October 9, 2002: Letters

Princeton at the World Cup

Princeton today

Serving the world

More on admission

Family ties

Embryo cloning

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Princeton at the World Cup

This photo of an American and of course Princeton celebration during the U.S.—Mexico World Cup game in South Korea was published on the front page of the June 18 Kuala Lumpur Star. We thought you might have a use for it (courtesy of my son who was in Malaysia).

Gil Rozman *71
Lawrenceville, N.J.

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Princeton today

Princeton’s current worship of diversity, apparently for diversity’s sake, is readily seen in the photo of the Class of ’02 on the cover of the July PAW.

E. H. Buttle ’49
Savannah, Ga.


One prominent professor advocates infanticide and holds that humans have no standing to eat or otherwise kill animals. Another is welcomed with open arms after leaving Harvard in a huff because its president had the audacity to suggest that he consider placing his rap music career on hold long enough for some serious academic pursuits. The trustees hire a president who is an avowed atheist to fill the chair once occupied by John Witherspoon. And now we learn that a high-level official in the admission office has been hacking into Yale’s computers in his spare time.

Princeton has become a freak show. As with most such attractions, the effect is somewhat entertaining but mostly sad.

Houghton Hutcheson ’68
Bellaire, Tex.


Princeton became great by admitting the very best students, by hiring the best faculty and administration, and by letting them do their own thing. These days Princeton has become obsessed with admitting the “right” students and hiring the “right” staff. As I have become older and wiser, and increasingly uncertain of those things I once knew for sure, there is one thing of which I am certain: It is not the likes of Cornel West *80 and Peter Singer that have made Princeton great. West and Singer have each elevated the intellectual’s shake and hustle to a high art form, their only “genius” being the ability to do so. And as with so many of the “geniuses” of the new millennium, they have gravitated to those fields not governed by quantitative proof, such as NFL coaching and Ivy League religion departments. I vote we trade West and Singer to Harvard and Yale, respectively, where they both truly belong. Perhaps for players to be named later, say, Spike Lee and Bono.

Princeton, good luck to you. You have become so malleable, so preoccupied, so self-absorbed, so distracted, so much like the U.N. of higher education. You may be doing the right thing the right way, but a little voice tells me you don’t really know where “You Are Here” is!

William Chaires ’75
Annapolis, Md.


I was surprised to read in the New York Times that President Tilghman has appointed four more women to key academic positions, and that Provost Amy Gutmann feels that “we have to be particularly careful not to discriminate against women.”

Provost Gutmann should indeed be particularly careful, but not for that reason. This is not evolution, it is revolution.

Betsy Smith Hellman ’93 called Hugh M. F. Lewis ’41 “a dinosaur” (Letters, April 10) for suggesting that “to save time the trustees ought to simply convert Princeton to a single-sex, female university and be done with it.” (Letters, January 30.)

Add another angry dinosaur to your list, Betsy.

Geoffrey N. Smith ’61
New York, N.Y.


I am surprised to read so many negative letters about Princeton, particularly about the administration because of the leading role of women. To anyone concerned about Princeton today, my advice is, “Go back.”

After being away for some time, I returned recently to give a lecture sponsored by the Arab Society of Princeton on the Middle East crisis. It was a thrilling experience. The students today are amazing. I found the diversity to be inspirational.

From a laid-back, homogeneous college, Princeton has been utterly transformed into a truly great international university. Don’t miss it.

Richard Cummings ’59
Bridgehampton, N.Y.

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Serving the world

In his article in the July 3 issue, James Barron ’77’s “wishes” as expressed in his last two sentences were achieved several years ago, spurred on by Princeton Project 55, the Student Volunteers programs, President Shapiro, the Alumni Council’s Community Service Committee, and no doubt others as well. The “shibboleth” is now emblazoned on the crosswalk in front of Nassau Hall and reads, I think, “Princeton in the nation’s service, and in the service of all nations.”

My data tell me that a very high percentage of Princeton graduates live that out in their lives, and that indeed it does make a positive difference all around the world. Surely, Mr. Barron’s presence at the New York Times is helpful. Cheers for Woodrow Wilson, Harold Shapiro — and for all of us.

Jack Ballard ’50
Greenwich, Conn.

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More on admission

At the exact culmination of months of intense reviewing of thousands of applications, an undoubtedly exhausted Princeton admission staff member unwittingly stumbled on a surprising lapse of security in Yale’s admission Web site.

Acting only out of impulsive curiosity, and after it was too late to inappropriately use any “confidential” information gathered (even if it were so inclined to do so, which does not appear to be the case at all), the admission office acted naively in accessing the site.

