip-hop music. But in pop music studies, Brown’s work tends to be overlooked, Brooks said. A half-dozen colleges have devoted conferences to Bob Dylan. Princeton was the first to do the same for Brown.
Panelists included academics like UCLA musicologist Robert Fink, who dissected the rhythms of Brown’s song “Soul Power” alongside Stokely Carmichael’s “black power” chant; music critics, such as author Rickey Vincent, who drew on personal interviews with Brown; and a contemporary artist, drummer Ahmir Thompson of The Roots, better known as “?uestlove,” who tapped beats on the table to explain Brown’s impact on hip-hop.
In addition to reflecting on Brown’s musical influence, the symposium examined his on-stage persona, which blended breathtaking dance moves, sweat-drenched emotion, and trademark theatrics. Some panelists mentioned the charges of domestic violence and other brushes with the law that at times overshadowed Brown’s artistic work, but most of the day focused on positive contributions, including the singer’s black activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
A handful of people who worked with Brown attended the symposium, including longtime tour manager Alan Leeds, saxophonist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, and bandleader Fred Wesley, who sat in the front row as Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal deconstructed the lyrics of “Papa Don’t Take No Mess,” a song Wesley helped to write.
According to Wesley, Brown was always curious and would have enjoyed the event. “He’d be amazed,” Wesley said. “He’d have a lot to say.”
Cholera bacteria communicate to join forces and increase their ability to infect victims, according to research published in Nature by Bonnie Bassler, the Squibb Professor in Molecular Biology, and her Princeton colleagues. Bassler’s lab studies “quorum sensing,” in which bacteria send messages to each other by producing signaling chemicals. A mutant form of cholera bacteria that could not produce signal molecules was found to be less virulent, and while studying the mutant bacteria, the researchers also discovered a molecule that encourages cholera bacteria to “prematurely terminate virulence,” according to a release from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The finding could lead to more effective treatment of cholera and other bacterial diseases. Though rare in the United States, cholera remains a dangerous and sometimes-deadly disease in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The Princeton Prize in Race Relations, which recognizes high school students for exceptional work in helping to improve race relations, has expanded to 21 locations across the country in its fifth year.
The program, created by alumni volunteers and sponsored by the Alumni Association, began with awards in 2003 in two cities, Boston and Washington, D.C., and has expanded each year. Added this year were New York City, Rochester, and the state of Connecti-cut. (For a complete list of locations offering the Princeton Prize, go to princeton.edu/PrincetonPrize/.)
Last year some 350 students applied for the award; there were 24 first-place winners, with some locations splitting the $1,000 top prize between two students. This year’s applications must be postmarked by Jan. 31.
To qualify, a student must have volunteered for an activity with a significant, positive impact on race relations in his or her school or community. Among the winning students’ activities cited by the program: organizing a group of high school students to provide child care so that immigrant parents could attend community and PTA programs; creating a program called Theater Against Violence; setting up a Spanish-language instruction program for elementary school children; and planning a leadership development camp for Latino youth.
Two students recognized with the Princeton Prize are enrolled at the University, according to Marguerite Hadley Vera ’79, administrator of the program.
This year’s winners will be invited to the University in May for
a two-day program to share their ideas with area high school students
and members of the community, Vera said, with the Class of 1966 providing
transportation funding for the students.
A coalition of Latino student groups, citing an environment of “isolation and distinct marginalization,” is calling for a strong University commitment to improve the academic and social experiences of Latino students, faculty, and staff.
“Princeton continually fails to provide support and resources to its Latino/a students, especially as compared to other Ivy League institutions,” the Latino Coalition of Princeton said in a report released in September.
The report urged the University to recruit more Latino faculty and administrators, bring Latino scholars to Princeton through a Diversity Scholars Exchange Program, create a Program in Latino Studies, and designate space and an administrator at the new Carl A. Fields Center to provide support for Latino students. According to the University, 378 Hispanic undergraduates are enrolled, about 7.8 percent of the total. The Graduate School has 69 Hispanic students, about 3 percent of the total.
