April 9, 2003: Letters

Seven-week rule

Beauty and the bridge

Havana in pictures

Role of research universities

Deadline run

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Seven-week rule

The statistics cited in President Tilghman’s February 26 column, “Athletics in an Ivy Context,” suggest, as does my personal experience, that student-athletes spend significantly more time participating in nonacademic extracurricular activities than the typical student-but-not-athlete.

But their grades are lower, despite rigorous admission standards. Oh, horrors. They graduate, choose careers, have families, and contribute to their communities. What do these grades measure? What don’t they measure? Are student-athletes less “successful” in life after Princeton? The president doesn’t say.

Perhaps there should be a seven-week moratorium on studying. Make the grade-seeking students smell the fresh air, go for a walk around Lake Carnegie, participate in a group activity, work up a healthy sweat.

The athletic moratorium is indeed a blunt instrument and a flawed means to a questionable end. The only predictable result of its continuance will be fewer quality student-athletes, less qualified coaches, and a less interesting, varied and enthusiastic student body (with a higher grade point average).

Choose your poison.

David Ramsay ’78
Winnipeg, Manitoba


I take a back seat to no one as a dedicated sports fan, but I heartily support the requirement the Ivy League presidents adopted regarding rest periods for all sports.

The overemphasis on athletics in America’s institutions of higher education borders on disgraceful. The Ivy League has stood apart, but the slippage in performance and participation in other extracurricular events is disturbing news.

I suggest one locomotive for President Tilghman and her fellow presidents.

Peter C. Trent ’54
New York, N.Y.


I read with interest President Tilghman’s page regarding the Ivy League’s new athletic schedule. I applaud the required seven-week rest period, as it will give dedicated athletes the chance to catch up on much-needed rest. I am a recent Princeton graduate, and I found that as a Division I athlete, I was often suffocated by the amount of time my sport took up. We were not allowed to practice under the supervision of our coach for a few weeks out of the year, but that did not stop us from having required captain’s practices almost the entire academic year. In fact, we spent almost every school break on campus, training.

The value of being a Division I athlete should not be underestimated, as it instills in a person some of the best lessons in life. But these values should not be learned at such a great cost. I found that it was extremely difficult to excel in the classroom as much as I desired to because so much of my energy was eaten up playing and traveling. I also was jealous of my classmates who took advantage of all the wonderful things Princeton had to offer by participating in volunteer activities, attending guest lectures, and running for student government.

It is important to remember that while sports should be taken very seriously, athletes are not superhuman. There can be a good balance, but I felt that Princeton did not strike the balance well. I gave up my sport, and it was one of the hardest decisions I made in college. I hope the newly instated rest period will allow current and future athletes to excel at their sports while, at the same time, maintaining a healthy lifestyle outside their sports.

Beth Schmierer ’01
Washington, D.C.


I have long suspected that the President’s Page in each issue of PAW attracts a very small readership. If I am correct, it is likely due to 1) the visually sterile manner in which it has been presented unchanged over time, 2) the often boring subjects the president tackles, which are no doubt of importance to Princeton, but often less so to the alumni, and 3) because an invisible barrier probably always exists between the reader and the prestigious position of the president.

But in the case of February 26, Dr. Tilghman’s article “Athletics in an Ivy Context” deserves widespread readership.

I have always respected Dr. Tilghman as a scientist and a leader. As an alumnus whose athletic career has never ended (still competing in five sports 45 years later), I am amazed at her brilliant grasp of what has gone wrong with Ivy League athletics. They now are, in many ways, so different from the wonderful amateur yet excellent opportunities my classmates experienced.

I applaud the trial of a seven-week moratorium for each sport, and more important, the emphasis the Ivy presidents have placed on their collective concern.

I have no doubt that we are taking the first step toward reversing this unfortunate trend away from the true student-athlete.

Jay H. Lehr ’57
Ostrander, Ohio


I was interested in President Tilghman’s article concerning the Ivy League’s designated rest period for athletes. I guess that terminates the era of the “3 Letterman.”

John “Bud” Palmer ’44
West Palm Beach, Fla.


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Beauty and the bridge

As a longtime practitioner of civil engineering, I was pleased to read the article “The Art of Engineering” (feature, January 29). To me a beautiful bridge is the epitome of both art and engineering.

Today’s designers are no less elegant than their predecessors and are creating wonderful new bridge structures such as those in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Korea, Scandinavia, and in our own country.

The art of engineering extends beyond bridge design to the highway and mass transit systems that can blend in with the environment and serve the social needs of an expanding population; to the “beauty” of water, wastewater, and proper environmental management systems that restore, protect, and enhance our natural environment; and, of course, to the extraordinary contemporary buildings conceived by master architects with the support of master engineers.

We think of bridges as engineering projects and buildings as architectural projects. In truth, today’s major projects are conceived, developed, and built by teams of engineers and architects. Together they are artists of the built environment.

