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Letters from alumni about Cornel West


May 28, 2004

To paraphrase, when West left Harvard for Princeton, there was a decrease in the quality of the faculty in both institutions.

Brad Bucher *57
Rocky HIll, N.J.

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May 12, 2003

I know you've gotten lots of response on this, but, as a student who's taken Prof. West's class, I thought I might chime in. Here is a letter I sent to the Daily Princetonian.

I took Prof. West's large lecture course, Philosophic, Religious, and Literary Dimensions of DuBois, Baldwin and Morrison, this semester hoping to experience first-hand the teaching of the man behind the hype. While I found the class entertaining, I did not find Prof. West to be particularly informative or critical in his approach whatsoever. Most lectures boiled down to animated though repetitive paeans to the authors, rather than a critical appraisal or contextualization of the material.

Despite students' obvious appreciation of Prof. West's charismatic personality and gesticulating style, his acclaim stems from the histrionics he provides "on stage" in lecture, rather than the depth of scholarship displayed therein. If Princeton was looking to garner the publicity born of employing a fascinating personality, the "steal" of Prof. West was truly a coup. If it was hoping to improve the quality of the teaching faculty, I believe Harvard was the real winner in the exchange.

Jessica Manley '03
Princeton University

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February 5, 2003

Dear Mr. Boxx,

You're welcome.

I owe everything I know about spelling and syntax to our own 'Dear Leader,' Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago. And remember the words of that old Texas Cowboy song, "Don't Boxx Me In."

Cheers,
S.A. Molasky '63
Chicago, Ill.

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January 31, 2003

I doff my hat to Mr. Molasky. A response as eloquent, erudite, and intellectually impeccable as his could only have come from a fellow Princetonian. It's oratory like his that swells the heart and makes one proud to be a Princetonian.

Isaac Boxx, '99
Austin, Tex.

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January 31, 2003


In response to Mr. Boxx:

I found the quotation in question in a letter to the editor section of the Chicago Tribune about nine months ago. I have it somewhere, and, when I find it, I will call the person who wrote it and ask for his source.

While I am doing this, Mr. Boxx, can you perhaps produce your source for your utterly nasty definition of the word, "Zionism"?

People like Mr. Boxx cross a clear line into antisemitism when they single out Israel for special criticisms they do not apply to other countries, such as Lybia, Cuba, Syria, Egypt, China, Sudan, N. Korea, and Iraq. Steeped in simple-minded, left-wing ideology, leftoids like Boxx observe the "Palestinians" in a terrible state, and conclude the only possible reason for their sorry condition must be Israeli oppression. Of course, their miserable predicament has nothing to do with their own choices, their own corrupt and murderous "leadership,'" and their cynical manipulation by "friendly" Arab Nations.

Jews in Israel and the rest of the world are constantly discussing how Israel can be a better society.

However, to single Israel out as an especially evil "entity," in spite of the fact that Israel has been extremely restrained in its reactions to the relentless murders of its civilians by the fanatics who are nourished by an infrastucture of cynicism, hatred, and death.

Mr. Boxx is a very young man, and his rhetoric reveals a lot about him. Parroting propaganda, he is hopefully not so representative of a young generation who only recently received a supposedly well-rounded education at fine schools like good old Princeton.

Ironically, I was just as fiery a left-winger as he currently is when I was his age. Sooner or later, the majority of us '60s rads got tired of the empty rhetoric and the pompous, self-absorbed "leaders," and the hypocritical and sanctimonious demagogues.

There are many far more illustrious examples of a generation of rebels who had second thoughts. Dr. Leon Kass was a Mississippi Freedom Rider, and now volunteers as the head of President Bush's committee on human cloning. David Horowitz once helped raise money for Black Panther schools in Oakland, and now has his own conservative think tank.

So I hope Mr. Boxx is just a youthful idealist who has temporarily lost his way in the swamp of left-wing rhetoric.

Take a cold shower, get out of your box, sir, and meet and intelligently converse with some real people — from Israel, Vietnam, and America.

Stephen Molasky ’63
Chicago, Ill.

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January 25, 2003

On July 4, October 11, and again on November 6, 2002, Mr. Molasky, '63 attributed the following quote to Martin Luther King:

"You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green Earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews this is God's own truth... Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement, So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so..."

He even went on to tell me that "This is easy for current left-wingers to forget."

I'll say, since it appears that Mr. King never actually said what Mr. Molasky claims. According to Tim Wise, on Jan 20, 2003, in Zmag.org, who fact-checked this quote, it was made up, fabricated and passed off under the name of Martin Luther King. Indeed, Mr. Wise says the following:

"The treatise, it is claimed, was published on page 76 of the August, 1967 edition of Saturday Review, and supposedly can also be read in the collection of King's work entitled, This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That the claimants never mention the publisher of this collection should have been a clear tip-off that it might not be genuine, and indeed it isn't. The book doesn't exist. As for Saturday Review, there were four issues in August of 1967. Two of the four editions contained a page 76. One of the pages 76 contains classified ads and the other contained a review of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album. No King letter anywhere."

The full article may be found at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article1113.shtml

Mr. Olasky, I trust you can verify this quote you have attributed three times to MLK? If it is correct, I trust you can give us your source and if it is not, I trust you can expalin why you would trust a fabrication so unquestioningly.

Isaac Boxx '99
Austin, Tex.

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January 22, 2003

In response to John Paul Jones '36

HEAR...HEAR!

Stephen A. Molasky ’63
Chicago, Ill.

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January 10, 2003

At last! Some nine months ago, following his appointment, Cornel West not only ignored several PAW interview requests, but in other actions and public utterances was most egregious and ill-mannered. He hasn't apologized for his racial slur of calling Harvard's president Summers "the Ariel Sharon of American higher education."

I gather, too, that "activist" apparently has been added to his scholarship job description and that means he will receive full pay for any time so engaged.

West's flamboyant antics and behavior were well known. I don't think he deserved a second chance at Prineton (Professor of Religion !).

All contoversial appointees I have observed in my 72 years of being a Princetonian, conducted themselves following appointment, with decorum and respect.

My big disappointment is that West broke the mold. I support diversity. But must it be at the expense of civility and good manners?

For many years I have given to and worked for Annual Giving. To support my Class of '36's percent participation I will continue to give, albeit in a single digit amount. I will continue to pay class dues and wear my Princeton T-shirt when I take my regular beach walks.

John Paul Jones ’36
La Jolla, Calif.

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November 18, 2002

This is in reference to "A Moment With" Cornel West.