The report described Princeton as lagging behind its peers in the field of Latino studies. While the expansion of the Program in Latin American Studies was praised, the report called for creation of another program — one “dedicated to the study of our experiences as a people here in the United States.” The report said that “a lack of Latino studies is a missed opportunity for Princeton students and faculty to be engaged in subject matter that is truly part of the American experience.”
Victoria Laws ’08, founder and chairwoman of the Latino Coalition and author of the report, said students prepared a report with similar conclusions in 1985. She said the University needs to make a major hire in the field of Latino studies to help attract other scholars, “or a program will not be feasible.” The coalition’s goal is “not just to make our experience better,” Laws said, but to “make Princeton a better institution.”
The report described the percentage of Hispanics on Princeton’s faculty as “embarrassingly low.” According to Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin, 2.5 percent of fulltime faculty members — 21 out of 849 — are Hispanic.
An Undergraduate Student Government survey, released in 2004, found that both Latino and black students gave low ratings to racial diversity, race relations, and social life as compared to their white and Asian peers.
Members of the coalition held a pair of public forums on the report and met with President Tilghman and other members of the administration. One recommendation — to expand a mentoring program for freshmen, developed by the Black Student Union — won quick approval. Janet Dickerson, vice president for campus life, said after meeting with Latino students that she had approved funds to expand the mentoring program to all minority students, beginning this fall.
Administrators need a better understanding of the issues raised, Dickerson said, noting the diversity within the groups represented by the coalition. But she added: “I’m confident that we can provide support for several of their ideas.”
Patricia Garcia-Monet ’92, head of the Association of Latino Princeton Alumni, said the coalition’s findings “regretfully” echoed past reports. She said she hoped the University’s new fundraising campaign would be amended to address the students’ goals and to support more efforts to re-engage Latino alumni.
Sherif Girgis ’08, Brett Masters ’08, Landis Stankievech ’08, Sarah Vander Ploeg ’08, and Pauline Yeung ’08 (Photos: John Jameson ’04/Office of Communications)
Five Princeton seniors have earned scholarships to pursue graduate study in Great Britain in the coming academic year. Three — Sherif Girgis ’08, Brett Masters ’08, and Landis Stankievech ’08 — will be Rhodes Scholars, and a fourth, Sarah Vander Ploeg ’08, will be a Marshall Scholar. Pauline Yeung ’08 is the recipient of the Sachs Scholarship, a Princeton honor named for Daniel Sachs ’60.
Girgis and Masters are among 32 Americans in this year’s Rhodes class, while Stankievech is one of 11 Canadian recipients. Princeton last had three students chosen for the Rhodes Scholarship in 1995.
Girgis, a philosophy major, plans to continue his studies in philosophy at Oxford. At Princeton, he has served as president of the Anscombe Society and editor-in-chief of the Princeton Tory. Born in Egypt and raised in Delaware, Girgis has studied four foreign languages and served as a Spanish translator at the University Medical Center at Princeton. He also won the 2007 Dante Prize from the Dante Society of America for his essay on the Italian poet.
Masters, a comparative literature major, hopes to enroll in the medieval English studies program at Oxford. In addition to medieval literature, his academic interests include finance and nonfiction writing. Masters, a peer educator at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center, helped organize efforts last year by the Gay Family Rights Project to legalize gay marriage. He also has served as a tutor for local elementary school and middle school students.
Stankievech, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, plans to study philosophy, politics, and economics at Oxford. He aims to combine his interests in engineering, the humanities, and the social sciences to address environmental issues. As an undergraduate, Stankievech has excelled as a forward on the men’s hockey team and as a volunteer with youth programs, including the Special Olympics Skating Program and Princeton Youth Hockey.
Vander Ploeg, one of 37 Marshall Scholars, is a Woodrow Wilson School major and a candidate for a certificate in musical performance. She will pursue a master’s degree in vocal studies at the Royal College of Music in London. Vander Ploeg, an accomplished vocal soprano and violist, has been a soloist in the Chapel Choir and a member of the Chamber Choir and the University Orchestra.
