Notebook - April 7, 1999

Faculty approves new finance program
University will hire new faculty members, add courses

At its March 1 meeting, the faculty approved a new certificate program in finance, which starting next fall will be offered through the economics department under the auspices of the Bendheim Center for Finance.

The economics department established the program partly in response to student interest in taking courses in the rapidly developing field of finance, said Yacine Ait-Sahalia, a professor of economics, who will serve as the program's director. In recent years, a significant percentage of the graduating class has gone on to work in the financial world. According to Associate Director of Career Services William H. Corwin, of the members of the Class of 1998 who reported being employed (roughly one-third of the class), 21 percent work in the financial-services industry. The program will also feed the "vibrant" research being done in finance, said Ait-Sahalia. Of the Nobel Prizes awarded in economics this decade, he noted, five recognized research in finance.

The field of finance focuses on the pricing of financial assets, including equities, bonds, and currencies; portfolio management and the evaluation of financial risks; and corporate governance, among other topics. Knowledge of modern finance is essential to the proper understanding of many areas within economics and public policy, including the determination of exchange rates and international capital flows, the making of monetary and fiscal policy, and the role of financial reform in developing economies.

Students likely to apply to the program are those majoring in economics, engineering, mathematics, and physics, said Ait-Sahalia, who hopes the program will attract about 50 students each year. The university will hire four new faculty members to teach in the program and offer seven new courses next fall.

Princeton is unique among its peers in offering a finance program within the context of a liberal arts education, said Ait-Sahalia. Most other institutions that teach finance to undergraduates do so through a business school. Professor of Economics Burton G. Malkiel *64 told The Daily Princetonian that the program will provide financial training on a par with that of business schools such as Wharton.

Undergraduates who wish to earn a certificate in finance must take prerequisites in mathematics, economics, and probability and statistics, as well as two required core courses, Financial Investments (Economics 317) and Corporate Finance (Economics 318), and at least three additional electives offered through the departments of economics, civil engineering and operations research, computer science, history, mathematics, and the Woodrow Wilson School. A substantial component of the students' senior theses must relate to issues or methods of finance. Students may also follow one of four suggested tracks focusing on mathematical finance, corporate finance, derivatives pricing and risk management, or investment management.

Students rally to end sweatshop labor

"Sweatshop labor's got to go," chanted some 200 students who held a rally on Firestone Plaza before marching to Nassau Hall on February 16. Princeton Students for Progressive Education and Action, which organized the protest, called for the university to put an end to sweatshop labor in factories where clothing with the Princeton insignia is manufactured. The protesters urged the university to develop a code of conduct that would require contracted apparel manufacturers to prohibit child and forced labor and unsafe working conditions, pay workers a living wage, allow unannounced inspections, and publicly disclose the location of factories. The Princeton rally was one of a number of antisweatshop rallies and sit-ins staged by students on college campuses this winter.

On March 15 the university announced its intention to affiliate with a new nonprofit entity, the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which will monitor company compliance with a workplace code of conduct to ensure that products are not being produced by sweatshop labor. Princeton also confirmed that it will require all companies licensed to manufacture products bearing its name to publicly disclose the locations of the factories where those products are made. As soon as the FLA is operational (probably later this year), the university will require its licensees to abide by its code of conduct, participate in its monitoring and enforcement procedures, and achieve FLA certification.

"Whatever I am now -- it happened here"

In the autumn of 1948, Paul Benacerraf '52 *60 entered Princeton as a freshman. Today, the philosophy department chairman and former provost can boast 50 years of study, teaching, and administrative service, all on this campus.

"I arrived here as nothing," he says. "I became what philosopher I may be in response to Princeton teachers and, importantly, later, Princeton students. Whatever I am now -- it happened here."

Benacerraf has seen so many changes in Princeton that it is "almost impossible to point to single instances." Coeducation, of course, is one of the differences between Princeton in 1948 and Princeton in 1999 -- but only one, he says. Today's Princeton "feels vastly different from the one I came to as a freshman. Academically, it has grown from what was really a small college into a major university. It is also much more richly textured. Princeton students of today have the benefit of contact with students, faculty, and staff of both genders and of many racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Even if we are not yet where we should be, it is a huge change, whose importance for Princeton cannot be overestimated."

The son of a Moroccan-Venezuelan father and Algerian mother, Benacerraf was born in Paris, where his father was a textile buyer for the importing business he had established in Caracas. (The family name, says Benacerraf, "is Sephardic, and translates as 'Son of the Fiery Angel.' Others prefer, 'Son of a money-changer.'") His father was eager for Benacerraf and his older brother, Baruj, to join the textile-importing business. Neither did. (His brother went on to win a Nobel Prize in immunology in 1980.)