He states the press had "verylittle sense of the facts." The facts are that eht president of Harvard stated

(1) he had not published a worthwhle book in years.
(2) He gave all the students in one of his courses an A-minus or better, irrespective of attainment,
(3) He spent too much time campaigning for the Rev. Al Sharpton. [By the way, I respect the rev. Sharpton for his candor.]
None of these issues were addressed thoroughly.

Contrast this with the Nobel laureate on page 8!!

Why my class made West a professor of religion, I do not know.

I’ll say one thing for his appointment. He is better than the bioethics professor who advocates killing babies.

Charles E. Tychsen ’43
Mishawaka, Ind.

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November 16, 2002

Your decision to devote an entire page to Cornell West puffery in the November 6 issue is rather telling. Your print edition says one thing, many unpublished (in print) alumni say something else, (check the website) — which you choose to ignore in your print edition.

You have chosen to ignore many of us who find the great "public philosopher" "Cornwall Chest" to be nothing more than another left wing anti-Semite. He supports Al Sharpton, who referred to Jews (and Koreans) in Harlem as "interlopers." He keeps talking about "the occupation," when it is clear to any fair-minded observer that the so-called '"occupied territories" were never a soverign state, but part of Jordan and Egypt, before Israel took them in various wars of salvation.

"Salvation" is no exaggeration, since it
has always been the Arabs' goal to liquidate Israel.

Princeton has become part of the left-wing, anti-Jewish, anti-Israel bloc in its stupid support of West, so clearly seen in its choices of what to print and feature in PAW.

I don't even want to try to understand this! Have any of my fellow alumni read the chronicles of Ann Frank and, recently, many other murdered Jewish children? Can they not understand how important it is for a Jewish state to exist, after all that murder of so many Jews in countries that fancied themselves as Christian?

Israel has a right to exist. I wonder if the left-wing anti-Semites Princeton hires ever heard of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of Moses, who returned our people to the Promised Land, thousands of years ago? Have any of them ever attended a bar mitzva or a wedding, and been able to ignore the many references to Jerusalem and peace in the Jewish liturgy, which is thousands of years old?

While West "struggles" with the absurd issue of divestment (isn't it just another form of Jew-hating propaganda?), I, and hopefully many righteous alumni will also struggle with our routine financial support of Princeton.

As a financial adviser, I must say, any divestment program would be just as silly as most "socially correct" restrictions. If you doubt me, just look at Teva Pharma or many other innovative Israeli companies that have done very well for their share holders.

Does Princeton deserve our money if we are not pee-cee? I love Princeton. I spent four wonderful, formative years there. I am forever grateful to Mr, Schraibman, who taught me Spanish, and Madam Bill, who helped me through my almost honors senior thesis on Bunin.

Many of my best friends and best clients are Princeton guys. It is very painful to see Princeton now as part of a new anti-Semitic axis. I deal with this my limiting my financial support to the wonderful Center for Jewish Life on campus.

Stephen A. Molasky '63
Chicago, Ill.

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November 11, 2002

Professor West says "I'm struggling over the issue of divestment from Israel right now...And it's very important to separate that from any anti-Semitism."

If Professor West is intellectually honest, he will look at all countries that have offensive social policies and consider divestment, such as Saudi Arabia, due to its treatment of women, to cite only one example. When he selectively singles out Israel, a democracy, and omits Saudi Arabia, a repressive, medieval monarchy, he is indeed being anti-Semitic.

Richard Rampell '74
Palm Beach, Fla.

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November 6, 2002

It was not me, it was Martin Luther King Jr. - 40 or so years ago - who equated anti-zionism with anti-semitism.

This is easy for current left-wingers to forget.

Stephen A. Molasky '63
Chicago, Ill.

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November 4, 2002

I read with disgust the comments of Cornel West who is  "struggling with the issue of divestment from Israel." Ignoring the fact that Israel offered the Palestinians a comprehensive peace plan with autonomy (which they rejected in favor of violence) and ignoring the  fact that Israel was the first mid-eastern country to give Arab women the right to vote, one wonders why Dr. West isn't more focused on more glaring issues of oppression in the world.  

Why, for example, isn't he "struggling" with divestment from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, and Syria: countries that actively discriminate against their women, deny citizens a real democratic right to vote, suppress minorities, and deny citizens basic human rights.

Where is his outrage at the  carnage in the Ivory coast, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, the Congo, Sudan, Angola, and Somalia?  If "occupation" is his only concern, why isn't he "struggling" with divestment from Great Britain for its occupation of Northern Ireland, China for its occupation of Tibet, or Russia for its occupation of Chechnya?

If Cornel West doesn''t understand why his Jewish "brothers and sisters" find his kind of public intellect offensive, then he should spend time considering his own transparent hypocrisy. Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers courageously identified the anti-semitic nature of this pseudo-intellectual banter.  President Tilghman's voice needs to be heard, too.

Jeffrey S. Oppenheim '84
Suffern, N.Y.

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November 2, 2002

Mr. Molasky's assertion that "anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so..." is racist, moronic, and quite anti-Semitic in its own right.

Zionism a political philosophy based on religious segregation, racism, and political inequality. To suggest that opposition to this political philosophy, one that runs counter to the fundamental principles of democracy and freedom we Americans hold so dear, is "anti-Semitic" is dishonest in the extreme. Worse, it suggests that this philosophy is somehow representative of the Jewish faith. To suggest that a political philosophy of racism, religious segregation, and the persecution of an indigenous people are somehow representative of Judaism is a slander that can only be described as an anti-Semitic libel.

If a charge of anti-Semitism is to be leveled, it is against those of Mr. Molasky's ilk, who suggest Zionism is synonymous with Judaism.

Isaac Boxx ’99
Austin, Tex.

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October 11, 2002

You did not publish either of my letters regarding the miraculous reappearance of the gadfly, Cornel West, at PU in your print edition. Judging from the PAW print edition, one would get the mistaken impression that there has been an outpouring of alumni support for this troubled man.

I think it is very important for you to print my quote from M. L. King which clearly answers those who wonder how West's pronouncements can be viewed as anti-Semitic:

— "You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring out from the highest mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green Earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews - this is God's own truth... Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind, In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so..."

Mr. West is an anti-Semite. Long before the president of Harvard warned about a resurgence of anti-Semitism on that campus, I sent in the above quote, which explains why PU has again become an unfriendly place for Jews.

Stephen Molasky '63
Chicago, Ill.

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September 19, 2002

The pro-West letters carried in the September 11 PAW do not in any way contradict what I wrote in my letter dated May 18. They did add the point that Professor West is an able lecturer.

