Alpheus Thomas Mason, biographer of Supreme Court Justice
Louis D. Brandeis, was one of Princeton's superlative professors. One
day he said to me that our Class of 1934 was in Princeton "during
its golden age;" this during the early 1930s and the Great Depression.
My only granddaughter applied to Princeton after graduating as valedictorian
of her Connecticut high school class. She was put on the Princeton waiting
list but Yale immediately accpeted her. She won a Phi Beta Kappa
key at Yale. Why whine!
Katie Hobson 94 writes that
the standards for Princeton "climb every year." So does the
competition. We value what we work for and give our lives to. Age, creed,
color, gender, and national origin are not relevant where merit is
the prime test. Our new president, Shirley Tilghman, is a credit to
Princeton and to education. So are Donald Rumsfeld 54 and Robert
S. Mueller 66, who are secretary of Defense and head of the F.B.I.,
respectively. Princeton in the nation's service.
Ralph Simmons 73 wisely states
that Princeton "was a fabulous experience" for both himself
and a generation later for his son. Every generation has a right to govern
itself. We make the kind of world we find ourselves living in. The Class
of 1934 proudly boasts of Art Lane, who captained our freshman and senior
class football teams both of which were undefeated. Records are
made to be challenged. 1934's class motto was "We did our part."
If all Princetonians work shoulder-to-shoulder, giving their best, they
can be sure to do their part to make Old Nassau the best old place of
all. The they can all look back nostalgically, yes fondly, to memories
which ruthless time, as it marches on, cannot and should not eradicate.
Three cheers for Old Nassau!
To those alumni disturbed by the changes in the student body in recent
years, I offer the following thought, based on my personal history.
More than 50 years ago I was awarded a scholarship to Princeton by the
Princeton Club of Washington. There is no other way that I, a public school
student and the son of a widowed mother, could have attended the university.
My years at Princeton were a transforming experience, and I am forever
grateful to the Club for making them possible. But was I the very best
student that could have been chosen, or was I picked, in part at least,
because I was the right student, i.e., white and male?
There were three public high schools for African Americans in Washington
at that time. Were their students considered for the scholarship? I very
much doubt it. Were the many brilliant female high school students considered?
Of course not Princeton was a male institution. All change is not
progress, but certainly Princetons change from an exclusive to an
inclusive student body is.
It is the fulfillment of the universitys pledge of a Princeton
in the nations service.
I raise a loud and long locomotive to the Alumni Weekly and the
First Amendment. The first four letters that you printed in your
October 9 issue were what the First Amendment is all about. They were
snide, venomous, and overwrought. They bashed women, diversity, Singer,
and West with scant attention to reason or fact. They were First Amendment
heartland: the curmudgeons got their say. James Madison would be proud.
Move over Albert Einstein. E.H. Buttle '49 can look
at a picture of 50 people he's never met and tell at a glance whether
they are as intelligent, interesting, talented, and generally worthy of
attendance at his alma mater solely by whether they appear to be as white
or male as he is.
I'm sure that Mr. Buttle's gratuitous insult and idiocy
are in no way representative of his classmates, but he is fortunately
right about one thing: admission standards have changed for the
I found a number of the letters in the October 9 issue to be disappointing,
to put it mildly. The authors of those misogynist, racist, and anti-intellectual
diatribes seem to have no sense of what a university should be. The excitement
at the heart of studying at Princeton is grounded in the diversity of
people and ideas flourishing on the campus. To impose bland homogeneity
would suffocate the school. Overall, Princeton's faculty, students, and
administration are doing their respective jobs in outstanding fashion.
Here's one alum who appreciates that.
While reading the October 9, 2002, issue, I was encouraged and disheartened
by evidence of a desire to return Princeton to the way it was 50 years
The article on Whitman
College architect Demetri Porphyrios *80 demonstrated that Princeton
has finally "got it." For years, Princeton has experimented
with cold, harsh, modernistic buildings, designed by architects whose
names are more impressive than their work. These buildings threaten Princeton's
beautiful collegiate Gothic identity. Thank God Princeton has found an
architect like Porphyrios who believes in high-quality, classic yet simple
buildings designed to age gracefully!