The Benacerrafs lived in Paris and moved to Caracas in 1939, as war threatened, and to New York City when Paul was nine. He spoke only French and Spanish, but "learned to speak English at P.S. 6." When the elder Benacerrafs decided to return to Caracas, 11-year-old Paul was sent to board at the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey.

Come senior year, he applied to Princeton and was initially rejected. "My headmaster told me the dean of admission had explained, 'The Jewish quota has already been filled,'" Benacerraf says. "But the headmaster talked Princeton into accepting me."

As a freshman and sophomore, Benacerraf recalls, "I was immature, rebellious, and convinced that no one on campus shared my intellectual interests." Unconventionally attired and sporting "the only beard on the Princeton campus," Benacerraf felt out of place among "all those guys in khakis and button-down shirts." Consequently, "I spent most of my time in New York City, and by the end of junior year I was on the verge of flunking out. The dean and I agreed that Princeton and I would both profit from a brief separation." During this nine-month hiatus, Benacerraf took courses at Columbia's School of General Studies; he returned to retake the spring of junior year, "considerably wiser and more committed to study." Still not a dedicated scholar, he had chosen to major in philosophy "only because I had good enough grades in the necessary courses."

But intellectual lightning struck in the fall of senior year. Benacerraf took an introductory course in the philosophy of science, taught by John G. Kemeny '46 *49, later president of Dartmouth, and one in the philosophy of religion, taught by Robert Scoon. "Both courses captured me in a way that nothing else had." Another force during his undergraduate years was Professor of Philosophy (now emeritus) Arthur Szathmary: "More than anyone else, he helped me grow, to see myself as a part of Princeton, and to see in Princeton some of the things that I valued but to which I had been blind before."

The disaffected loner had found what was to be his intellectual home: the philosophy department at Princeton. He graduated in 1953 (though he affiliates himself with the Class of '52, his entering class), determined upon a career as an academic philosopher.


Philosophy of mathematics

Graduate school at Princeton proved "wonderful," studying with professors Hilary Putnam (now Cogan University Professor at Harvard) and Paul Ziff (now professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), among others. "It was a very close department," says Benacerraf, who received his Ph.D. in 1960. "There were only 15 graduate students and 12 faculty members."

In graduate school, he refined his philosophical interests to concentrate on the philosophy of mathematics, a field in which he has, according to a colleague, exerted a "profound and continuing influence." Benacerraf's interest in the philosophy of mathematics grows, he says, from "a rather traditional philosophical concern with the nature of human knowledge -- what it is and how we acquire it."

It seems obvious, he says, "that we have knowledge of the subject matter of mathematics -- but how? For it seems equally obvious that we have no direct or indirect sensory contact with that subject matter."

Philosophers have struggled for millennia to answer such questions, he says, along with many other questions. "Mathematics is where we study the infinite, both the infinitely large and the infinitely small," he points out. "How can the finite beings we are have knowledge of the infinite? That's a real, not a rhetorical question."


Support for Coeducation

Benacerraf has taught continuously at Princeton since his first year as a graduate student. Currently James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor, he chaired his department from 1975 to 1984 and again beginning in 1992.

He has also served the university in an array of senior administrative positions, including associate dean of the Graduate School (1965-67), associate provost for special studies (1968-70), and provost (1988-91).

He has observed Princeton in crisis and in calm, and he has been closely involved in events that decided the course of today's institution. Reflecting on these experiences, he points to his years as associate provost under Provost (later President) William G. Bowen *58 as particularly satisfying.

At that time, he says, he "worked on a demonstration project on resource allocation in universities, led by Bowen and funded by the Ford Foundation, that revamped the university's budgeting system." A critical part of that study, in the spring of 1968, "was the feasibility portion of the Patterson Report on coeducation, which demonstrated that adding 1,000 women to the student body -- then 3,200 strong -- would actually be cost-effective. It proved persuasive to a number of people, trustees included, who had opposed coeducation, in part because they feared it would be financially disastrous."

Other high points for Benacerraf have been "helping to move the institution from one that was administered from 'the back of an envelope' to one that makes more efficient use of its vast resources." He contributed to this effort by reorganizing the graduate fellowship program (as associate dean), and by "helping to design a budgeting and information system to respond to the university's priorities" (as associate provost). And, as provost, he "participated in a number of truly exciting academic developments, the growth and diversification of the faculty, and helping to develop policies regarding harassment, sexual and other, and to implement them university-wide."