As you can see, I feel rather strongly about the return of Cornel West. It was wrong to undermine Harvard President Summer in his efforts to induce West to attend to his acadenic duties, It was nasty for West with his reference to Ariel Sharon to try to insult Sumner after his return to Princeton.

This year was the first I recall not contributing to Annual Giving, and it was solely because of the return of Professor West and the treatment accorded to President Summer. I hope you will carry my letter of last May in PAW.

Henry L. Heymann ’43
Washington, D.C.

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August 14, 2002

I wanted to respond briefly to the letters that refer to my earlier letter on this subject.

Gerald Horne says that those who allege that "it was inappropriate for Professor West to compare President Summers of Harvard to Ariel Sharon of Israel" make a "charge" that they leave "hanging." Before he accuses others of having "frail" arguments, he might remember that the burden of proof for an assertion rests on the person making it, not on those who question it. It was Professor West who compared Lawrence Summers to Ariel Sharon; the burden of proof is therefore Professor West's to explain why the comparison was proper, not ours to explain why it was improper. I do not think it too onerous to ask an academic of Professor West's stature to take responsibility for the words that come out of his mouth. And so I made the request that he do so. My request stands. And if Mr. Horne wants some hints as to why the Summers-Sharon comparison might be controversial, I suggest he acquaint himself with the contents of the Kahan Commission Report that I cited.

As for Peter Suedfeld's claim, he is clearly referring to the print version of my letter, which was abbreviated by the editors of PAW. The web version nearby, which is the version I sent, anticipates his objections. My assertion that Ariel Sharon "sent" the Phalangists into Sabra and Shatila is confirmed by the very passage of the Kahan Commission Report that I quoted in my letter, which refers to Mr. Sharon's decision "to have the Phalangists enter the camps." The passage I quoted also makes explicit reference to the fact that the Phalangists did the actual killing, and that Mr. Sharon's responsibility was "indirect." I never accused Ariel Sharon of committing the massacre, and I never denied that the Phalangists were directly responsible for it (I certainly believe they were). But the issue here is not "Who was directly responsible for Sabra and Shatila?" The issue is the propriety of Professor West's comparison of Lawrence Summers to Ariel Sharon. The Phalangists' guilt is therefore largely irrelevant in this context. My point was merely that Mr. Sharon was responsible for grave wrongdoing at Sabra and Shatila. And the report shows that he was.

As for Arthur R. Boone's letter, it is a textbook example of a red herring. I had asked about what Mr. Summers had done at Harvard to merit a comparison with Ariel Sharon. Mr. Boone comes up with an example that precedes Mr. Summers's time at Harvard. He then tacks on, in a transparently ad hoc manner, the claim that Professor West was "upset" by Mr. Summers's decades-old views on e-waste disposal. Well if this is so, I await Professor West's confirmation of the fact. I'm sure that if he was indeed upset about e-waste disposal issues, he'll explain that to us, and explain how thoughtlessness in the disposal of old consumer electronics goods is morally equivalent to "indirect responsibility" for a massacre.

My questions remain: On what basis does Professor West compare Lawrence Summers to Ariel Sharon? What if anything has Lawrence Summers done to merit that comparison? I have seen nothing that even attempts to answer these questions, either from Professor West or from his defenders.

Let me end on a personal note. I went to Princeton while Professor West was teaching there, and I will be teaching at Princeton this fall when he returns. I am well aware of his gifts as a teacher and as a scholar. But such gifts are not an excuse for character-assassination. What we have here is a case in which a scholar seems to think he has the right to say anything he wants about anyone he wants, no matter how unwarranted, absurd and malicious it happens to be. His excuse? He is "the brilliant" Cornel West. Well that may be, but even the brilliant Cornel West has to be held to the same standards as apply to the non-brilliant rest of us. No better time than the present to start applying them.

Irfan Khawaja ’91
Princeton, N.J.

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August 2, 2002

The letter by Irfan Khawaja (July 3, 2002) left some mistaken impressions about the role of Ariel Sharon in the killings at Sabra and Shatila.

To begin with, there is no evidence that Sharon or the Israel Defense Forces "sent" anybody into the camps; rather, the Kahan Commission blamed Sharon for not preventing the entry of militia forces who then killed several hundred people (estimates range from 400 to between 700 and 800, depending on who is doing the estimating).

Sharon, then Israel's minister of defense, and General Raful Eitan, the army chief of staff, were held indirectly responsible, and lost their positions, as the result of an inquiry and report by an Israeli commission, indicating the willingness of Israel to point the finger at its own high-ranking personnel. It should also be noted that the killers, to whom Khawaja's letter refers only as "militias," were neither Israeli nor Jewish; they were in fact Lebanese Christian Phalangists.

Strangely enough, media references to the massacre almost always put the blame on Sharon and Israel, and tend to ignore the identity of the actual perpetrators. As a result, many people believe that the killings were carried out by Israelis under the direction of Sharon, a serious error that I am sure Mr. Khawaja would not want to perpetuate.

Peter Suedfeld *63
Vancouver, Canada

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July 18, 2002

In response to Irfan Khawaja's letter in the July 3 PAW, on Tuesday I was at a meeting in Oakland, where the executive director of the Basel Action Network of Seattle (that works against disposing of old consumer electronics in third world countries) showed on his PowerPoint a memo signed by Lawrence Summers, dated 1991, when he was at the World Bank, which demonstrated (to the presenter and to most of the audience), crass, callous, and mostly thoughtless comments about how so-called e-waste should be managed.

The presenter said Mr. Summers has admitted sending the memo but said it was for internal circulation only. If western countries were to do in the future to sub-Sahara Africa what we are now doing to rural Southeast Asia, I could see why Cornel West would be upset with Mr. Summers. www.ban.org is the website.

Arthur R. Boone '60
Berkeley, Calif.

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July 4, 2002

Judging from the letters in the June issue, Mr. West has quite a fan club, especially among younger graduates. Could this be due to grade inflation? I always loved those few professors who generously gave me A's. I do not blame Mr. West for taking advantage of the pee-cee atmosphere at Princeton. I blame Princeton for bending over every which way to become as politically correct as possible. Do they do this in order to counter PU's reputation as a snob school? Has PU become Pee Cee U?

Several letter writers wondered how Mr. West's wondrous reappearance at Princeton, and his nastiness toward Larry Sommers and Ariel Sharon can be seen as anti-Semitic. Perhaps a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. would be helpful:

"You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green Earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — this is God's own truth... Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement, So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so..."

Apparently West disagrees. He is a regular speaker at anti-Israel rallies. He likes to blame all the troubles in the Middle East on Israel.

