Web Exclusives: LetterBox

Letter from an alumnus about Campaign donations unbalanced/Donation Complacency

Date Posted: January 26, 2004

I am partly responding to the letter titled “Donation Disparity” by Paul Pressler ’52 in the Dec. 8 PAW. The disparity in financial support from Princeton-related faculty, staff, students, etc., for Kerry as opposed to Bush, first covered in Notebook (Oct. 20) and noted in the aforementioned letter, suggests something is seriously wrong when the culture on campus is so dramatically slanted in one direction.

Hubris is an interesting word. My late father used to tell me that “it is hard to improve until you confront your shortcomings.” I loved my years at Princeton. They were wonderful, and very special. But they were not perfect. As I read through PAW I often get a sense of a place increasingly, if not excessively, a bit too pleased with itself.

We are repeatedly told that universities and colleges should be places of ideas. Indeed, I believe Princeton and other universities are at their very best when new ideas are allowed to germinate, grow, and indeed prosper in an environment that provides all the ingredients to support novel concepts.

We also hear talk of intellectual honesty and courage. However, true courage is exemplified by those who are unafraid to say, write, or draw something that is different from that which the prevailing wisdom has deemed to be “correct.” There is little courageous about yet another rock band wearing ripped jeans and smashing guitars. What would be courageous in 2005 would be a rock band wearing three-piece suits and ties!

There is little courageous about a place that provides $41,200 in support of one candidate for the presidency of this country, and $250 for the other candidate. Not because I believe Mr. Bush is perfect, nor because I believe Mr. Kerry is not. But this level of extreme imbalance, and subtle pressure to conform to the local sense of what is “correct,” is the antithesis of moral and intellectual courage.

Galileo Galilei made some measurements with his newly created telescope, and discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter. This was not what the prevailing culture wanted to know. As a result, some really unfortunate things happened to old Galileo, who ultimately died blind, alone, and effectively under house arrest. My point is simply that he had the moral and intellectual courage to write something not only that he knew from direct observation to be true, but that happened to cut across the grain of the prevailing culture – and he was also willing to suffer the consequences!

Professors and staff at a presumably great university who nearly all are on one side of an issue should set off something of an alarm. Especially since that side interestingly enough wound up not being the side favored by a majority of people in this country. Clearly not all of the majority of the U.S. electorate are misguided souls. This image of students and faculty at Princeton nearly exclusively espousing views from only one side strikes me as rather sad. When Princeton takes a hard look in the mirror and admits that there are some shortcomings, only then will those shortcomings be properly addressed, and the overall place made that much better.

Interestingly, in my own life the three truly useful pieces of work I have managed to do over a 40-year career all resulted from situations where my back was against the wall, and little chance for success seemed probable. Conversely, the three worst moments in my life all stemmed from a sense that “everything is terrific” — only to have the walls come tumbling down shortly thereafter. Hubris ... an interesting word, and a myopic affliction.

Dr. Paul F. Jacobs *66
Saunderstown, R.I.

Date Posted: January 26, 2004

According to the latest Republican conspiracy theory, American college campuses are nothing more than indoctrination camps for communists, socialists, Muslims, abortionists and America-hating tree-huggers. Their “evidence”? A majority of college professors consider themselves liberal and contribute funds to like-minded politicians.

It is revealing that rather than identify any actual cases of indoctrination or political discrimination, these self-proclaimed conservatives simply assume that (perhaps like themselves) nobody could possibly separate their political ideology from their paid employment. That the Republican right would rely entirely such an assumption is far more revealing of its own character than it is of those it accuses.

A more likely explanation for the apparent lack of this sort of conservative in academia lies with their apparent inability to support an argument with facts, logic or anything but spin, innuendo, and belligerence.

Isaac Boxx ’99
Austin, Texas


Date Posted: December 27, 2004

I read with interest your Oct. 20 Notebook item reporting that Princeton faculty and staff contributed more than $50,000 to John Kerry’s campaign since March, while not making a single recorded contribution to George Bush’s campaign during the same period. Ignoring for a moment the dubiousness of contributing to any Yalie, I hope that the University will be investigating and addressing this astounding disparity.

If one assumes that the statistic is even a rough indicator of the faculty and administration’s political orientation, how can such a disparity be tolerated? After all, today's Princeton seems obsessed with diversity and equality toward what some might say are less substantive matters. Should not the country’s premier university take steps to assure that its students are exposed to equal representation from the country’s majority orientation? I hope the University administration’s answer to this does not reflect the elitism that it also claims to be shedding.

William Sawch ’76
Weston, Conn.

Date Posted: December 27, 2004

By now the presidential election is over (we hope), but as I write this we are in the thick of things. Given some recent stories about the political leanings of academia, I was curious as to how Princeton stacked up. The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that tracks money in politics, has a Web site called www.opensecrets.org. The site reports that employees of Princeton University have donated $62,700 to the Kerry campaign and $500 to the Bush campaign, less than 1% of the total.

Shocking, no? Certainly not representative of our voting population.

George Moosburner ’79
Narberth, Pa.

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