a PAW web exclusive column by Hugh O'Bleary (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Those Were the Days
Whether youre 21 or 71, all things change too much
By Hugh OBleary
The Dinky ride between the Princeton and Princeton Junction stations
lasts a little less than five minutes. When youre trying to
get through the New York Times Op-Ed page, or the final chapter
of that mystery youve been reading, or youve simply
closed your eyes for a moment at the end of the day, the trip can
go by all too fast. Find yourself sitting next to Randolph (Randy)
Wellfleet 58, however, and it can feel like the Trans-Siberian
railway on a slow day.
Old Randy (he insists
you call him that, so as not to confuse him with his son, Randy
Wellfleet, Jr. 86, known as Young Randy) is how shall
I phrase this? not exactly the sunniest of commuting companions.
As Larry King would put it, You look up curmudgeon
in the dictionary, you get a picture of Old Randy Wellfleet.
Nothing, to hear Old
Randy tell it, is what it used to be. In his opinion (usually loudly
expressed, complete with hrumphs and pshaws thrown in), the whole
world is heading hellward in the proverbial handbasket. Politics,
entertainment, food, fashion (When did women stop wearing
hats?!) all come under his blistering attack.
However, loyal son of
Old Nassau that he his, Old Randy reserves his bitterest grumbling
for what he sees as the across-the-board decline of Princeton. It
was with a kind of morbid fascination that I lately found myself
jotting down Old Randys complaints. The following a
mere sampling of his menu of malcontentedness makes one wonder
how Princeton manages to stay in business.
He is, for example, outraged
by the trustees plan to increase enrollment. Why bother
even matriculating? was his refrain during a recent mornings
ride. Why dont they just hand out degrees on the street
As for the question of
whether trustee ballots should be mailed to alumni, dont get
him started: What a colossal waste of time, paper and postage!
How am I supposed to know what the candidates stand for? Theres
no information anymore on religion, or political persuasion, or
family status, or personal financial statements, or arrest records,
or blood type .... Its no more than an exercise in photographic
Then, of course, there was the Peter Singer controversy: Moral
bankruptcy! A university has no business sanctioning the advocacy
His reaction to the announcement
of Shirley Tilghmans appointment as president was predictable:
Couldnt they find anyone with a Princeton degree?
He also grumbled about the universitys knee-jerk kowtowing
to the feminist agenda, in appointing a woman when there
must be scores of men better qualified. That led him naturally
into a long, meandering and all-too-familiar grumble against coeducation.
Other bugaboos include
campus construction One monstrosity after another
and the Dinky itself: What was wrong with calling it
Well, nothing, I found
myself wanting to scream when I heard that one, but now they happen
to call it the Dinky! And whats wrong with that?!
I staggered from the train, brushing past two young women waiting
to board. And I had to walk, like, practically all the way
around Nassau Hall, one was saying. Totally, said
the other. I dont even know why theyre putting
in new walks anyway. What was wrong with the old walks?
And thats when
it hit me: Old Randy may be a bit extreme, but hes not unique.
I mean, that could have been his voice coming out in twin falsetto.
Randolph Wellfleet 58 is, if you will, merely the poster boy
for disgruntled alums. And there are plenty of those. Just read
the letters to PAW; though signed by men and women representing
classes from before World War II to 02, 03 and 04,
half could have been written by Old Randy at his most curmudgeonly.
A university thrives
financially and spiritually on the support of its
alumni. It is only through that support that a great institution
like Princeton can continue to grow and evolve and change and...
. And 90 per cent of alumni, it seems, are against change. As Old
Randy would say, It wasnt like that in my day!
Hugh O'Bleary commutes
to New York City from Princeton. He revels in his daily sojourn
across campus to catch the Dinky. You can reach Hugh O'Bleary by
writing him c/o email@example.com