Mr. West is backing a notorious anti-Semite, Al Sharpton, in his run for the presidency. Sharpton is the current darling of many "progressive" black "intoolectuals." The man is a demagogue, notorious for his incendiary remarks, calling Jews and Koreans "interlopers."

One of his former students fondly remembers a course on liberation theology taught by West. Aren't they the theologues who insisted on unilateral disarmnament in the '60s, backed the Sandinistas (the 'pinata' revolutionaries, who even stole boxing champ Alexis Arguello's house), and lately insisted that Elian Gonzales be sent back to the socialist paradise in Cuba?

What has become of Princeton, hastily retreating from her snobbish past into a brave new pee-cee world? Where is the balance? Why not an apolitical great black author like Jamaica Kincaid, to balance the thoroughly leftish Toni Morrison? Has it become canon that Bill Clinton, annointed by Toni M, really was our "first black president," even though none of his girlfriends were black? Where is the balance to Paul Krugman? Would Princeton invite a Thomas Sowell or a Walter Williams to teach a different sociopolitical economic view? They are minority academics, too, ya know.

Stephen Molasky '63
Chicago, Ill.

PS: Those who enjoy demonizing Ariel Sharon should try to remember he was duly elected to lead Israel at this time. Apparently a majority of Israelis feel they need a tough old soldier like Patton to lead them now. Unlike the unelected leaders in the region, Sharon could be voted out in a New York minute.

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June 22, 2002

Not following current U.S. affairs, I had never heard of Cornel West before I read about him in PAW, and can have no opinion about the man and his work. I am extremely surprised, however, at the chorus of voices that condemned his comparison of Harvard's president to Ariel Sharon as "anti-Semitic." At the time the remarks were made, Ariel Sharon was in the process of shelling thickly populated city centers in Palestine and systematically destroying the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure. Calling President Summers "the Ariel Sharon of higher education" may be grossly unfair to Mr. Summers himself, but is no more anti-Semitic than calling, say, Pol Pot "the Hitler of Cambodia" would be anti-German!

Angelos Tsirimokos '74
Brussels, Belgium

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June 18, 2002

I found it interesting that the group of letters printed in response to Cornel West's return to Princeton seemed to be cut from the same cloth. The use of puerile jargon like "racist rabblerouser," "petty whiner," "bamboozling egomaniac" and "sulking diva" is what I would expect from grade school students, not Princeton graduates. As an African-American male graduate of this "diverse" institution, I can't figure out what bothers me more - the fact that a group of Princeton grads are capable of such inane, reactionary responses to the return of a faculty member, or the fact that the editors of PAW think its readership is foolish enough to believe that they received no positive letters regarding Cornel West's return. In the future, do us all a favor and print a cross-section of letters that are more reflective of the broad range of opinions of our graduates, not just one half-baked thought shared by a few readers. Believe it or not, there are many of us who acknowledge Cornel West as a brilliant academic mind and actually applaud his return to Princeton.

David Malebranche *90
Atlanta, Ga.

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June 17, 2002

Reading all the June 5 issue's letters (Stoner, Rogers, Schuessler, Doak) regarding Professor Cornel West's return to Princeton, you'd almost think it was the second coming of the Anti-Christ!

I only had one class with Professor West later in my Princeton career, Religion and Its Modern Critics, and immediately regretted not taking more of his courses. Whether or not one agrees with his sociopolitical agenda, there is no arguing that West is a phenomenal speaker, both in what he says and how he says it. He was one of very few professors whose lectures didn't require mega-doses of caffeine to stay awake through, even after a good night on Prospect Street. I daresay that alone should entitle the man to tenure...or at least having one of the residential colleges named after him.

True, his Ariel Sharon comment was unfortunate: there is no shortage of equally self-righteous, pig-headed and utterly ruthless bullies on the world political stage West could've used as a metaphor, who do NOT happen to share Summers' ethnic and religious background. And though I have not been following West closely in the media, it wouldn't surprise me if he does have an ego to match his talent...he would neither be the first nor the last academic Big Name with this problem, at Princeton or elsewhere.

And by the way, aren't Big Names what elite universities are all about? How many students choose Princeton in large part because of ITS Big Name cachet? Let's get real, folks: we're all in on the same game, aren't we? So why not let Princeton and West get on with it?

Eddie Nguyen '92
Houston, Tex.

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June 16, 2002

I have been catching up on recent PAW's, and was struck by Conrad Schuessler's letter in the April 27 issue claiming that Cornel West's comparison of Harvard President Lawrence Summers to Ariel Sharon is "anti-Semitic" and "perpetrates racial hatred."

Try as I might, I have great difficulty making sense of this. It seems to imply either that Ariel Sharon so embodies qualities essential to Judaism that any criticism of him constitutes anti-Semitism (an idea which I, as a Jew, find horrifying); or the exact opposite, that Ariel Sharon has done such extraordinarily evil things that to compare another Jew to him represents an anti-Semitic slur. If Mr. Schuessler really feels this passionately about Ariel Sharon, he might have better expressed himself by joining Professor West and others (myself among them) when we participated in Jewish-led civil-disobedience to protest Sharon's policies. At the very least, Mr. Schuessler should commend Professor West for putting his body on the line to support those who believe that Sharon's actions violate the values and principles of the Jewish faith.

Incidentally, I had the privilege of passing a wonderful seven hours or so in a holding cell with Prof. West. If the quality of the conversation and learning which I experienced that day is any indication of his abilities as a teacher, I envy those Princeton students who will have an opportunity to study with him during the coming years!

Zack Winestine '81
New York, N.Y.

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June 13, 2002

I am shocked by the overwhelming adversity against Professor West's return to Princeton. The arguments pique my curiosity as to why many of the negative correspondence regarding this issue seem so terse and reactionary. Whereas the (online) responses in favor of Cornel West's return tend to be well thought out arguments. There simply were no "Cornel West rocks! Go Tigers!" responses.

The curt reference to West's likening of President Summers to Prime Minister Sharon as anti-Semitism only displays a ignorance on the part of the respondent. Other references to Professor West's spoken word CD as substandard academics clearly misses the what central purposes Princeton University should have instilled during his tenure here. From the opening lines from the Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities (2001 ed.):
"The central purposes of a University [include] the transmission of knowledge and learning to society at large. Free inquiry and free expression within the academic community are indispensable to the achievement of these goals..."

I remain envious of Princeton's current student body, with regards to their opportunity to learn from Professor West. Critical thinking and controversy is the corner stone of the advancement of society. Simply stated: If not at a university, then where? I am proud to know that Princeton stands true to its mission in providing a home for this type of thought.

