May 14, 2008: 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 email@example.com
Clay McEldowney ’69’s letter (April 2) suggested that a change in admissions leadership has led to lower athletic prowess among our sports teams. However, he fails to mention the men’s hockey team’s ECAC Championship win over Harvard and its place in the national playoffs. The team’s success should not be understated. One of its members, Lee Jubinville ’09, is one of 10 national Hobey Baker candidates, the award given to the best men’s
hockey player in the country. Jubinville is Princeton’s first Hobey Baker candidate, an award named after a Prince-tonian. Personally, I think Princeton’s admission standards are just about right.
JESSICA ROGERS ’01
Clay McEldowney ’69 correctly identifies the admission office as the reason for mediocrity or worse in some of the Princeton athletic teams. The admission policy limits the number of qualified athletes so that Princeton does not win too much, a political-correctness foul. This policy courts disaster. For example, the wrestling team has lost 41 straight matches since 2005. The sprint football team has not won in years and lost to Navy 98–0 in 2005. Men’s basketball recently had its worst season in history. After once being a premier Ivy team, football has an overall losing record the past several decades and attendance continues to decline. Princeton certainly has fine teams that achieve excellence. But excellence should be achievable for all of its teams.
ROBERT C. LANG JR. ’70
As the fourth-place finisher in the 2001 annual business-plan competition — defeated by the group on the cover of the March 19 issue — and now a successful entrepreneur, I thoroughly enjoyed the spotlight placed on student entrepreneurship at Princeton. During my stay at Princeton, abbreviated by a leave of absence in 2002 to pursue my business interests, I longed for opportunities to challenge my commercial and developmental concepts. The opportunities and life lessons bestowed upon me at Princeton have served every aspect of my entrepreneurial career. I would hope that your article spurs additional interest in the youthful and insightful views Princeton entrepreneurs can offer the business community, and that the Princeton leadership makes this area of growth a focus for the years to come. Keep up the good work, PAW!
CLINT B. ALLEN ’03
I would like to thank Will Bardenwer-per ’98 (Letters, March 19) for his service to our country and for his thoughtful response to the Jan. 23 letter from William Mettler ’51. What a difference there is between the comments made by Mr. Mettler and Mr. Bardenwerper.
One person sits at home and makes statements about a country and our volunteer armed-service personnel that he knows nothing about. The other has experienced what it means to volunteer to be in the nation’s service. He has been “boots on the ground”; he has seen and experienced what our all-volunteer military is doing, and he is proud of who he is and of what is being accomplished in Iraq. My hope is that those who sit home in safety can learn from the real-life experiences of people like Mr. Bardenwerper. Then and only then should they share their opinions.
HUGH SCOTT ’61
I commend you for your article featuring Arka Mukherjee *95 and his microfinance venture (feature, April 2). Microfinance has been the darling of development economists for the past few years, and it well deserves the increasing recognition. I suspect that you might come across more Prince-tonians who have been involved in this movement in one way or another. I have been on the board of ACCIÓN International since 1985, when the initiative was still in its infancy. Now ACCIÓN’s affiliates in Latin America, Africa, India, China, and indeed, the United States have a portfolio of over $3 billion and some 3.5 million clients (see ACCION.org on the Web). Historically, the payback ratio exceeds 97 percent. Two-thirds of the borrowers are women.
Of course, as Mr. Mukherjee says, that is still a small fraction of the potential, which is why we feel that the microfinance institutions benefit by becoming regulated banks so they can take deposits and tap into financial markets. The need far exceeds the capacity of philanthropy alone, and, efficiently run, these institutions can be profitable enough to capitalize the necessary expansion. There are, in fact, many institutions now in this field, not the least of which is Grameen Bank, serving millions in Bangladesh alone, as well as Bank Rakyat Indonesia, serving millions in that country.
JOHN W. SCOTT ’56
I read with interest the April 2 On the Campus article about the proposed chastity center. I read with equal interest a New York Times article March 30 about the same subject at Harvard. Clearly this is the latest distraction being disseminated by the right-wing e-mail and fax warriors in order to distract us from their hideous misjudgments on Iraq, the economy, etc.
