A letter about Campus
I wish to state at the
start that I do not believe that the views and preferences of PrincetonÇs
graduates should closely determine administrative priorities or
policies; nevertheless, it is an inescapable fact that the generosity
of alumni in their support of the university is at the base of Princeton's
endowment wealth and therefor of its ability to underwrite the education
of today's students. Those students manifest a racial and gender
diversity that is unprecedented in the university's history, so
it is puzzling to read (On the Campus, March 21) of Associate Provost
Joann Mitchell's opinion on campus diversity.
Ms. Mitchell is quoted
as saying that "we are operating under the premise that if we advance
the quality of life for students of color, it will advance the quality
of life for all students, and that will attract a more diverse crowd."
The goal is clear from the conclusion of her statement, but has
the premise from which she hopes to achieve her goal ever been examined
in any rigorous fashion? Further, is her logic based upon that premise
tenable? Might one, for instance, substitute the phrase "white students"
for "students of color" and expect comparable assent from the population
currently on campus? Could a scholar wishing to publish in an academic
journal base his thesis on such an unproved assumption, so casually
supported with evidence?
I quibble with the apparent
view of this administrator not because I want to score a debating
point, but because advancing "the quality of life for students of
color" will cost a lot of money, if one is to believe the results
cited in Maria LoBiondo's (March 21) profile of the new vice president
for campus life, Janet Dickerson, from a "Visions of Princeton"
survey of undergraduate attitudes toward changes needed to make
their alma mater "ideal." Even though the university has never before
enjoyed such a variety and range of sports and extracurricular options
-- as a visit to the campus calendar for almost any day of the semester
would show -- the student respondents believed firmly that five
crucial areas need "improvement and attention" (sic): student-group
funding, athletics, health services, performance space, and, inevitably,
Are we to assume that
the academic programs at Princeton are so splendid that little if
any improvement is to be sought for them, or did the majority of
students responding to the survey perhaps forget that course work
might conceivably strike the defining note in their campus life?
Finally, will the alumni be asked for their own visions of an ideal
Princeton? After all, they will have had much longer contact with
the university than have undergraduates, and more time to reflect
on academic values in retrospect.
C. Webster Wheelock '60
New York, N.Y.
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