Laurence F. Audenaerd *00
Alexandria, Va.

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This is a copy of a letter sent to President Tilghman

June 11, 2002

I used to tell people that being a Princetonian was one of the things of which I was most proud.

Now that Princeton has bestowed an honorary degree on Bill Clinton and rehired Cornel West, I say, "I am proud of my degree, but ashamed of my alma mater."

Both men are undeniably brilliant, but others have saved me the trouble of labeling Clinton as a dope-smoking, draftdodging, womanizing liar; and West as a whining, rabblerousing, racist megalomaniac. So both reflect discredit on themselves, on Princeton University, and on the administrations that dignified them.

I hope that I will take pride in Princeton again in my lifetime. But I'm beginning to doubt it.

Sheldon I Smith '64
Austin, Tex.

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June 11, 2002

I wish Professor West the best of luck, but given all the controversial press he has received, I must wonder about the headline in PAW, 5/15/02, page 10, which reads as follows: Cornel West *80 leaves Harvard for Princeton, Move will bolster Program in African-American Studies.

Is it meant that the move will bolster the program at Princeton, or at Harvard? : )

Ira Kaplan '83
Stamford, Conn.

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June, 8 2002

I want to joint the chorus of criticism surrounding the hiring of Cornel West on the Princeton falculty. It is dismaying and embarrassing that our new president would behave in such a craven manner. Larry Summers had a legitimate beef with West that West couldn't handle without playing the race card, crying in public, and generally behaving in the arrogant and spoiled manner for which he is apparently famous. For Princeton to offer a safe haven in this dust-up is a major blow to its reputation and a case of truly bad judgment. It reflects very poorly on our new president. For all of his impressive credentials, Professor West promises to be a bad apple in the faculty barrell. President Tilghman will rue the day.

Bill Markus ’47
Tucson, Ariz.

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June 6, 2002

Having noticed that West was stirring up trouble at Harvard (from my Harvard Alumni bulletin) I have been contemplating writing to PAW to say "thank God we dumped West off on Harvard."

Now to my horror I read that he has been welcomed back into the fold. I can still change the beneficiary of my CRT.

John Zaugg '40
San Mateo, Calif.

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June 5, 2002

In reply to the ungracious denigration of Professor Cornel West, let me praise this famous man at our famous university.
My father F. Ward Paine ’62 was Class of 1910 at Yale. His widow, my mother, the first woman trustee of Dexter School, said none of us would go to any of the Saints or Groton (St. Marks, etc.) and off we went to Exeter. She was a follower of Jane Addmans and taught us to not be racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, and not be snobs. My father was managing partner of Paine Webber 1928-1940. Because of Teddy Roosevelt’s breakup of trust the marker for people’s capitalism opened up.

May I insist there is no national law of progress and renewal without human intention. It may be no one will say, Thank you Paine Webber – it could be!

The present state of Harvard is not good. The present president is a bull in the china shop. When Cornell West compares him with a man of peace like Ariel Sharon why get upset? Princeton University hired southerners like Prof. Donald and Eric Goldman and Walter Kauffman and the southern gentlemen I clubbed with heard the lectures on lynching in the 20th century America and that to serve our nation we must be brave and clear-eyed. So may I welcome Cornel West to P.U.

Michael Paine ’62
Belmont, Mass.

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June 5, 2002

Kudos to President Summers for resisting it; boo-boos to President Tilghman for being so naive.

Hugh Young *75
Chevy Chase, Md.

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June 4, 2002

In response to Howard M Stoner ’54's letter: Well said, oh well and beautifully said, true in every respect. I was so happy when Cornel West left. I had such high hopes when Dr. Tilgham became president, and now we see she is just like the rest, maybe worse. Meanwhile the trustees do nothing, thinking their office will look good in their obits.

Alvin Owsley '47
Houston, Tex.

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June 4, 2002

I have read the June 5 Letter to the Editor from Howard M. Stoner ’54 regarding Professor Cornel West. I particularly note Mr. Stoner’s charge that West “spouts sociobabble without saying a single thing of substance.”

Isn’t it curious that Professor West’s record of citations by the nation’s scholars in peer-reviewed academic journals (no newspaper and magazine articles included) ranks higher than all but three of Harvard’s 17 most distinguished group of so-called University Professors?

Also among the nation’s tens of thousands of black scholars, West’s citation count ranks second only to Professor William Julius Wilson of Harvard.

Theodore Cross
Princeton, N.J.

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June 2, 2002

I was a bit befuddled by the letters critical of Professor Cornel West. Some seem to object to his release of a spoken word CD but as the late Stephen Jay Gould confessed to the NY Times Magazine recently, he has been engaged in choral music for quite some time with no objection from Harvard. Stephen Carter of Yale, Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, and Todd Gitlin of Columbia all have written novels which — arguably — could be deemed a diversion from their academic work but, to my knowledge, no such charge has emerged from the administrations of their universities. Then there is the allegation that it was inappropriate for Professor West to compare President Summers of Harvard to Ariel Sharon of Israel, though none have taken the time to explain why this was improper — the charge is simply left hanging, as if the supposed pejorative meaning is intuitively obvious: It is not.

I will not accuse Professor West's critics of engaging in racist double-standards. I will say that their case against him is quite frail, to be virtually evanescent.

Gerald Horne '70
Chapel Hill, N.C.

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June 1, 2002

I was angered to read the baseless objections to Cornel West's recent appointment at Princeton. Obviously none of the writers has ever taken a class with Dr. West. He is, above all, a brilliant humanist and a dedicated teacher who is committed to the life of the mind and who instills the same commitment in his students. I had the privilege of working with Dr. West and the other excellent members of the religious studies department while a doctoral candidate in the early 1990s.

Today, I envy Princeton's undergraduates and graduate students for what they have been given in Cornel West: a inspired teacher and gifted scholar who brings out the very best in his students.

Yvonne Chireau *93
Professor of Religious Studies
Swarthmore, Pa.

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May 31, 2002

As a former student of Cornel West, I celebrate his return to Princeton. He co-taught our student-initiated seminar on liberation theology in a way that affirmed us as scholars in our own right, and challenged us to meet high standards in critical thinking and social analysis. He is one of the rare (at Princeton, anyway) professors that concerns himself with the total development of students and with the betterment of the campus community.
I will never forget walking into class the evening of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising and finding not just a classroom but a community where we reflected, analyzed, emoted, and responded to each other in a dialogue where not everyone agreed, but everyone was respected. More than a voice for social justice, West encourages students to develop their own voices.