On the other hand, I was greatly disheartened by the letters of Houghton
Hutcheson '68, William Chaires '75 and Geoffrey N. Smith '61. These alumni
seem to fear any change at all. It seems to me that they are the ones
distracted from the reality of Princeton today: dedicated faculty, scholarly
students, cutting-edge research and loyal alumni. Mr.
Hutcheson's letter also suffers from exaggeration and misrepresentation.
From past letters and articles in this magazine, we
know that Professor Peter Singer does not simply advocate infanticide.
Instead, his arguments encourage thought and debate about moral conventions.
As much as I may share Mr. Hutcheson's dismay at the re-hiring of Cornel
West, I doubt that he was embarking on a "rap music career"
by producing one "spoken word CD." Mr. Hutcheson's description
of the unfortunate Yale admissions incident as "hacking" is
inaccurate and exaggerated. Most disturbing is Mr. Hutcheson's objection
to President Tilghman on the grounds of atheism. How does religious affiliation
affect her ability to perform the duties of president of the university?
She has demonstrated great capability and leadership in a difficult year.
As a scientist and academic, she is dedicated to education, research and
the pursuit of knowledge. Princeton is not a seminary. In what way have
her personal religious beliefs or disbeliefs damaged the university? Has
she destroyed the chapel? Has she eliminated the dean of religious life?
Has she banned services from the chapel? That Mr. Hutcheson has chosen
to dwell on these exaggerated and misguided points and that he believes
them to be representative of Princeton is what is truly sad.
Finally, I would like to ask Geoffrey N. Smith '61
and Hugh M. F. Lewis '41 who are upset that
Princeton is slowly morphing into a female university for some
facts. What percentage of "key academic positions" do women
now hold? Of students, administrators, faculty, and deans, what percentage
are women? How many total appointments to key academic positions has President
Tilghman made? Perhaps before they become "angry dinosaurs"
they should find out whether the imagined female tidal wave represents
Hopefully, more alumni will be encouraged to speak out
and take action to correct the egregious direction of the present administration.
It seems to me Princeton veered to the left with its
priggish response to the student riots in the 1960s and marched further
leftward into the mist of political correctness with the appointment of
Harold Shapiro. Now, with Shirley Tilghman and her retinue of amazons
at the helm, I sense a new direction . . . downward into the abyss. With
the likes of Cornel West *80 and Peter Singer firmly ensconced on the
faculty, I would not be surprised to learn that Hillary Clinton is just
off-stage preening for an entrance the ultimate denouement.
May God have mercy on us all liberal. conservative, gay, straight,
atheist, and nonatheist alike - and on our once noble university.
Into a single sentence: "Princeton's current worship of diversity,
apparently for diversity's sake, is readily seen in the photo of the Class
of '02 on the cover of the July PAW." he has distilled a world
of thoughtless bigotry that would have taken a lesser writer paragraphs
It is sad to read the belated complaints of alumni over the transformation
of their once bucolic college in the country into the politically correct,
leftist, international flophouse that it now is. After all, it was their
money that financed this monstrosity and while they say it happened under
their noses, all the while they did forget Edmund Burke's prescient admonition:
He fails in his duty who sleeps against his watch as well he who
goes over to the enemy." Wake up and act!
I can't take it anymore. The Letters column in the PAW has made me physically
ill for the past several months, thanks to the constant stream of rants
from the sons of Princeton whining about the good old days that
is, before women and minorities invaded the campus and things went directly
The letter from E.H. Buttle '49,
commenting on the "worship of diversity for diversity's sake"
as evidenced by a graduation photo showing (fasten your seatbelts!) females
and non-whites, is only the latest. Mr. Buttle apparently believes that
he can discern from the color of a person's skin or her gender that he
or she was not admitted to Princeton on his or her own merits.
The standards for gaining entrance to Princeton climb every year. According
to the admission office, 75 percent of those offered a spot in this year's
freshman class scored 680 or above on the verbal SAT I. And 75 percent
scored 700 or higher on the math SAT I. The majority were in the top 10
percent of their high school graduating class. Most had a serious commitment
to extracurricular activities, volunteering, and sports.
