from alumni about legacies and about being rejected by Princeton
My last daughter wasn't accepted. She's over it. I'm having a little more trouble with it.
See, I left PU during fall semester sophomore year and hoped one of my offspring could complete the Princeton experience. When I was readmitted for '67, I didn't have the money and was naive about borrowing $1,800 for the fall semester. I had the largest scholarship Princeton offered my freshman year. What Princeton did back then, was to lower your scholarship and ask you to borrow part of the cost in addition to working at commons. My share was $600 for the sophomore year. Debt was like the plague to me coming from my socioeconomic background.
Princeton now informs the student when admitted his/her funding for the entire four years. That is such a blessing to know how you will be financing your education. To me particularly, that is the single momentous change behind co-education Princeton has made. It is security.
Also, when readmitted, I had to decide about football. See, at Blairstown, preseason, I was injured. No doctor, 60 miles from nowhere. I lay in my bunk for three days, coughing up blood. The trainer came and intimated that I might be malingering. Those were my position coach's words to pass on to me. Two months after the injury, I had a pre-employment chest x-ray and there were 4 consecutive healing rib fractures in my back with some fluid still left in the chest cavity; by some medical definition, a flail chest, probably with some hemothorax. The employment doctor was clear to me what could have happened and how lucky I was.
So I hope Princeton has doctors and trainers available for the athletic program who will listen and attend to the athletes. Incidentally, the position coach hasn't contacted me since the day I lay on the practice field at Blairstown unable to breath because of 4 broken ribs. Don't love him.
I spent 14 years of my medical career as the team physician for the University of Alabama, dedicating myself to the athletes, being sure they had someone who was listening and they could be absolutely secure whatever their issue, doubt, or concern, it would be resolved in the best way possible. I just didn't want what happened at Blairstown to me to be repeated.
Incidentally, I got out of bed on the fifth day after the injury and resumed practice. Wind sprints were impossible probably because only one lung was functioning. But I tried. Thanks for the forum. My daughter will be fine. After 40 years, I still have issues.
J.D. Askew 66
I, too, sympathize with Dr. Golden, as my son was also rejected by Princeton in 2003, with even higher SAT scores than Golden's daughter's (1490) and a plethora of AP 5's and 4's. (He is currently, albeit somewhat unhappily, attending Northwestern University, an outstanding school in its own right.)
What saddens me most is that he may never experience the same rigor and depth of learning that I had at Princeton. That, looking back some 25+ years, is what I value most about my Princeton experience and something I dearly wish I could have shared with my son.
It is truly something that only a legacy parent could really appreciate and has nothing to do with ethnic, regional, gender, political, or religious diversity. To this day, I continue to reflect back on what he and I might have done differently. It has not, however, soured me on Princeton and, indeed, late last year I chose to make a contribution to Alumni Giving, knowing full well that it is most unlikely to affect my own daughter's chances of admission seven years from now if she chooses to apply to Princeton.
Stewart A. Levin '75
Following the Supreme Court's decision on college admission policies, of which Princeton was a successful participant, and at the start of Janet Rapelye's tenure as dean of admission seems like a good time to raise a challenge against the concept of legacy admissions.
I am a double legacy on my father's side, and a triple on my mother's, including my grandfather who was a faculty member. I was born in Princeton Hospital, raised in town during the "war years," and still have extended family throughout the Borough, but none of that should have had any bearing on my ability to do work at Princeton. The extent to which it did has bothered me now, on and off and to varying degrees, for over 40 years.
The advantages of legacies to Princeton are three-fold: (1) they promote happiness among certain alumni who may donate more money to Annual Giving, (2) they result in a higher percentage of admission yield, and (3) they probably have less need for scholarship support. (My wife, herself a fourth-generation Cornellian, thinks that legacies participate more in alumni activities than do nonlegacies, but she has neither Big Red nor Tiger data to support her claim). I believe, however, that Princeton has enough alumni support, has enough qualified applicants, and has enough scholarship money to free its admission policies from the outdated burden of legacy admissions, and I urge the administration to consider doing so. Abandoning the legacy component would put Princeton at the leading edge of fairness in access to an undergraduate education and free the admission staff to focus on other, more important aspects of building Princeton classes and character. More important, each future admitee would know they did it on their own.