West's rap CD which some have cited as evidence of "thin academic credentials" (and I wonder if the people making those assertions have actually read his work) is in my mind evidence of his integrity. As someone highly educated and located in places of privilege, his writing can be inaccessible to many. I credit him with finding a way to connect theory with practice, to augment the messages of liberation in his writings by making them acessible through the heart and soul as well as the mind (despite a poor mixing job). Making one's ideas more universally accessible is consistent with - and I would say essential to - social critiques related to racial and class injustices.

Donna Riley '93
Northampton, Mass.

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May 22, 2002

Your article on the appointment of Dr. Cornel West to the Princeton faculty (May 15) makes only passing reference to the press coverage of the circumstances of his defection from Harvard. I think your readers deserve more.

In the New York Times of April 12 and April 15, reporters Pam Belluck and Jacques Steinberg describe these circumstances in some detail and summarize their interview with Dr. West. They quoted him as follows: "Larry Summers strikes me as the Ariel Sharon of American higher education... a bull in a china shop ... a bully." West added that he did not consider Mr. Summers his boss, "Professors do not have supervisors, brother. Professors are free agents to do their work because there is a trust about how they go about doing that work." West went on to complain to the Times reporters about slights by the Harvard president, including his delay in sending a get-well message after West's prostate surgery. In contrast, he noted, the Princeton president and provost had called him almost weekly during his convalescence.

Assuming that the Times reportage is fair and accurate, Dr. West emerges from these accounts a petulant, arrogant prima donna. Dangerous, too. As a career-long educator and former school headmaster, I am disturbed by the implications of his remarks. What he seems to be defending is not academic freedom but academic anarchy. Apparently, he considers himself exempt from any professional accountability. Furthermore, I question whether his intemperate, name-calling attack on the Harvard president qualifies him for the unconditional trust he expects from university administrators.

I worry about the effect this debacle is having on the morale of the present Princeton faculty. I fear, as well, that some time-honored Princeton traditions, such as the senior faculty's involvement in undergraduate instruction, will have to be compromised for Dr. West's off-campus participation in activities unrelated to his teaching responsibilities.

The Times reporters depict our university provost as "reveling" over the recruitment of Dr. West. I fervently hope that her jubilation is not premature — or short-lived.

My conclusion — until or unless Dr. West proves me wrong: Harvard's gain, Princeton's loss.

George E. Stevens ’52
New Canaan, Conn.

P.S. Lest the editors dismiss this correspondent's letter as a racially motivated diatribe, I enclose a brochure describing Horizons, an enrichment program for inner city, mostly minority, students. I founded the program some 35 years ago.

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May 21, 2002


Cornel West returns to Princeton. Another liberal, another Democrat; another nail in the coffin of diversity.

Thomas Sowell would have been a much better choice.

Ned Waller '47
Danville, Va.

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May 21, 2002

I was dismayed to read that religion professor Cornel West *80 is returning to Princeton (PAW, May 15, 2002). Harvard University President Lawrence Summers was entirely appropriate in questioning Mr. West's commitment to academic scholarship and his extracurricular activities, including serving on a committee to explore Al Sharpton's possible presidential campaign. Mr. West is quoted in PAW as having openly bragged that he "never aspired to be a professional academic or scholar." Are these the kind of professors that Princeton University should be paying big salaries to attract from other universities? And while Mr. West is busy "protesting the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," he could instead be even busier protesting the policies of President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya or Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, both of whom have driven once promising countries practically into the ground. Harvard's loss is Princeton's loss.

Janet Stotsky '81
McLean, Va.

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May 21, 2002

Mr. Stoner's chagrin re the reappointment of Cornwall Chest is the best of those published to date on the PAW website. Why not publish it in the print PAW?

Stephen A. Molasky '63
Chicago, Ill.

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May 20, 2002

As an alumnus I am appalled that Princeton would accept Cornell West on the faculty. I have seen him on TV praising Al Sharpton, a race baiter and claiming that the causes of the Middle East Conflict are created in the United States.

I have seen him generally acting in support of terrorist and socialist ideas which as the President said, "are on the scrap heap of history" as failed ideas as a way of organizing society.

This ignorance displayed by West is appalling and profoundly disconcerting. It is hard to believe that a "brilliant scholar" as West has been called could be so far of the mark in how own personal views.

The Princeton community has once again been shamed by an unconscionable faculty appointment.

David Baraff '66
Berwyn, Pa.

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May 18, 2002

Several months ago I read that President Lawrence Summers of Harvard was seeking to induce Cornel West to devote more time to his academic duties and less to his extracurricular activities, which happen not to be dissimilar to the doings of Al Sharpton. In the article, it was noted that Professor West might be able to return to Princeton, if he believed his stay at Harvard no longer agreeable. My hope was that Princeton would not interfere and undermine the efforts of President Summer.

Instead Princeton rehired Professor West. During his previous stay, I recall he contributed several times to the Alumni Weekly and his articles were unclear and confused. As one alumnus wrote, he wondered what the professor was trying to say. I realize that some may challenge this description of a published author's writings, but editors can do a lot for a writer.

Henry Heymann ’43
Washington, D.C.

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May 17, 2002

In your May 15 issue, you quote President Tilghman's comment on Professor Cornel West's return to Princeton. She describes Professor West as someone "known for his intellectual contributions in the study of religion and for challenging those both inside and outside academia to think about critical issues of race." Unmentioned in the article is Professor West's widely publicized comparison of Harvard's President Lawrence Summers to Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The New York Times reports (April 16, 2002) that Professor West described President Summers as "the Ariel Sharon of higher education."

As many people know, Ariel Sharon is notorious (among other things) for his conduct at the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut in September 1982. According to estimates by the Israel Defense Forces, between 700 and 800 civilians were slaughtered by the Phalangist militias sent into the camps by Mr. Sharon. The Israeli "Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Refugee Camps" says the following of Mr. Sharon's actions at the massacre: "It is our view that responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for having disregarded the acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps, and having failed to take this danger into account when he decided to have the Phalangists enter the camps. In addition, responsibility is to be imputed to the minister of defense for not ordering appropriate measures for preventing or reducing the danger of a massacre as a condition for the Phalangists' entry into the camps." (The full text of the report is available at www.caabu.org/press/documents/kahan-commission-contents.html.)

Has President Summers done anything comparable at Harvard? If so, what? I'm eager to hear Professor West's explanation-and eager to know what President Tilghman thinks of it.

Irfan Khawaja '91
Princeton, N.J.