Any alumni who interview prospective students know that
their qualifications are often breathtaking. So what is all this nostalgia
for? The days when lesser applicants snagged spots at Princeton because
a huge chunk of the population wasn't allowed through the gates? If that
wasn't an early form of affirmative action, I don't know what was.
Thanks to outreach efforts and changes in financial aid policies that
encourage all promising high school students to apply to Princeton, the
caliber of students will only continue to improve. This development, while
it makes the admission officers' jobs more difficult, is one that should
be welcomed by all alumni. Sadly, some seem content to romanticize days
past, in which only the privileged few were granted access to the life-changing
experience that is a Princeton education.
I write in support of the Princeton of yesterday and
today. I started in the first class to which women were admitted (Class
of 73 if you have forgotten), and one of my sons is now a senior.
Princeton was a fabulous, exciting experience for me, and it has been
the same for my son. If you will leave your assumptions and your politics
at the door, and look honestly at this remarkable institution, you will
find that this is a new and improved version of the best damn place of
Every issue of your magazine contains a great deal of puffery about "diversity,"
and I for one am tired of all the hullabaloo.
When I was at Princeton, I counted among my roommates a Texan, a Jew,
and a Papist, and we all got along swimmingly. (This latter roommate,
I might add, had rather a penchant for gin, and more than once we had
to throw him in Lake Carnegie to wake him up for morning lecture.) Those
truly were heady days. Three cheers for old Nassau!
One prominent professor advocates infanticide and holds
that humans have no standing to eat or otherwise kill animals. Another
is welcomed with open arms after leaving Harvard in a huff because its
president had the audacity to suggest that he consider placing his rap
music career on hold long enough for some serious academic pursuits. The
trustees hire a president who is an avowed atheist to fill the chair once
occupied by John Witherspoon. And now we learn that a high level official
in the admission office has been hacking into Yale's computers in his
spare time. Princeton has become a freak show. As with most such attractions,
the effect is somewhat entertaining but mostly sad.
I was surprised to read in the New York Times this morning that
President Tilghman has appointed four more women to key academic positions,
and that Provost Amy Gutmann feels that "we have to be particularly
careful not to discriminate against women."
Provost Gutmann should indeed be particularly careful,
but not for that reason. This is not evolution, it is revolution.
article in the July 3 issue, James Barron '77's "wishes"
as expressed in his last two sentences were achieved several years ago,
spurred on by Princeton Project 55, the Student Volunteers programs, President
Shapiro, the Alumni Council's Community Service Committee, and no doubt
others as well. The "shibboleth" is now emblazoned on the crosswalk
in front of Nassau Hall and reads, I think, "Princeton in the nation's
service, and in the service of all nations."
My data tells me that a very high percentage of Princeton graduates live
that out in their lives, and that indeed it does make a positive difference
all around the world. Surely, Mr. Barron's presence on the NY Times
is helpful. Cheers for Woodrow Wilson, Harold Shapiro and for all
Princeton became great by admitting the very best students,
by hiring the best faculty and administration, and by letting them do
their own thing. These days Princeton has become obsessed with admitting
the "right" students and hiring the "right" staff.
As I have become older and wiser, and increasingly uncertain of those
things I once knew for sure, there is one thing of which I am certian:
That it is not the likes of Cornel West and Peter Singer that have made
West and Singer have each elevated the intellectual's
shake and hustle to a high art form, their only "genius" being
the ability to do so, much as others, such as the Jacksons and the Kennedys,
have done in their political arena. And as with so many of the "geniuses"
of the new millennium, they have gravitated to those fields not governed
by quantitative proof, such as NFL coaching and Ivy League religion departments.
I vote we trade West and Singer to Harvard and Yale respectivelly, where
they both truly belong. Perhaps for players to be named later, say Spike
Lee and Bono.
Princeton, good luck to you. You have become so malleable,
so preoccupied, so self-absorbed, so distracted, so much like the United
Nations of higher education. You may be doing the right thing the right
way, but the little voice tells me you don't really know where "You
Are Here" is!
After being away for some time, I returned recently to give a lecture
sponsored by the Arab Society of Princeton on the Middle East crisis.
It was a thrilling experience. The students today are amazing. I found
the the diversity to be inspirational.
From a laid back homogeneous college, Princeton has been utterly transformed
into a truly great international university. Don't miss it.