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Letters from alums about Dean Fred Hargadon speaking at Baccalaureate 2003

August 15, 2003

Responding to: Alexander Williamson

The Akin Ojo happens to be my father, and presently he is a professor of physics in the premier university in Nigeria. You can email him using his email add akinojo@skannet.com.

Have a nice day.

Morire Labeodan
(nee Akin - Ojo)

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April 7, 2003

I am writing in response to a letter by Christopher Beha '02 (March 12 issue of PAW) in which he expressed disappointment that President Tilghman invited Dean Hargadon to speak at Baccalaureate despite his involvement in the admissions fiasco with Yale last fall.  

The many opinions concerning how the situation with Yale should have been handled are irrelevant here. Regardless of whether people agreed with the actions of the Princeton admission office last fall, I think most people would agree that Dean Hargardon has had a huge impact on Princeton (and in a positive way, I feel).

I'm sure President Tilghman had something like that in mind when she asked him to speak at Baccalaureate. Graduation is not just a time to honor students; it's a time to honor all who've helped to make the past four years possible, and Dean Hargadon has played a largely unsung part in the process for much longer than that.  Unfortunately, we so often choose to honor people when they are leaving us, rather than when they are around, but later is better than not at all.

And when you get right down to it, wasn't it (at least partly) his decision that allowed us later classes to be admitted to Princeton in the first place? I'm not saying that we need to pay homage for the rest of their lives, but don't kick the man when he's down.

Joshua Blum '02
Philadelphia, Pa.

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March 24, 2003

Re: Christopher Beha '02's deploring of Fred Hargadon's designation as the 2003 Baccalaureate speaker, and his suggestion that Dean Hargadon should have been penalized, where is "In Omnibus Caritas?"

Who among us has led a perfect life? Here's a man who has been a superb dean of admission for 15 years, whose subordinates exercised poor judgment and who did what he could to rectify their mistake. Is our new policy in this community of scholars to be "one strike and you're out?"

Armin Rosencranz '58
Stanford, Calif.

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March 23, 2003

I can't imagine what inspired Christopher Beha ’02's hatchet job on Dean Fred Hargadon (Letters, March 12), but in the future I suggest he temper his brickbats with a healthy sense of nuance and perspective.

The way I see it, a member of Hargadon's staff suffered a lapse of judgment and engaged in conduct only barely within the scope of his employment. Hargadon, a man who has served the university honorably for many years, was forthright enough to offer a personal apology. Does Mr. Beha sincerely assert that this makes the dean unfit to close out his career by addressing students at Baccalaureate?

And while we're on the subject of Baccalaureate, I think Mr. Beha hyperbolizes just a bit when he claims that the ceremony is "meant to emphasize the great ethical weight upon the graduates as they enter the world." Our speaker was humorist Garrison Keilor, and I don't recall any sort of clamor among my classmates for more emphasis on "ethical weight."

To Dean Fred: Congratulations on your selection as the Baccalaureate speaker, and thanks again for the "YES!" letter back in ’97.

To Mr. Beha: Chill out.

Andrew Sepielli ’01
New Haven, Conn.

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March 14, 2003

I would like to thank you for publishing Christoper Beha's letter regarding Fred Hargadon. The letter expresses my feelings exactly. The handling of this matter is truly disgraceful and an affront to the concept of honor. President Tilghman's continued behavior is inexcusable. She obviously does not reflect what Mr. Beha and I thought Princeton taught us.

I would also liek to say that the depth and qualitry of recent PAW articles have been superb.

Thank you.

Jackson Huddleston Jr. ’60
Seattle, Wash.

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March 14, 2003

With respect to the letter of Christopher Beha ’02, in which he takes exception to honoring Dean Hargadon, I would like to offer a different perspective.

The Princeton I attended, from August 1957 to June 1962, not only had no women undergraduates, but the number of Black and Hispanic students was vanishingly small. As I recall, no one had any aspirations about having the student body even remotely have representative groupings or cultures of this country. I only knew, slightly, two black students, Philip Johnson and Akin Ojo. ( The latter’s more complex name had been simplified for folks on this side of the Atlantic – he himself is a Nigerian, and a professor of electrical engineering in that country, I believe. )

From the readings in the Alumni Weekly, there are many highlights of achiev-ments of some very assorted, remarkable students, and faculty. In athletics, I watched last May the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams in the National Finals, or Semi-Finals, from a hospital bed, following one of several surgeries I’ve had with cancer. I must say, I was impressed by both teams’ efforts, the students’ backgrounds, and how seemingly varied groups exhibited team cohesion. In short, if Princeton aspires to be “in the nation’s service,” it is reasonable to aim for a heterogeneous Princeton – quality, but nearly as varied, from many standpoints, as is the nation.