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April 28, 2002

Princeton’s recent reappointment of Cornel West is deeply troubling for reasons that transcend his thin academic credentials and his reprehensible behavior. Certainly President Lawrence Summers of Harvard was correct to question the strength of West’s scholarship, the grade inflation in his courses, and his extracurricular political activities. And certainly Professor Jacques R. Fresco and his four colleagues at Princeton were on target in chastising West for his "repugnant and intolerable" characterization of President Summers as "the Ariel Sharon of American higher education." (Why these same professors in the same letter to the New York Times of April 24 also welcomed West back to Princeton is beyond me.)

Great institutions, however, can survive a lousy appointment or so, and Princeton will survive Cornel West. More disturbing is that West fled Harvard for the friendlier confines of Princeton not just because President Summers had "disrespected" his credentials but also because Summers has refused to support the kind of "diversity" that West has demanded — "affirmative action," racial preferences in the admission of students and the hiring of faculty — policies that Harvard has long rejected and that Princeton has warmly embraced.

Make no mistake about it. Princeton is a great university with a great capacity for doing good, but it also suffers from a great moral blemish bordering on the tragic. It discriminated on account of race (among other categories) long before I arrived at Pyne Hall; it discriminated during my stay; it continues to discriminate. For that reason perhaps Cornel West and Princeton deserve one another.

Sanford Gabin ’58 *73
Yardley, Pa.

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April 27, 2002

I was rather disturbed to read a statement attributed to Mr. West that, "Larry Summers strikes me as the Ariel Sharon of higher education."

Now, we might ask what Mr. West meant by this statement, but the meaning is all too clear. He has joined the list of black leaders and so-called intellectuals who think nothing of making anti-Semitic remarks when it is more than clear that no one will ask them to explain themselves or apologize for the racial hatred they are perpetuating.


I am personally more than upset that Princeton has allowed this race-baiter to return to New Jersey. I for one find his credentials compromised and his career a hoax and would certainly demand an explanation of this particular remark, followed by an apology. If anyone else had demonstrated such sentiment, the outrage would have been immediate and unrestrained.  I might add that we were considering Princeton for our daughter. Perhaps the standards have been lowered and we should look elsewhere where public statements of bias and hatred have consequences.

Conrad Schuessler '73
East Harwich, Mass.

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April 25,1902.

Having once bid him goodbye and sped him off to Harvard it is sad and hard to believe, that Princeton has not learned and is about to get him back again.

Let us hope that President Tilghman can provide some little presumed insult so that the campus is not again a grandstand for the dudgeon of a brilliant, bombastic, bamboozling egomaniac.

Maybe he can stop off in New Haven on his way to Old Nassau, and find there a venue suitable to his manifold talents. (Does not Yale really deserve a turn?) Failing that maybe there's an opening in northwest North Dakota where the wind blows free!

Charles B. Doak Jr. '33
Devon, Pa.

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April 25, 2002

Upon receiving his appointment as the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion, Cornel West proclaimed "I am excited to return to the greatest center for humanistic studies in the country," which of course begs the question of why he ever left Princeton for Harvard in the first place. Presumably, West heaped similar hyperbolic praise on Harvard in 1994 after he bolted Princeton to accept his position as the Alphonse Fletcher Jr. University Professor there.

West's proclamation is reminiscent of the archetypal cad who has engaged the favors of an admiring lady for the purpose of eliciting the jealousy of the true love who has just scorned him. Until recently, everything appeared to be going swimmingly for West at Harvard. He is, after all, a darling of the politically correct lecture circuit, a top adviser to the Honorable Reverend Dr. Al Sharpton on his bid for the presidency, and the creative force behind the seminal CD Sketches of my Culture, which, according to Brother West himself "[i]n all modesty, ... constitutes a watershed moment in music history." Yet in spite of all this, newly installed Harvard President Lawrence Summers had the audacity to question whether West's involvement with a notorious Harlem race-baiter or his musical collaboration with DJ Derek "D.O.A." Allen and rapper Waynee Wayne were befitting Harvard's scholarly tradition. Because such accountability to performance standards is the nemesis of the culture of victimology championed by West, he immediately squealed to the media that he had been "disrespected." Following a visit from West's handlers, Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Summers began polishing West's boots with the apologetic salve of institutionalized white guilt.

Unimpressed by Summers' genuflections at the altar of double standards, West began flirting with his old flame, Princeton. Desperate for the recognition of such a renowned suitor, President Tilghman and Provost Amy Gutmann swooned over the man who recently stated that "America has been 'niggerized' by the terrorist attacks." To the trustees who approved the appointment, the presence of a(nother) professor who believes that "Marxist thought becomes even more relevant after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe than it was before," is apparently the bromide to cure the incessant self-flagellation concerning both the lack of diversity and the anti-intellectual environment on campus. One can only imagine the heady debates in the faculty lounge between such diverse luminaries as the Marxist West and the ultra-Marxist Peter Singer.

In short, Tilghman, Gutmann, and the trustees have allowed West to once again use Princeton as a tool, this time to teach the envious Harvard that holding him accountable to the scholarly standards required of the rest of the faculty is per se "disrespectful." West himself issued a veiled warning to the Princeton administration upon his appointment when he said the "I look forward to being a part of President Tilghman’s vision that promotes high quality intellectual conversation mediated with respect.." That Princeton and Harvard have been falling all over themselves to extend the type of "respect" that West demands, is less demonstrative of their commitment to diversity and academic excellence than of their complicity in perpetuating what President Bush has eloquently referred to as "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Mark F. Rogers ’92
Denver, Colo.

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April 24, 2002

The recent PAW (April 24) motivated me to tell all my fellow alums that Mr. Rumsfeld ’54 is a wonderful, straight-talking gentleman who is a very good man. Also, he is exceedingly nice to fellow alumns who write to him. As a Vietnam vet, I appreciate his efforts to modernize our military and fight to win our war on terrorism. I am proud of him as a fellow Chicagoan. Eat your hearts out, pee cee guys! — the man is still as buff as he was as a 150-pound football player, and he rightfully has become a bona fide sex symbol.

Why all the protest? These people just love it when our PAW features Cornell West, or Toni Morrison, or Bill Clinton on the cover.

This has made me wonder why I no longer feel so close to Princeton. I was a big fan of coeducation. I remember telling the dean of students, Mr. Lippincott, that the riots of 1963 would not have happened if Princeton was a normal place with, God forbid, female students. The only blacks I knew were guys from Africa, like my buddy, Ogbeme Oma Omatete, from Nigeria. This was a big adjustment from Asbury High, where many of my friends were Black Americans.