He also cites "the privilege of seeing the administration of three Princeton presidents close-up -- Robert Goheen ['40 *48], Bill Bowen, and Harold Shapiro [*64]; I can say without hesitation that we have been extraordinarily well served." And he treasures, both personally and professionally, his association with the teachers and scholars who have constituted the philosophy department over the course of his tenure at Princeton.

Benacerraf's greatest satisfaction, however, remains in the classroom, where the flame of philosophical truth ever beckons. "To be present as students unfold philosophical mysteries for themselves, struggle to push back the darkness, and, in whatever measure, succeed," he says, "is truly delightful."

-- Caroline Moseley

Teaching with Websites
By William Howarth

For the past six years I've signed my e-mail with the Web address, which leads the curious to a home page listing Websites for eight online courses I teach or have taught. These Websites are modest, with limited graphics and no whirling GIFs (graphic image files), but they try to use information technology to reach today's students. Mostly they are text, blue oceans of it, listing Web links for hundreds of other sites that offer research information, online texts, and collections of relevant images. These linked sites are mainly reference desks, organized to complement the readings I have assigned for classes.

When I first began to compile these sites, my colleagues were baffled, and the only campus support came from the Office of Computing and Information Technology, which gave money to fund a summer graduate assistant. I taught her to surf the Web, using "crawler" engines that now seem antiquated, and she brought me bookmarks, which I organized in an outlining word-processor. Then I tediously coded in HTML (the computer language for creating Web pages), learning by trial and error how to set type in the cyber-equivalent of a hand letterpress.

Today, the business of writing Web pages has vastly speeded up, and I am no longer an anomaly among Princeton professors. Many faculty members, as well as academic departments, sport their own Web pages and list online courses. The tools for searching and writing have greatly improved: now I search with my own engine, appropriately named "Sherlock,'' and I store thousands of bookmarks in a private database, called ''Surf Scout." In practical terms, these tools let me quickly look for topics, secure Web addresses, and build pages in an HTML editor. In about three hours, I can prepare a complete set of links for a lecture or seminar.

Yet efficiency of production does not make teaching any easier or less daunting. How should we use the Web in our classrooms? Over the years, I've conducted various teaching experiments. Sometimes in lectures I project Websites to show images or texts -- but in truth, a 35-mm slide projector does a better job. In seminars I have also displayed Web pages, mainly to make brief discussion points. The Web is less useful in these situations, because it interferes with the high bandwidth of human conversation, distracting us with a technology that can at times be slow, cumbersome, and all too prone to system bombs.

The Web works best as a supplement that students read before or after class, especially when preparing to write. In most of my courses, I ask students to submit e-mail responses to each week's reading, due a few hours before class. These I print and annotate, using them as a basis for guiding our discussion. I thus know in advance what students think about the reading, where they have problems and blind spots, and what points of disagreement may be useful to explore. I also have something in prose from every student, including all those sphinxes who refuse to speak in an open forum.

At first, I ask the students to write privately to me, and I give them encouraging feedback. Then, after a few weeks, I direct their mail to a class "e-list," in which all subscribers read all the postings. As they read and react to what their peers think, the conversation grows more intense and collaborative. Using the Web, I then ask the students, either alone or in small groups, to explore links and compile evidence for comparative discussion: What about that review in the Los Angeles Times? Who remembers the portraits of Walt Whitman? Did anyone find a map of Wounded Knee?



A major recurring motif in American writing is the inscription of reality, the imaginative recasting of what Emerson called "the common...the familiar, the low" ("The American Scholar," 1836). To comprehend the figural drift of Melville, Dickinson, or Faulkner, it's valuable to see the literal content of their times and places. The Web creates a series of paths into that history, the better to grasp why many years later a text reads as literature. Perhaps the author has made a significant change or omission, a slight rearranging of the past for effect. Or perhaps we must drop our contemporary blinders and learn to gloss a word or phrase as the author did. The Web provides a dynamic means of annotation, not fixed in marginalia but adapting to each reader's needs. It's also faster to search electronic links than offprints or clippings, let alone copy and circulate them. I used to make a "green" argument for the Web, claiming it saved us tons of paper -- until I found my students were laser-printing the sites they found, at exorbitant cost.

Today's students are bright, ambitious, yet intellectually cautious. Faced with the vast sea of Internet data, they hesitate to venture beyond rote assignments. They offer many excuses: no workstations available, the network was down, can't remember how to log on, and that old reliable: you never said this was required. So I began to require Web use: every paper must have both Web and library citations; review these five links and write a 500-word evaluation of them; test the online concordance of Moby-Dick by searching for words describing paternity and maternity. In time, the fear of learning new skills faded, especially after my English majors began to find post-collegiate jobs in the fast-growing field of Web publication.