Since it may be politically difficult to discard legacy considerations immediately I propose, as an interim step, that an applicant wishing to claim legacy consideration be required to obtain from the legatee a list of his or her accomplishments while at Princeton and a brief essay on how similar contributions might be expected from the current applicant. This would shift the burden of response from the legacy to the legatee. (The legatee's success after Princeton would not be submittable since life accomplishments are, in fact, made by persons who didn't graduate from Princeton. Multiple or deceased legatees could be accomodated by surrogate submissions with appropriate explanations).
Finally, I predict that under such a policy the percentage of legacies in future classes would stay about the same as it is now, but for the right and proper reasons of personal choice and family pride.
James L. Parmentier 66
We must be careful not to separate the admission office from the rest of the University when discussing what kinds of students (athletes, minorities, legacies, musicians, etc.) are admitted. After all, the admission office has been given a task which cannot be done perfectly select the "right" mix of students from a huge pool of qualified applicants.
I, for one, agree with the letter that suggests all legacies should be admitted "if the student can do the work."
I think the same applies for all applicants. In my opinion, it is morally unjust to turn away someone who is qualified. The problem, of course, is that the work is far, far too easy. Princeton is an elite institution, but it is not necessarily an elite educational institution. Students can choose to challenge themselves by taking an ambitious courseload, or they can do what so many students do, by focusing on "guts" and looking for the easy A (or B).
I propose that the institution raise its standards for existing students, and makes it possible for the admission office to select the very finest, only those who are capable of excelling. Don't "dumb down" the institution. Instead, admit only the best.
We do not, after all, want to be identified with some other Ivy League schools that have lowered their expectations so much that the admission rate has no correlation to the quality of the education.
Isaiah Cox '94
Gene Jarrett 97 and other letter writers make a truly bizarre indictment of legacy when they question the supposed noblesse oblige of legacy whereby a student is helped in the admission process by merits inherited rather then earned.
At the same time, they have no hesiltancy in using standards like race, ethinicity, income, and the rectifiying of past historical wrongs, none of which were "earned " by the recipient.
Others call for only the "best and brightest" as long as Princeton leaves room for disadvantaged minorites who, in fact, may not be the best and brightest. The Princeton education seems to be long on politcal correctness and weak on critical thinking these days.
June 28, 2003
Kerry Brown 74
June 23 2003
Why should Princeton preference legacies at all? Admission to Princeton is a precious commodity and should be reserved for those students deemed most deserving by a variety of criteria. A university committed to serving the nation and even the world must jettison the parochialism of legacy-admits. Let those alumni children who can earn admission without a legacy preference be welcomed with open arms by the University. But don't deny admission to more deserving candidates simply because by accident of birth they do not enjoy legacy status.
Maybe certain social clubs care who your parents are in making admission decisions, but as one of the great educational institutions in the world, Princeton definitely should not.
Davison M. Douglas '78
I have three daughters who did not apply to Princeton because I did not believe they would be accepted. However, I cannot understand the rejection of the daughter of Richard R. Golden 60 with her legacy and academic record. Is the University attempting to alienate its alumni?
Vincent J. Menna 61
In a letter to the editor Richard R. Golden 60 has expressed displeasure with Princetons rejection of his academically and athletically well-qualified daughter, who also turns out to be a third-generation legacy, from undergraduate admission. Goldens parental disappointment is understandable, but his frustration with Princetons seeming betrayal of his familys generational entitlement to admission is misguided and, to be frank, an omen. This frustration pivots on his disagreement with the idea that legacy and affirmative action are equal and interchangeable. While it is unclear what kind of affirmative action Golden is talking about, it is clear why he brings it up.