A chastity center is an intriguing idea — but it doesn’t go far enough. What Princeton really needs is a chastity team. These committed sportspersons, in their heavily padded uniforms, would run roughshod over the hapless squads fielded by the various party schools. We’d probably beat Yale, too.
STUART MOORE ’83
In an otherwise thoughtful essay, Evan Thomas complains that “at elite schools like Princeton, academe has been so constricted and warped by political correctness and specialization that students are ... typically left wrestling with jargon and abstractions like ‘agency’ or dully pondering the evils wrought by ‘patriarchal hegemony’” (Perspective, March 19).
As a politically incorrect guy who has taught politics at Princeton (I was editor-in-chief of The Princeton Tory 1989-1990, and was a lecturer in the politics department 2002–2004), I find this an odd claim. It obviously cannot be motivated by a dislike for abstractions as such, for a few sentences earlier, Mr. Thomas had praised the investigation of “truth and beauty, right and wrong.” Nor can it be motivated by an aversion to jargon as such, for elsewhere Mr. Thomas writes easily of “plebes,” “cadets,” “B-17s,” “IEDs,” and “PTSD.” The problem, such as it is, must derive from the problematic nature of “agency” and “patriarchal hegemony.” But what is the problem supposed to be?
“Patriarchal hegemony” denotes the power wielded, typically in violation of justice, by father figures. I would have thought that the concept was indispensable to understanding the predicament of women in the Islamic world, and by implication, to understanding the Islamic world itself. The restoration of patriarchal hegemony is at the center of the contemporary Islamist agenda; students would profit from knowing why that’s the case.
As for “agency,” it denotes the capacity to initiate and take responsibility for goal-directed action. For a concrete example of agency relevant to the topic of “warriors and poets,” consider the letter of Will Bardenwerper ’98 in the same issue of PAW as Mr. Thomas’ essay. It begins: “As a Princeton graduate who voluntarily left his financial job in Manhattan to serve as an infantry officer in the Army for the past four and a half years ... .” The key word here is “voluntarily,” and it nicely highlights what “agency” looks like in practice — neither abstract nor a matter of jargon.
I would suggest that Princeton students continue to wrestle with “abstractions like agency” and ponder “the evils wrought by patriarchal hegemony.” It’s surprising how much light those two concepts shed on events taking place on the front lines of the current war, and how much one misses if one ignores them.
IRFAN KHAWAJA ’91
Like most of the critical issues involving our country, opinions about health care are very polarized. I have heard Professor Uwe Reinhardt (feature, Dec. 12) speak many times throughout my years as a physician executive working for an integrated delivery system in Sacramento, which is, by the way, one of the most managed-care areas in the country. Professor Reinhardt has always addressed the problems with health care directly, albeit with humor. His underlying theme is basically, “Everybody wants it, and nobody wants to pay.”
The escalating costs in health care reflect technology, cost-shifting, and gross inefficiencies. There is no easy fix, but in order to control costs, there needs to be a budget. To implement a budget in health care, your options are very limited. There is 1) capitation, which is the hallmark of managed care; 2) fee-for-service and rationing, which occurs in Britain and Canada; and 3) a slowly reducing fee-for-service compensation, also called zero-based budget, which has been utilized in several medical groups in California. Comparing the three choices carefully, capitation is far and away the best option.
Managed care was an initial attempt to implement capitation and control costs. Unfortunately, it suffered the fate of many good ideas when buffeted by greed, politics, and special interests. Professor Reinhardt always has presented an honest view of the economics of American health care. In truth, it is not a pretty picture. As Massachusetts is rapidly discovering, insuring everyone is not a viable solution.
Dr. Howard Zeft ’58 (Letters, April 2) should check the options available. Managed care is not bad when viewed as a model. As Professor Reinhardt has aptly demonstrated, “Don’t kill the model when it is the implementation that is at fault.”
GARY A. FIELDS ’61, M.D.
Having been born on Madison’s birthday (March 16) in Philadelphia (the site of Madison’s great work at the Constitutional Convention), I have always felt a special closeness to James Madison 1771, and I am gratified by his selection as Princeton’s most influential alumnus (cover story, Jan. 23).