It failed to take into account the potential for a media frenzy and possible legal ramifications for its careless but not ill-intentioned actions. Though guilty of poor judgment and neglectful oversight in the heat of battle, the subsequent sincere apology by Princeton to Yale, and its commitment to ensure that the situation does not occur again, is enough of a remedy. But heads rolling is an unforgiving overreaction by Princeton, done mostly because of political correctness, intimidation by the media, and hyperconcern over its pristine moral stature.

And who at Yale has been reprimanded for its own (and arguably more serious) neglect in this matter? And why did the Yale admission officer (or anyone else) not rise up in indignation when the insufficient lack of security on the Yale Web site was first discussed in a meeting of admission officers in May?

If I were a Yale applicant, I might be flattered to learn that Princeton took enough interest in me to ascertain simply whether I was admitted.

Mr. LeMenager and the other staff members should be grounded for the weekend, but not kicked out of the house.

Sandy Harrison ’74
Ardmore, Pa.


So Mr. LeMenager is not going to be dismissed but “reassigned.”

We can’t have it both ways — a slap on the wrist (reassignment) on the one hand and the dean of admission admitting “inappropriate actions” and promising to restore integrity to the admission process on the other.

Sorry, but I don’t buy it! Too bad we didn’t take the opportunity to send the right message.

Hap Fuller ’54
Asheville, N.C.

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Family ties

I was shocked and dismayed when not one of the Princeton publications announcing the appointment of Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80 as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School saw fit to include the information that her father is Edward R. Slaughter ’53 (among other distinctions, he has served as a special assistant for litigation to the U.S. attorney general), and her brother is Hoke Slaughter ’83. Surely family still counts for something at Princeton.

F. Bosley Crowther 3rd ’56
Palmyra, Va.

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Embryo cloning

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. In his statement in the Council’s prepublication release of July 10, 2002, he takes a firm and unyielding stand against “cloning for purposes of research.”

This is to be regretted. There are many indications that embryos created outside the womb may be of assistance in treating diseases and disabilities for which no therapies are presently available. I am confident that Princeton’s fine departments dealing with the life sciences have the means for further research making use of cells from cloned embryos.

Professor George would cut this research off at the outset. He bases his position on the argument that an embryo created outside the womb is “a human being deserving of full moral respect,” even though, without the affirmative act of implantation, it can never become a functioning human being. He frequently uses the word “moral,” thereby suggesting that those who disagree with him are less moral than he is.

He is entitled to his opinion, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses are entitled to believe that a blood transfusion is the “drinking of blood,” and therefore prohibited by the Scriptures. But opinions of this kind should not be forced on others.

There is no necessity or justification for forbidding or delaying experiments in research cloning, when there is no danger of the use of such cloning to produce functional human beings.

Charles B. Blackmar ’42
Senior Judge
Jefferson City, Mo.


Arguments and reasons are the currency of intellectual discourse.

I have set forth in detail in my contribution to the Bioethics Council’s report on human cloning (1) my reasons for believing that human embryos are human beings, and (2) my arguments for the proposition that creating human beings and destroying them in the embryonic stage or at any other point for purposes of biomedical research is unjust.

Judge Blackmar vehemently rejects my conclusions, but fails to rebut, or even report, the arguments and reasons I adduced in their support. Worse yet, he offers no arguments or reasons for his own view that embryonic human beings may legitimately be treated as disposable research material. Does he maintain that human embryos are something other than human beings in the embryonic stage of their natural development? Does he deny that all of us were once embryos? If so, I would refer him to the standard embryology texts in use in American medical schools.

Does he concede that human embryos are human beings but hold that age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency are legitimate grounds for treating some human beings as less worthy of respect than others? If so, I wonder how he answers the arguments I and others set forth in defense of the principle of human equality in the Bioethics Council’s report.

As for the judge’s assertion that by stating a moral judgment I implicitly claim moral superiority to those who disagree, I ask him to consider that his assertion is itself in the form of a moral judgment. In stating it, does he implicitly claim moral superiority to others?

I confront the judge with the retorsive implications of what he says against me not to score a debater’s point, but to emphasize the need for interlocutors in difficult ethical debates to place the focus where it belongs, namely, on each others’ arguments and reasons.

Robert George
Professor, Princeton University


Editor’s note: Historically PAW runs rebuttals to letters in subsequent issues.

However, because both Judge Blackmar ’42’s letter and Professor George’s rebuttal have been posted on LetterBox on PAW Online (www.princeton.edu/paw) for much of the summer, we decided in this case to print them here. Responses, as always, are welcome.

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