One spring I ran an entire American Studies seminar, Race and Region, as a course in Web-based research and writing. We met on Tuesdays to discuss the readings; on Wednesdays the students surfed madly, trying to solve a set of research problems: Trace the route of Frederick Douglass's northern journey. Locate images of the Sonoran Desert. Who sponsored the Dawes General Allotment Act? On Thursdays, we discussed these findings and their implications, which helped us grasp the relation between physical environments and histories of racial injustice toward American minorities, from Indians to Asians. Far from regarding the research problems as trivia, students saw them as multiple contexts that framed their primary readings. They also reported to me that their parents were logging onto the course from far away and reading over our shoulders.

Perhaps the greatest challenge I had was creating the course American Literature Before 1825. Uncertain how much ancillary material I could locate on the Web, I was amazed to find data for more than 90 percent of the works assigned. The students' responses to the course were enormously positive, and in their written evaluations they said how the past came vividly alive for them, thanks to the Website materials. In an American Studies core course, American Places, several students chose to create Website papers that demonstrated a superior grasp of course themes (the way places shape and represent cultural history) and of clear, effective presentation. These students benefited from using the course site, which taught them how to research and write in a mode of publication that will dominate international discourse in the 21st century.

For the last two years, I've conducted a seminar for graduate teaching assistants, entitled Teaching with Technology and supported by the A. V. Davis Foundations. With the help of colleagues from the faculty and the library staff, we work with students with a wide range of technical skills. Their goal is to practice collaborative strategies for teaching and learning, and to build Websites for their courses. We are also advancing their dissertation research by teaching them about online resources and how to use software as a powerful writing tool. Our aim is to develop productive scholars who are also versatile teachers, well-prepared to meet the next generation of college students.

In 1997, the Claremont Graduate School published a national survey indicating that e-mail is now used in one-third of college courses, but chiefly for posting syllabi or providing limited encyclopedia and site links. Many American campuses still do not provide full access to computing for all students, or guidance to their faculty on how to use these tools for learning. My work suggests several practical ways to connect information technology with intellectual content. Literature is the field that examines a broad range of issues in cultural history, the factors that have the most potential for creating a sense of community in today's divisive, confusing America. I believe that imaginative use of the Web teaches us how to engage with the past, find and connect information, and disseminate it democratically. These experiences have helped me provide both students and their teachers with a new form of literacy, one that may improve our chances to preserve the natural environment and sustain our rich multicultural heritage.


Professor William Howarth teaches courses in literature and cultural history, chiefly for the programs in American and Environmental Studies. He is completing a book entitled What Nature Knows: The Cultural Study of Environment.

Clubs open doors, not taps, for bicker


Even though the booze didn't flow on Prospect Street as four of five selective eating clubs experimented with a dry bicker, the clubs conducted a successful bicker/sign-in process in February. A total of 891 sophomores -- about 80 percent of the Class of 2001 -- joined eating clubs. Of the 11 clubs, only Colonial didn't fill. Students found dry bicker "more fair and less intimidating," said former Inter-Club Council President Clark Lauritzen '99.

According to figures compiled by The Daily Princetonian, among the five selective clubs Tower was the most popular choice, with 157 students bickering and 95 receiving bids. At Cottage, 148 students bickered and 86 were accepted. The other three selective clubs, Ivy, Cap and Gown, and Tiger Inn, had 130, 103, and 90 bickerees, respectively. Ivy accepted 67, Cap and Gown 70, and Tiger Inn 65.

Of the sign-in clubs, Quadrangle and Terrace filled in the first round. Quadrangle accepted 111 students and Terrace 94.

Campus accepted 66 members in the first round and 30 in the second round. Cloister accepted 89 in the first round and five in the second. Charter attracted only 25 in the first round but rebounded with 62 in the second. Only 34 students joined Colonial, which accepted 24 in the first round and 10 in the second.

Graduate School to celebrate centennial


With a new centennial logo in hand (left), the Graduate School is making plans for a yearlong celebration of its 100th anniversary in 2000-2001. Designed by the firm ChingFoster, the logo is adapted from a stone relief found on the outside west wall of Procter Hall, at the Graduate College.

The Graduate School, which was established December 13, 1900, is planning various events, symposia, and lectures to commence at Reunions 2000 and conclude at Reunions the following year. Activities include a gala on December 15, 2000, a conference on graduate education, and a public-lecture series featuring graduate alumni in cutting-edge research.

In conjunction with the 100th anniversary, the university is seeking to raise $100 million for the Graduate School as part of the Anniversary Campaign. To date, Princeton has raised more than $60 million.

