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Letter Box


Letter from alumni about President Tilghman

For letters from years past regarding Tilghman's appointment, click here.

October 9, 2002

I realize it wouldn't be the PAW without some disgruntled alumni writing about how things aren't the way they used to be, and usually I can just laugh off what seems to be half-baked responses to partial knowledge.

But I truly do take exception to correspondents vilifying President Tilghman for being, as a recent letter decried, "an avowed atheist." What exactly is the problem with that? That she doesn't believe what you believe?

That kind of thinking leads to the mindset that produced the destruction of 9/11. As far as I know, President Tilghman has done nothing to threaten or challenge any Princetonian in embracing his or her religious beliefs. I don't believe she has moved against the religion department or any religious community on or around campus. It seems as if she has overseen the installation of an outstanding dean of religious life.

As someone who takes his own life of faith very seriously, I am much happier to have at the helm someone like President Tilghman, who has already shown herself to be a worthy successor of Princeton's distinguished leaders who have been strong, eloquent advocates of free discourse and rigorous intellectual challenges to the great questions of life, than someone who has passed some superficial religious litmus test.

(The Rev.) John C. Fisher '67
Chappaqua, N.Y.

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October 8, 2002

The October 9, 2002 PAW contains excerpts from President Tilghman’s remarks at Opening Exercises. These remarks were inspiring and deserving of careful attention by all Princeton students.

However, President Tilghman’s concerned comment about habeas corpus being denied to terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo does not take into account ample legal precedence. During the Civil War, the federal government did not accept secession; that is why the war was fought. In the eyes of the federal government, the southern states remained US territory. Likewise, Confederate soldiers remained US citizens. When these citizens were captured, they were placed in prison camps. There was no habeas corpus or counsel. It was not practical to have indictments and trials for all these captured soldiers. The key issue in this is practicality. If it is practical for the federal government to arrest, indict, and try a combatant then it will do so. If it is not useful to do so, then resources will be better used to prosecute war or enhance defense.

By this precedence, habeas corpus can be denied not only to noncitizens captured on foreign soil as in the case of the Guantanamo prisoners, but also even to US citizens arrested on US soil if they are engaging in war or conspiracy to commit war. For practical reasons, it may be useful to indict and try a terrorist or one aiding terrorists. Such reasons include inducement of the accused to reveal useful information in the face of the anticipated long imprisonment that may result from a trial. But habeas corpus, indictment, and trial are not owed to those who make war against the U.S.

Robert B. Comizzoli *67
Belle Mead, N.J.

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