Campus responds to terrorism in dorm rooms and in the Prince
Abhi Raghunathan '02
some ways, the campus is returning to normal. Seniors are posing
for yearbook photos. Hundreds of students head out to the Street
on Thursdays and Saturdays. The flags that dotted the campus in
the days after the attacks on September 11 have mostly disappeared.
Even Lawnparties was rescheduled.
But the confusion and
disruption that spread over the campus like a dark cloud in the
days after the attack still linger and have recently surfaced in
the editorial pages of the Daily Princetonian. When Dan Wachtell
'02 wrote a column in the Prince urging restraint rather than immediate
attack, he set off a feud in the pages of the newspaper. In his
column, he wrote that "The conflation by this country's leadership
of the terrorists who commit such acts and the nations that harbor
them is dangerous, illogical, unacceptable and, in fact, nothing
short of a prejudiced and racist statement."
Two students immediately
responded with a letter declaring Wachtell's views to be wrongheaded
and unpatriotic. Peter B. Hegseth '03 and Nathaniel L. Hoopes '03
defended military action and also wrote that "We hope you,
Dan Wachtell, would be ashamed to send your article to the families
of 5,500 victims or to the exhausted firefighters who have been
digging mutilated bodies out of the wreckage of two 110-story buildings
and the Pentagon."
Another student wrote
a letter criticizing Hegseth and Hoopes for such a harsh attack,
writing that "I am deeply troubled by the fervor with which
Mr. Hoopes and Mr. Hegseth endeavor to squelch the opinion of Mr.
Such dialogue differs
greatly from the letters that usually appear in the Prince. But
the incident became even more bizarre when the flare-up soon engulfed
Professor Uwe Reinhardt
wrote a column in which he cited passages from Alexis de Tocqueville's
Democracy in America that his daughter had told him about to show
how Americans can sometimes be reluctant to debate controversial
issues. He concluded his column by questioning whether Hoopes and
Hegseth had joined the armed forces or would just be content to
sound the call for war.
The response was not
kind. Assistant Professor of Politics Patrick Deneen responded in
a letter to the Prince that criticized Reinhardt's reading of De
Tocqueville. He wrote, "I also invite professor Reinhardt to
continue his reading of Tocqueville beyond those few passages that
were pointed out to him by his daughter."
He concluded by asking:
"Perhaps, given his criticism toward several students who called
for a military response to the terrorist attacks - namely that they
should hasten to sign up for military service themselves, Professor
Reinhardt implicitly approves of a form of universal military or
civic service that accords with the broad outlines of Tocqueville's
calls for civic commitment? Or could it be that Professor Reinhardt
was invoking Tocqueville's name in the service of his own position
without knowledge of the full implications of Tocqueville's analysis?"
in a letter, noting that "Politics professor Patrick Deneen's
remarkably condescending recommendation in his Oct. 3 letter that
I read Tocqueville beyond the few passages I was able to cite in
my Oct. 1 commentary on 'Political Correctness' completely misses
the central theme of my piece."
He went on to commend
Hegseth for being a member of ROTC, a distinction he said made him
a genuine patriot rather than an "ersatz" patriot. Reinhardt
also noted that he had been commenting on political correctness
in his column, not militarism or pacifism, a point that he said
Deneen had missed.
But this fight in the
pages of the newspaper has been one of the few public ones in the
weeks since the attacks. For the most part, grief and debate have
been carried out in dorm rooms with friends and away from crowds.
A number of faculty panels have wrestled with the issues of terrorism
and Middle East violence and about 75 people rallied against the
attacks on Afghanistan, but not much else has gone on. The biggest
concerns for many students on the campus remain personal, not political.
You can reach Abhi at