H. G. “Gerry” Schwartz Jr. ’60
St. Louis, Mo.


On a Class of 1935 trip to Switzerland, Bob McEwen and I asked Professor David Billington, who was there at the same time, to give a talk one evening. His topic was the bridges of Maillart. His talk was fascinating. Afterward, three classmates came up to me, one at a time, and in almost the exact words said, “Bob, we didn’t want to hear a talk on Swiss bridges, but when Professor Billington started to talk, we did not want him to stop.”

Robert Alonzo Winters ’35
Hightstown, N.J.

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Havana in pictures

It was a pleasure to see the artful pictures of “decaying splendor” in Havana by Andrew Moore ’79 (cover story, February 12). Too bad that the article did not show any pictures of “healthy and thriving splendor” in Havana. Having been there, I can say for a fact that Havana is a fascinating mix of both.

Perhaps such pictures would too much offend our dreamy postcolonial nostalgia. After all, it’s a lot more satisfying to stay preoccupied by all those ’50s Chevys and by how much Havana has lost without the patronage of the U.S. than it is to try to see and understand the city’s complex but vital reality.

Marina Skumanich ’80
Seattle, Wash.


Having followed the work of Andrew Moore ’79 for some time, I was delighted to see it featured not only in PAW but on the cover. He is one of a handful of photographers whose large-scale images are further blurring the distinctions between photography and painting. Moore’s work, in all its large-scale glory, can be found at Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco and Yancey Richardson Gallery in New York City. His spectacular work from Russia was recently shown at both galleries. (I do not own any work by Andrew Moore, nor do I have any connection to the galleries I mention, but I have been eyeing/coveting a couple of Moore’s images for several months.)

Larry Kurtz ’72
Mill Valley, Calif.


Inside Havana is a truly beautiful book. The Class of ’79 is doubly represented. The introduction by Cuban architect Eduardo Luis Rodriguez was translated from the Spanish by Alison Hughes ’79.

John B. Hughes ’47 *53
Princeton, N.J.
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Role of research universities

Professor Stan Katz raises an interesting question about the proliferation of academic centers in his Perspective of February 12. These centers are easy to caricature as “centers for the study of moi,” as one former colleague has put it, but they are driven less by the market than by the desire to pursue knowledge more deeply and effectively.

Scholars who wish to pursue their research at the top of their fields find it increasingly difficult to do simply as members of broad departments. They must create more specialized communities of scholars and graduate students dedicated to subfields – the comparative study of political institutions, development economics, health and health care, to name only a few. These subfields typically cut across disciplines but generate their own journals, conferences, visiting fellows, and graduate students.

The challenge for Princeton, as for many other universities, is not to reduce the number of centers, but rather to engage them fully in the training of graduate and undergraduate students alike, and indeed alumni. Our goal is to create an atmosphere that prizes teaching and research and marries them in innovative and exciting ways.

In this regard, research centers have the potential to become the primary engines for the production of knowledge and also communities in which teaching takes place as much through research as it does in the classroom. This kind of teaching is direct and individualized, and involves learning through watching and doing.

Graduate students are not the only students who can fully participate in center activities. It is possible to imagine a host of activities that would engage professional master’s students, such as the M.P.A. students at the Woodrow Wilson School, as well as undergraduates. The most obvious way to do this is to create specialized courses and series of courses that translate the specialized knowledge produced in a center into a form accessible to undergraduates. The finance center, for instance, which houses an extraordinary group of highly specialized faculty members from economics and engineering, primarily, offers a very popular undergraduate certificate. Similar certificates might be offered in education, law, and health policy.

Princeton could pioneer a new model of undergraduate and graduate teaching that does not forsake traditional methods but builds on them, in ways that advance our commitment to research and teaching for all faculty and all students.

Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80
Dean, Woodrow Wilson School


I read the Perspective in February 12, and found it enlightening. It was about the present trend toward more research projects by and for professors as opposed to the teaching of undergraduates.

Research versus teaching is an issue that has interested me for a long time, and it seems to be a trend in our more prestigious universities, as Professor Katz wrote.

As the daughter of a university chemistry professor, I learned early on how important it is that undergraduates are exposed to the best professors.

These days students pay an exorbitant price for education and often are taught by graduate students who are only a year or two older than they are.

I know the answer will be that research grants to professors bring money to the university, but is that the purpose of our faculty at our leading colleges and universities? I think not.

Edith H. Bissett w’49
Ventura, Calif.

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Deadline run

I could not resist commenting on the Dean’s Date Deadline Run (On the Campus, February 12). At West Point all seniors take a class in international relations and write a research paper due the last day of class. The tradition is that the last senior to hand in the paper and still get a passing grade receives a monetary prize, and so the deadline dash has become a major event, with students in costumes and accompanied by the band. It warms the heart of an old soldier to see students at a civilian institution of this caliber learn to follow the example of their military counterparts!

Doug Lovejoy *68
Princeton Junction, N.J.
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