Yeung, a native of Hong Kong, plans to use the Sachs Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in global governance at Oxford’s Worcester College. The Woodrow Wilson School major is fluent in five languages, has served as co-chair of the Princeton Law and Public Affairs Undergraduate Forum, and leads the Wilson School’s policy conference on “The Rise of China.” The Sachs Scholarship was established in 1970 to provide a senior with the opportunity to study, work, or travel abroad after graduation.
“The Intimates: Connected by the Line,” left, a photo by
Rachel Steinberg ’10, received a special commendation in an exhibition
of photos by Princeton students, faculty, and staff on the theme: “What
Is Family?” The photo of garments floating in the sun was taken
in Jerusalem. Also included in the exhibit’s 30 images is “Orphanage,
Karachi, Pakistan,” above, by Waqas Jawaid ’10. The photos
provide “a visual representation of the wonderful richness and diversity
of families throughout the world,” according to Paul Raushenbush,
associate dean of the Chapel. The exhibit is on display in Murray-Dodge
The authors of a controversial book on the “Israel lobby” addressed a packed Dodds Auditorium Dec. 10, bringing with them a fierce debate over scholarship and charges of anti-Semitism.
In their book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, John Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, academic dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, assert that America’s “special relationship” with Israel works against its best interests.
The authors maintain that a loose network of interest groups — including right-wing Christian evangelists, neo-conservatives, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League — has pushed U.S. foreign policy in a way that has intensified America’s unpopularity in the Middle East and fueled the threat of terrorism.
Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid, receives consistent U.S. diplomatic support, “and we almost always take its side in regional disputes,” Walt said.
Mearsheimer said that “Israel, and especially the lobby, were two of the main driving forces behind the decision to invade Iraq.” The event moderator, Wilson School Professor Robert Keohane, sharply disagreed, saying it was not difficult to list nine other plausible reasons for the war.
Keohane described the book as a “very flawed work of political science.”
In a heated question-and-answer session, one student echoed other critics of the book who have charged that its thesis is anti-Semitic, saying that the professors were seeking “to explain a losing war [in Iraq] by blaming the Jews.” Mearsheimer responded that the war “was due in large part to the influence of the Israel lobby, especially the neo-cons within it, not the American Jewish community.”
Professor Cornel West *80 questioned “the philosophical limitations of a realist analysis” and asked: “How do you weigh values and principles vis-à-vis interests and security?”
“Sometimes your interests and your morals line up,” Walt replied. “The United States would find its strategic interest better served, and would be taking a much more moral stance vis-à-vis the Palestinians” by pressuring both sides to create a viable Palestinian state, he said.
The Daily Princetonian published an open letter by politics professor Aaron Friedberg to the event organizers, voicing concern about Walt and Mearsheimer’s book and its impact.
“Despite its scholarly apparatus of footnotes and quotations, and despite the authors’ distinguished credentials, this is not a work of objective academic analysis but rather a one-sided and tendentious polemic,” he wrote.
Friedberg told PAW that while he had heard from students, faculty, and alumni who shared his concerns, “I think most everyone believes very strongly in people being allowed to express their views, whatever they are.”
The Prince also printed a pair of student columns taking issue with Walt and Mearsheimer. However, Muslim Students Association President Sarah Dajani ’09 praised the authors for daring to address a controversial topic and wrote: “Have we reached the point where criticism of Israel is on par with racism and bigotry?”
The lecture was sponsored by the Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies.
By Claire Abramowitz ’10
“We understand disease, we devise effective therapies, and then there’s the question of how to ensure the therapies are effectively used. ... Almost no one invests much money in the science of checking up and following to see whether doctors and nurses do what they’re supposed to do.”
Atul Gawande, professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and a staff
writer for The New Yorker, speaking Nov. 13 in McCosh 10 on “Mediocrity
and Its Causes: A Surgeon’s Notes on Medical Performance.”
