Letter to the editor of the Detroit News

This letter to the editor was published in the June 5, 2007, Detroit News:

Rebuttal: Princeton follows donor's wishes

Froma Harrop's commentary on the lawsuit against Princeton University by several members of the Robertson family perpetuates inaccuracies about the lawsuit that the family has been disseminating for almost five years. To cite just a few examples:

The purpose of Marie Robertson's 1961 gift was not to create a "training" program for government workers. It was to expand and strengthen the graduate program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, which is exactly how it has been used.

The University has spent funds from the Robertson Foundation solely for this purpose.

While Mrs. Robertson's children claim to be suing "on behalf of the foundation," in fact they are suing on their own behalf in an attempt to seize control of funds that their parents explicitly chose not to entrust to them, but to Princeton. They want to overturn the governance mechanism that their parents created to administer the funds, and they want to use the funds for their own purposes.

For more than 250 years, Princeton has had a well deserved reputation for fulfilling the commitments it makes in accepting gifts. Unlike the plaintiffs in this case, Princeton believes the decisions that were made by the donor and written down more than 45 years ago should continue to be respected, including decisions about how the funds should be used and how they should be administered. That's the issue of principle at stake in this case.

Robert K. Durkee is vice president and secretary, Princeton University.