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The Academic Programs

Princeton now offers undergraduate certificate programs in Creative Writing, Musical Performance, Theater and Dance, and Visual Arts. These programs are the academic heart of the University’s curricular initiatives in the creative and performing arts, and any examination of education in the arts at Princeton must begin with an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

The Allen Committee looked at the University’s programs in detail. It recognized that these programs have significant strengths: they benefit from dedicated and talented teachers, and they are beloved by those students fortunate enough to participate in them. But the committee also pointed out that the programs are burdened with a number of constraints, which we might group into the rough categories of size, personnel, resources, and visibility. None of the programs has a sufficiently large teaching faculty to meet—or, indeed, come close to meeting—the demand for instruction. All face, to varying extents, challenges in attracting artists to the faculty: though universities are the natural and obvious homes for scholars in research disciplines, that is not so for creative and performing artists (with the possible exception of creative writers). The programs are under-resourced. And they are too often viewed, by some students and faculty, as peripheral to the main mission of the University. One of our goals will be to send a clear message that the creative arts are worthy of a position of centrality and high regard at a major research university like Princeton.

Some believe that these needs can best be addressed by converting one or more of our programs in the Creative and Performing Arts into departments or allowing them to offer undergraduate majors. The Allen Committee explored these options but agreed that they could not be resolved without further study and consultation. The committee identified reasons why having departmental status or undergraduate majors might benefit some programs but not others. After reviewing the committee’s analysis, I am convinced that, at least for the time being, we should address the programs’ needs directly rather than undertaking complex changes to their structures. We should, in other words, do more of—and do better, what we do now. We should endow the programs with the resources they need to reach a large group of students, to expand the breadth and depth of their curricular offerings, to surpass their current high standards, and to command the respect of the entire University community and the broader world. As the programs evolve, there will, of course, be continuing discussions with their faculties about how best to plan for the future. I believe these changes will suffice to bring Princeton’s endeavors in the creative and performing arts to the level of excellence that we desire, but if a move to departmental status should prove desirable in the future, these changes will lay the essential groundwork for such a move.

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Students in the freshman seminar "Sound, Music and ... Physics" build on their common interest in music to learn physical principles that are important to many areas of natural science. Here, physics professor Pierre Piroué showed Lauren Carpenter (with violin) and Daniela Smolov how to use a computer to record and analyze sound waves from the violin. Photo Credit: Denise Applewhite

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