But George Will *68’s essay does not do justice to his subject. As Will himself admits, he is no scholar like Madison. And as Daniel J. Freed ’83 wrote in his March 19 letter to PAW, Will misreads Federalist 10. As Freed points out, Madison’s purpose is to protect freedom by the creation of an extensive republic with all its diversity, not to justify (unlike Will) economic inequality. This point is crucial and was not lost on Daniel Webster, who boldly proclaimed, “Liberty and Union [emphasis added], now and forever, one and inseparable.”
So how did Madison conceive the idea of an extensive republic as a shield against tyranny? I wish Will or Professor Sean Wilentz would have taken the opportunity to tell us more about the influence of a Princeton education on Madison.
Furthermore, what role did Prince-ton itself play at the Constitutional Convention? A Princeton Companion notes that nine alumni attended the convention — almost twice as many as from any other college. Indeed, the Constitutional Convention could be considered Princeton’s most successful alumni reunion. Moreover, these
alumni were influential in the formation of each of the three major proposals considered at the Convention — the Virginia or “large states” Plan (Madison), the New Jersey or “small states” Plan (William Paterson 1763, supported by Jonathan Dayton 1776, Luther Martin 1766, and Gunning Bedford Jr. 1771, who was valedictorian of Madison’s class), and the Connecticut Compromise (Oliver Ellsworth 1766).
The Constitutional Convention and the U.S. Constitution itself have been described as “the miracle at Philadelphia.” One must wonder to what extent the friendships and camaraderie formed at Princeton fostered trust and good will among strong-willed delegates of starkly different opinions and allowed that miracle to happen. Perhaps at some future time, some scholar will enlighten us on the influence of these shared ties to Princeton.
WAYNE MOSS ’74
Unlike many, if not most, of my fellow alumni, in my years since graduating in 1986 never have I been compelled to write a letter to the editor — that is, until now. After reading “Having your say: Our readers’ opinions on Princeton’s most influential alumni” (feature, April 2), I must agree with Brendan Byrne ’49 on the omission of Jim Lebenthal ’49. While it is true that municipal bonds hardly excite the average man, as anyone who knows him will attest, Jim indeed has brought unbridled passion and excitement to whatever he has done. Of course, I say this with complete objectivity.
ALEXANDRA LEBENTHAL ’86
Thomas Schiavoni ’72’s Rumsfeld-has-no-place-in-the-top-25 letter (April 2) quickly and predictably morphs into a tiresome anti-war diatribe. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing that, based on his class year and clueless assertion that the troops are doing it for the bucks, he’s never put up his hand and pledged to defend his country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Apparently his valiant Marine cousin proudly did, and, sadly, didn’t make it. I don’t expect Schiavoni to understand, but that’s what vets do. We have and will
continue to put ourselves out at the “tip of the sword,” pledging to our fellow Americans that if the “balloon goes up,” we’ll be the first to respond, regardless of consequences. Money’s got nothing to do with it, and Schiavoni’s assertion that “financial exigencies” underlie the all-volunteer force is an insult to American fighting men and women, including his cousin.
H. PHILIP BRANDT II ’60
My classmate and friend, Tom Schiavoni ’72, shares a cri de coeur over the recognition given Donald Rumsfeld ’54 as an influential alumnus (Letters, April 2). It is all very well for us to intellectualize exercises such as this, professing balance or even “objectivity” in the nominations. Mr. Schiavoni recalls us to consider that consequences need to have a place in our considerations. We honor Mr. Rumsfeld by including him in the list. Do we honor our University by doing so?
Surely, though he was not an alumnus, all Princetonians can thank Lance Cpl. Nicholas Schiavoni, USMC, and his family. For them, the ancient words “semper fidelis” have a meaning and context that most of us will never understand, but which rings out as the last affirmation of a life in the nation’s service in ways that we all need to honor. In “we” I include Mr. Rumsfeld and, of course, myself.
Thanks, Tom. I needed that.
MARK J. LOGSDON ’71
Garth Stevenson *71 is a professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. His field of teaching was described incorrectly in a feature in the April 2 issue of PAW.