Short takes

Stubborn old people?: Research by a Princeton professor has put a dent in the stereotype of stubborn old people stuck in their ways. Penny S. Visser, an instructor in psychology and public affairs, found that both old and young people were more willing to change their minds than middle-aged folks. In one national survey, supporters and opponents of military action in a hypothetical example were asked if they would change their minds if the United Nations urged an opposite approach. Fifty-six percent of 18-year-olds, and 50 percent of elderly respondents, said they would, compared to only 42 percent of those in their late 50s. Visser and her research partner, Jon Krosnick of Ohio State University, suggested that younger people were more willing to change their minds because they tended to be less sure of their views. The researchers speculated that as people reach adulthood, they become more knowledgeable and more sure of their views. But as they age, "declines in cognitive skills may cause people to become less able to store and retrieve issue-relevant knowledge from memory" -- and less likely to hold firm in their views.

-- Frederic J. Frommer


Plane on mars: NASA has agreed to fund a project that will culminate in a flight of an airplane in the thin atmosphere of Mars on December 17, 2003, exactly 100 years after the Wright brothers' historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The idea for the project was proposed by Edgar Yazio Choueiri *91, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, in a May 1997 document he circulated among his department and some outside colleagues. Since the Martian atmosphere is devoid of air (it is mostly carbon dioxide), the term "airplane" is not very suitable. Instead, Choueiri calls the craft an "Aresplane," in reference to Ares, the Greek name for the Roman god Mars. The project would force researchers to urgently seek solutions for problems related to materials, airfoil design, dynamics and control, and propulsion. These problems correspond to research areas in which the MAE department has made numerous contributions. The project could also lead to a better understanding of geological processes that shaped the red planet and its vast canyons.


Light gaps: A painstaking effort to track every square inch of plant life in large patches of tropical forests has started to produce significant discoveries in ecology. Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Stephen P. Hubbell, a founder of the project, is using the research to answer fundamental questions about what factors come into play in maintaining the diversity of life on Earth. Hubbell's latest finding, reported in Science, overturns one of the bedrock beliefs among ecologists about what allows tropical forests to maintain such a dazzling variety of tree species. The common thinking was that when a tree dies or is blown over in a storm, the resulting infusion of direct sunlight, called a light gap, allows new species to flourish and compete to fill the open slot in the forest. The frequency and size of light gaps was, therefore, thought to predict the type and number of species present in the forest.

Hubbell found, however, that no such correlation exists. Using vast amounts of data generated from the tracking project, he showed that areas with many light gaps are no richer in species than areas with few pockets of sunlight. The mix of species also was not notably different. Although some species do depend on light gaps to survive, they are such a small minority that they don't change the results.

In brief

Graduate rankings: U.S. News & World Report ranked Princeton's graduate programs in mathematics, physics, the biological sciences, and computer science among the top 10 in the country. The rankings of Ph.D. programs are based on the results of a survey sent to academics in each discipline. Princeton ranked second in mathematics and physics, seventh in the biological sciences, and eighth in computer science. The School of Engineering and Applied Science was ranked 17th in U.S. News's annual rating of the best graduate schools. MIT topped that list for the 11th time.


Nudist Help: According to a story by Richard Just '01 in The Daily Princetonian, the Tri-State Metro Naturists -- a New Jersey-based group that promotes "family-oriented clothing optional recreation" -- has offered to help undergraduates reform the Nude Olympics without ending it. According to its president, Dan Speers, the group has experience planning safe nude events and e-mailed Undergraduate Student Government President Spencer Merriweather '00 offering its expertise in fighting to save the annual ritual. "One of the things that I had read...was that a lot of students this year were becoming comfortable with being nude during the event. That's what our club's all about."


Appointments: Jacqueline Mintz, the founding director of the GSI Teaching and Resource Center at the University of California at Berkeley, will become director of Princeton's new Harold W. McGraw Jr. '40 Center for Teaching and Learning next fall. Mintz has led the Berkeley center for 10 years, working particularly with graduate student instructors (GSIs) and with faculty members to enhance teaching and learning on that campus. The McGraw Center, which will be housed in the Frist Campus Center, is intended to serve as a laboratory for new ideas and a place to share, across departments and disciplines, teaching discoveries that have proven successful in individual classrooms at Princeton and other colleges and universities.

Kathleen Mulligan, formerly the director of facilities services at Oregon State University, has become vice-president for facilities at Princeton. Mulligan had worked as director for facilities at Oregon State for more than 10 years, overseeing the physical plant, environmental health and safety, and facilities planning, and managing the construction program for the 420-acre main campus.

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