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Letters from alumni about PAW

July 2, 2003

In the July 2, 2003, issue Jeff Pidot '69 complains about a number of letters published in the June 4 issue. I have a suggestion. Why doesn't PAW send its letters to Mr. Pidot and he can decide for the rest of us what is fit to print?

I am the author of the letter that Mr. Pidot characterizes as "decrying the fact that 40 percent of Princeton graduate students are from foreign nations." Right below Mr. Pidot's letter is a thoughtful and informative response to my letter from Nicholas J. Kuhn '76. I laud PAW for a felicitous placement of letters.

Robert C. Lang Jr. '70
Warren, N.J.

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June 3, 2003

It is often terribly embarrassing to read your publication.

Nowhere is my shame more pronounced than in reading the “Letters” section. Consider the following embarrassments that appear just in the June 4 edition:

First, we have a letter objecting to the appointment of Janet Rapeyle as the new Dean of Admissions. Why? “The fact that she may be a national leader is irrelevant,” the letter states, but she, “yet another non-Princetonian to head the admission office,” “has no ties to Princeton’s tradition.” (My own thought is to thank the U. for seeking outside help.)

Then, we have another in a series of letters lamenting that an alum’s child was not admitted, asserting that legacies should be automatically granted admission “if the student can do the work.” This perforce would result in hundreds of more qualified students being rejected so that legacies could be admitted. (My own thought is that children of Princeton alums already have a privilege and should receive nothing by way of special consideration; the fact that the Admissions Office gives extra points to legacies is itself an embarrassment.)

Then, there is a letter decrying the fact that 40 percent of grad students at Princeton are from foreign nations. (My own thought is to be proud of the fact that so many people around the world come to Princeton for an education and, so endowed, end up being leaders in their fields.)

Further along, we have a letter complaining that Dr. Ruth Westheimer is teaching a course at Princeton, on the basis that this is further evidence of “the conquest by the women’s liberation movement of what used to be one of our finest universities.” (I can’t think of a response to this other than behold.)

There’s more here, but I can’t stand it, and will go no further.

Your letters section, which fronts the magazine’s content, closes with a statement that “PAW welcomes letters.” I think this policy ought to be reevaluated in light of the content of what is provided. Or at least place the letters in the back of the magazine, so that people like me (and rest assured I am not alone) can manage to get to your often thoughtful articles without the urge to just discard the publication in disgust. Of course, I realize that I can just avoid reading this nonsense, just as I don’t listen to “talk radio.” But the larger question that I’m posing is whether this is the Princeton of intellect and service with which I would like to think that most of us want to be associated.

Jeff Pidot ‘69
Hallowell, Maine

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March 31, 2003

While PAW has space and time to profile an alumna whose feat is the designing a "new line of unmentionables" and whose revelation was that "women have only two choices when choosing underwear" ("Flirty and functional," March 26), I am disappointed that you have yet to mention the extraordinary lives of Princetonians who, like myself, are the proud parents of children with autism.

I hope that PAW will soon remedy this shortcoming and report on the lives, the sufferings and the truest of triumphs, of Princeton families and of individuals with autism like my son, Charlie Fisher.

Kristina Chew '90
Cranford, N.J.

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March 26, 2002

I admire the range of letters that you publish, as well as the fact that PAW does not shy away from controversy.  Keep up the good work — PAW is always lively!

Leanne Tobias *78
Bethesda, Md.

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February 6, 2002

One of the delights of PAW is reading the letters from disgruntled alumni decrying something at Princeton they don't like, usually because it's not the way it was in the good old days. Normally I chuckle at these letters and move on, but your January 30 issue contains such a classic collection of old fogey letters that I can't resist commenting.

First in line is a fine example of an old favorite, the "women are ruining Princeton" genre, from one Hugh M.F. Lewis ’41. (Why do so many of these people have two middle initials?) Mr. Lewis includes the always-fun assertion that he doubts you'll dare to print his letter even though lots of alums agree with him.

Unfortunately, the declining number of PAW letters complaining about women suggests there may not be many of this kind of old fogey left after all.

Next we have another familiar complaint, this one about architecture, from James F. Lotspeich ’44. Mr. Lotspeich decries the decision to have the new science library designed by Frank Gehry, who is considered the greatest architect of our time by many critics and working architects. The writer tells us he has seen Gehry buildings and can't find any redeeming social or esthetic features in any of them. One suspects he feels the same way about the Picasso's in the Art Museum.

The most virulent of the January 30 letters, and the only one that bothered me, is from Robert 0. Woods ’62 on the familiar theme of "people I disagree with who therefore shouldn't be allowed to speak on campus." The object of Mr. Wood's ire (he uses such words as "fool" "idiot" and "near treason") is Danny Glover, who apparently gave a speech opposing America's use of capital punishment (a view shared by every other western democracy and a hefty percentage of Americans.) My concern about Mr. Woods's letter, however, is not its substance or even its over-heated language. It is that Mr. Woods is from a younger class than mine.

Please do not print any more old fogey letters from classes younger than 1955. They make me fear that I am getting very old.

John C. Tucker ’55
Lanexa, Va.

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November 23, 2001

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May 16, 2001

I have solved the problem of the appearance in PAW of "soapbox tirades, social criticism, and self-indulgence," of "emotional, close-minded, and overly simplistic political opinions," and in general of "letters that clearly belong somewhere else."

Obviously an authority is needed to provide pre-publication assessment of any potentially emotive opinion, before taking the rash step of exposing the entire alumni body willy-nilly to the possibility of upset. That authority will be: Me.

All alumni are hereby asked to submit letters to me for rating prior to publication in PAW. Assigned ratings will serve to warn unwary readers away from items which they may prefer not to read while eating. The following should cover all eventualities:

G - acceptable for general readers

G-Arc - acceptable for general readers, except supporters of campus architecture

G-Arc(V) - acceptable for general readers, including supporters of campus architecture, except those who like Venturi

Adm - critical of admissions policy in general

Adm-Ath - critical of admissions re athletes

Adm-Leg - critical of admissions re legacies

Adm-DFWIWA - critical of admissions re anything different from when I was admitted

PG - Prospective Guidance: do not read unless and until your child is admitted

R - ridiculous social or political opinion

R(JB) - ridiculous opinion re James Baker

R(RN) - ridiculous opinion re Ralph Nader

R-and-R - ridiculous opinion re a prior writer's ridiculous opinion

NC-17 - opinion (ridiculous or otherwise) of the seemliness of an Princeton alumnus editing a soft-sex magazine, and/or of the coverage of such behavior by PAW, and/or of the opinions of other alumni re such editing and/or coverage and/or opinions

Letters of appreciation may be sent to me. Letters of complaint are to be directed to the Alumni Council

Brian Zack '72
Princeton, N.J.

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