Some things at Princeton do not change. I was shocked to find such an anti-Semitic place as an undergradiate. Princeton had recently given up its quota system to exclude Jews, but, still, only a very few of us were annointed as winners in the selective clubs. Luckily, our girlfriends did not care. We were Princeton Men, and most of them did not know the difference between Ivy and Woodrow Wilson Lodge.

Now, I think Princeton is as anti-Semitic as it always was. Yes, I know about President Shapiro! I know about the millions Jewish alumni have given to all of Princeton's programs, not just The Center For Jewish Life and Hillel.

Princeton's abiding anti-Semitism may be an unintended result of Princeton's desperate attempts to annul its reputation as a snob school, to be politically correct.

How else can anyone explain Princeton's inexpicable re-embrace of Cornel West? Mr. West gave up Princeton for greater prestige at Harvard. Harvard's new leader, Lawrence Summers, a bone fide icon from the illustrious Clinton administration, simply asked Mr. West to stop giving all his students A's and to publish academic material slightly more rigorous than his rap music. Mr. West was busy backing Al Sharpton's run for the presidency, and fled, back home, to good old Princeton in high dudgeon, likening Mr. Summers to Ariel Sharon. Never mind that West's favorite politician, Al Sharpton, called Jews "interlopers" in Harlem. why, pray tell, is Prime Minister Sharon's name considered an insult in Cornwall West's vocabulary?

Stephen Molasky '63
Chicago, Ill.

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April 19, 2002

And so the prodigal son will flee the clutches of "Harvard’s Ariel Sharon" and secure the convalescent embraces of Nassau Hall’s top administrators!

Before they proceed to build a bigger Black Studies program (visiting lecturers: Al Sharpton? Dr. Dre?), may I suggest they consider developing a course, equally "illiberal" but more in keeping with Princeton’s roots (Witherspoon, McCosh, and that other West): Scots Studies.

James J. Buchanan ’46
Pittsburgh, Pa.

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April 15, 2002

What follows is a letter to President Tilghman and sent also to PAW aND several administrators at Princeton:

Dear President Tilghman,

You are the unlucky recipient of this message because, as the one ultimately in charge, you also seem the logical one to whom I should voice my heartfelt complaint. I have sent copies to Provost Amy Gutmann; Alumni Council Head, Margaret Moore Miller; and the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

I'm a member of the class of 1954, and, unlike many, perhaps a majority, of my contemporaries, I have supported the university in virtually everything it has advocated and undertaken, from coeducation to the college system, since my graduation. Princeton is surely one of the great universities in the world, brilliantly staffed-both academically and administratively-and guided over the years. I am proud of my association with it. Never in the past have I lifted pen or activated electronic keyboard to criticize. I have given consistently, if not mightily, since I departed its precincts.

But I am outraged that Cornel West has once again been hired by the university. What are you people thinking? I was one of the happier people in the world when West left Princeton for Harvard some years ago. Harvard's loss, it seemed to me, was Princeton's gain. And now, like a bad penny-or, more accurately, like a bad dream-he's back again.

Moreover, Princeton has managed to get itself caught, if not in the middle, at least on the margins of a demeaning public squabble between a respected university president and a sulking diva of political correctness. Princeton is in the unseemly position of appearing to revel in the humiliation of Lawrence Summers, who is apparently being made to grovel for being insufficiently politically correct. He may have wounded Cornel West's tender sensibilities with the unfair weapon of truth. My advice is to go and have a consultation with Larry Summers, who seems to have it right where West is concerned.

West is a racist rabble-rouser of the worst kind. He's a fraud, not a scholar. He's a megalomaniac with a radical agenda (a phrase I've almost never used), and a petty whiner with the remarkable capacity to spout socio-babble for sixty minutes non-stop without saying a single thing of substance. Hasn't anyone there ever watched him on television? What are you going to pay him: $200,000 a year? For what?

About the only thing Cornel West and I have in common is our support of Bill Bradley's candidacy for the presidency. But West helped to campaign for another political candidate: Al Sharpton. As a resident of Manhattan, I know a little bit about Al Sharpton, and the short take on Al is that he ought to be in jail for a whole catalog of crimes rather than walking around generating hatred in the populace. Sharpton is very accomplished at doing that, and so is his friend, Cornel West. I contend that any advocate for Al Sharpton can't be all good, or even a little bit good, and Princeton University ought to be ashamed of the taint that West brings with him to the campus, lecture hall, and preceptorial.

It appears that this affair is a done deal, announced in the New York Times on the same day the trustees ratified the decision. It would have been interesting, if totally impractical, to hold a university community referendum (including alumni) on the hiring of West. I would have wagered a rather large sum on its outcome. But I'm realistic enough to know that's not the way universities are run, nor should it be the way great universities are run. Princeton will remain great, Cornel West notwithstanding. I hope he doesn't turn out to be the embarrassing disaster for us that he has been for Harvard. It's been a very poor start.
I will remain a most loyal alumnus. This episode, however distasteful to me, will not change my behavior toward Princeton one whit. But on this occasion I think that you should know of my great displeasure with a university action which I believe amounts to the crossing of a political line, a crossing with disturbing implications. It is my hope that other alumni who feel similarly will also make known their unhappiness.

Yours most respectfully,
Howard M. Stoner ’54

New York, N.Y.

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April 10, 2002

Dr. Tilghman's article on recruiting and retaining faculty in the April 10 issue (President's Page) brought back to mind a point which has bothered me.

According to the press, the new president of Harvard commented to a member of its African American Studies Program that he wished that the department's research would be of a more serious nature and that he wished the department would contribute less to grade inflation. The response as reported was that if he felt that way they'd all go to Princeton, and even after things settled down, one of them did.

It would appear that they had offers from Princeton in their pockets and,tha Princeton does not care too much about the seriousness of research and grade inflation.

Allan W. Ferrin ’43
Palm Beach, Fla.

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January 31, 2002

When I first read the lead line in the New York Times about a Harvard black studies professor leaving to go to Princeton, my heart sank. I thought: "Oh my god, West has come back!"

I was pleased to note that Professor Appiah was the person in question.

Professor West should stay at Harvard. He fits right in there.

Don Tocher ’59
Sunapee, N.H.

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January 7, 2002

As a consequence of New York Times’s wire service and other media reports, the nation is now informed that the president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, found wanting the scholarship of Cornel West, a professor in the African American Studies Department.

According to the press reports, West then expresed interest in leaving Harvard to return to Princeton.

It makes me wonder if you can’t cut it at Harvard, there’s always Princeton.

John L.Heffron ’43
Rochester, N.Y.

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