When Netflix, the Web-based DVD-rental company, offered $1 million to anyone who could significantly improve its predictions about how much a customer will like a movie, the contest generated buzz among computer scientists. Money was part of the draw, recent graduate David Weiss ’07 admits, but the theoretical and technological challenges were also alluring. Equaling Netflix’s existing system seemed difficult. Improving its accuracy by 10 percent — the threshold for the top prize — would be monumental.
Weiss found two friends who were eager to give it a try: Pyne Prize winner Lester Mackey ’07 and Weiss’ roommate, David Lin ’07, a mathematics major. The three downloaded 100 million lines of test data and began working in October 2006. By graduation, they had climbed to the top 50 on a leaderboard that included more than 2,000 entrants.
The Princeton team, named “Dinosaur Planet” for the last movie listed in the test code, was an underdog against top competitors that included a pair of Ph.D.s from AT&T Research and an academic lab at the University of Toronto. But with a voracious appetite for research and ample free time during the summer, the Princetonians made a steady climb to compete for the 2007 “progress prize,” a $50,000 award for the best team as of Oct. 1.
Late in the competition, the Princeton trio joined forces with a group of Hungarian graduate students and jumped to first place a day before the Oct. 1 deadline, using algorithms that improved on Netflix’s accuracy by more than 8 percent. But the AT&T Research duo recaptured the lead on the final day and won the progress prize.
Weiss would like to keep working toward the $1 million goal, but he realizes that the team has seen diminishing returns for its efforts. Each tiny improvement requires many hours, and the three have less time to spare. Mackey is a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Lin is trading interest-rate derivatives at J.P. Morgan. And Weiss, a research assistant in Princeton’s psychology department, plans to start graduate school in the fall. But for a year, at least, the three went toe-to-toe with teams of computer-science stars and beat out all but one. Said Weiss: “It was fun to feel like an expert.”
CHARGES OF SERVING ALCOHOL to a minor, filed against the presidents of Cottage Club, Cloister Inn, and Tiger Inn, have been dropped in borough court. Charges against the first two were dismissed for lack of evidence. Tiger Inn reached an agreement Dec. 17 with Municipal Prosecutor Kim Otis in which the charge was transferred to the club’s graduate board. The club agreed not to serve alcohol in January and to avoid any alcohol-related offenses for the rest of the academic year. If those conditions are met, the transferred charge will be dismissed.
A member of the Anscombe Society, a conservative student organization, admitted injuring himself and sending threatening e-mails to society members and a faculty member as PART OF A HOAX that he said was designed to bring more publicity to the group’s pro-chastity cause. The University was investigating the incident after Francisco Nava ’09 said he fabricated claims of being assaulted and of having received threats. The initial reports of threats and an assault had received widespread media attention for what critics described as a lack of an appropriate response by the Princeton community, but the society’s former president termed those reports “grossly unfair” to the University.
ROBERT GOLDSTON *77 is stepping down as director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, a position he has held since 1997. “I have been involved in many of fusion’s big policy challenges,” said Goldston, who will stay on until a successor is named. His departure comes as the University competes for a new five-year contract to manage the lab.
PAUL FARMER, a professor at Harvard Medical School and founding director of the international organization Partners in Health, has been selected to deliver the Baccalaureate address June 1. STEPHEN COLBERT, host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, will be the Class Day speaker June 2.
ROBERT GUTMAN, a Princeton lecturer and influential architecture critic, died Nov. 23. He was 81. Gutman spent nearly four decades on the sociology faculty at Rutgers, and for much of that time, he also taught at Princeton as a visiting professor. In 1996, he joined Princeton’s architecture department as a lecturer, helping to incorporate social science in the teaching and practice of architecture.
JOHN R. WILLIS, professor of Near Eastern studies, emeritus, died Nov. 25 at age 69. The longtime professor whose work centered on Islam in Africa retired from teaching in 2007 after 35 years on the Princeton faculty. He served as director of the Program in African American Studies in 1972 and was the founding editor of Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Comparative Studies.