It seems to me that Dean Hargadon is due credit for helping achieve the student bodies the university has had.

One lapse or oversight cannot erase such a record. Who would have done even half as well?

I think Baccalaureate honors are well deserved.

Alexander M. Williamson ’61 *62
Atlanta, Ga.

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March 13, 2003

It was with a wry smile that I read Christopher Beha's objection to Dean Hargadon's scheduled Baccalaureate speech to the class of 2003. His logic is deeply flawed, and so are his conclusions.

Beha's arguments seems to rest on the following premises:

1) Dean Hargadon's involvement in the problems at the admissions office represents an ethical lapse.

2) Baccalaureate speakers cannot be people who have had an ethical lapse. It turns out that both his premises are wrong.

First, it seems obvious to me that Dean Hargadon's error in the admission office affair was a lapse of judgment, not of ethics. I know that there has been much debate on the subject, but the notion that Dean Hargadon knowingly did something wrong to provide himself with such marginal benefit to him is just silly. His offense was an error in judgment, plain and simple.

Second, even supposing that Dean Hargadon's error qualified as an ethical lapse, Beha's standard for Baccalaureate speakers is ridiculous and wholly unsupported by historical evidence. For example, many Baccalaureate speakers are career politicians, who suffer ethical lapses regularly. In the interest of civility, I will refrain from listing some of the ethical failings of specific recent Baccalaureate speakers, but I am prepared to do so if pressed. I will simply say that compared to these people, Dean Hargadon's many years of selfless service to the university make him entirely overqualified in the ethics department.

Finally, I would like to say that when I graduated in 1997, Dean Hargadon spoke to our class on Class Day. His speech was thoughtful and touching, and moved some members of our class to tears. To this day, I remember some of his moral insights, and I do my best to live by them. If I could have replaced the self-aggrandizing drivel that passed for a Baccalaureate speech in 1997 with more of Dean Hargadon's words, I certainly would have done so. Mr. Beha's emotional response to Dean Hargadon's pending Baccalaureate speech is self-righteous indignation. My emotional response is jealousy — the Class of 2003 is lucky indeed.

Christian Hicks '97
Boston, Mass.

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March 11, 2003

Christopher Beha wrote (March 12) that "... Dean Hargadon's office embarrassed the university community on a national level. . . ."

It did, but only because Princeton's administration bent to fashion over a concern-of-the-month (electronic privacy) and threw its admission people to the wolves instead of standing up and fighting for them. Had President Tilghman noted that devices and systems operate as well as they do because the people who develop and repair them routinely do forbidden things in the process a lot of us would have cheered.

Charles W. McCutchen '50
Bethesda, Md.

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February 7, 2003

It was with great disappointment that I learned that President Tilghman had extended Dean Hargadon an invitation to speak at baccalaureate. When Dean Hargadon's office embarrassed the entire university community on a national level by abusing information they had been given in trust, President Tilghman assured us that everyone involved in the incident would be disciplined. Not so. Although he made a public apology, Dean Hargadon was subject to no disciplinary penalty whatsoever. Instead, a retirement that all in the community knew was already fast approaching was accelerated. And yet, in allowing an environment in which this abuse was carried out in such a seemingly unthinking fashion, the sins of omission on Dean Hargadon's part were considerable.

Now, only a few months later, one of the great honors the university has it in their power to bestow is being given Dean Hargadon. Given the particular nature of the baccalaureate (an interfaith ceremony meant to emphasize the great ethical weight upon the graduates as the enter the world) and the nature of the offense (a gross failure to recognize an obvious ethical responsibility), the choice is particularly upsetting.

Last year, when Meg Whitman was chosen to give the baccalaureate speech after endowing the new undergraduate college, many in my class questioned the choice. Yet Ms. Whitman has brought nothing but honor to the university community by her public record. In retrospect, the Class of 2002 could have done much worse.

Christopher Beha '02
New York, N.Y.


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