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Letter from an alumnus about Princeton's Message to China

Recently in the newspapers there were articles about research by Professor Stephen Norwood into the failure of U.S. universities, particularly Harvard, to confront Nazi barbarism.  After the Nazis fired Jewish professors at German universities, Harvard acted as if nothing had happened.  As an example of their indifference, they sent a delegation to Heidelberg for its 550th anniversary celebration, an event the Nazis wanted to spread the message of “the devotion of the New Germany to the task of universal civilization.” 

It’s with this in mind that I read Professor Perry Link’s account of how a Princeton delegation to China, led by President Tilghman, failed to raise the issue of his being blacklisted by Chinese authorities.  China’s actions are a piece with other thuggery directed at Princeton-connected scholars: in 2001, they arrested Dr. Li Shaomin *88.

Professor Link suggests that the message Princeton is sending, that it’s indifferent to abuse of scholars, is not one that President Tilghman intends to send.  Intended or not, it's the same message Harvard sent 70 years ago.  Upon receipt, the Nazis could conclude that it was safe to move from dismissing professors to other things.  China also iscertainly capable of moving on to more serious intimidation of scholars.  After all, they did arrest Dr. Li – not to mention run over students with tanks. If China does ratchet up the abuses, we may see future research, similar to Professor Norwood’s, that touches on

Princeton’s ignoring of Professor Link’s blacklisting.


Providence, R.I.

Date Posted: 04/21/05


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