Many U.S. institutions of higher education use affirmative action to diversify pools of admitted students. Affirmative action implicitly tries to counteract the historic tendency of U.S. institutions to privilege certain kinds of students (whites, for example) over others (minorities). Unwittingly, Goldens letter proves that affirmative action must continue to exist in college admission, in spite and because of legacies. Troubling is his proposition that if it can be ascertained that the student can do the work, there should be an automatic acceptance of legacies to Princeton, mainly because legacy should be a demonstration that loyalty is a two-way street between alumni and the university. Such logic is a problem in at least three ways: It trivializes the admissions process, it demeans legacies that compete fairly for freshman spots, and it subordinates student diversity to alumni entitlement and privilege.
This last problem is the worst, my fellow alumni, because it threatens the diversity to which all great universities such as Princeton should aspire, and thus it indirectly threatens the diversity through which this nation prospers. But I suppose all this does not matter, as long as that Princeton admissions letter begins with the word Yes!
Gene Andrew Jarrett 97
While I dont quite agree that any legacy who can do the work should be admitted, I deeply sympathize with the Golden family. I reacted with great sadness when I read that her sister is a junior at Princeton.
How cold and detached must the committee be not to understand the painful family dynamics resulting from this particular rejection of an apparently outstanding applicant, a rejection which breaks the skein of a three-generation Princeton family. Certainly her merit appears to exceed by far an ability to do the work. I wonder which candidate took her place in the Class of 2007 and on what grounds.
We older alumni realize that todays Princeton is far different
from that of our era and, in many significant ways, superior. But that
difference, to my mind, doesnt explain the committees enabling
of this particular tragedy. Ill bet that this young lady will contribute
significantly to and will have a rich experience at the university which
admits her. But it will not be, for the family,
James H. Kahn 48
In rejecting Richard Golden '60's younger daughter, did Admissions consider that his older daughter may well graduate next year with justified contempt for Princeton? The people responsible for this ghastly outrage should reread Scott Fitzgerald '17's 1927 essay on the university, which while frank about Princeton's faults spoke of its "...power of arousing a deep and imperishable love..." and aspiring to "...so much of what is fair, gracious, charming and honorable in American life."
Will anyone at Princeton restore that power, and revive those aspirations, by being forthright enough to acknowledge and reverse this squalid blunder?
Raymond A. Brown III '74
I was appalled at Richard R. Golden 60s assertion that if it can be ascertained that the student can do the work, there should be an automatic acceptance of legacies to Princeton. The obvious fallacy in Mr. Goldens logic lies in simple math procreation tends to be exponential rather than linear but the more insidious threat lies in the extrapolation of his vision. Automatically admitting legacies over others would, in a few short generations, rob Princeton of the very resource that makes it such a fascinating, heady and prestigious place to study the best and brightest student minds from around the world. It would also help ensure still fewer places at the University for those students from racially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
While Mr. Goldens father was attending Princeton, my grandfather, with a third-grade education, was working a small tobacco farm in the rural south and, in the off-season, making bricks in a local factory in order to feed his family. If Mr. Goldens vision of Princeton had played out, I the valedictorian of my high school, summa cum laude graduate of Duke University, and a Fulbright Scholar would likely not have reaped the benefits of a Princeton graduate-school education, assuming a healthy crop of legacy applicants that year who could do the work.
I can understand the argument that it is important to the Universitys financial strength to consider children of alums in a separate category; however, it is crucial to the Universitys intellectual strength and long-term reputation to continue to enroll the brightest and most diverse student body possible. By virtue of graduating from the University, Princeton students have access to power, wealth, and leadership positions far beyond the reach of others. To that end, the University has a responsibility to society and to its alums to continue to educate the best students from every walk of life whether their grandfathers were Tigers or tobacco farmers.
Amanda F. Ableidinger *02
June 5, 2003
It is not unreasonable to argue that affirmative action's reliance on factors over which the student himself/herself has no control (like skin color) makes the practice problematic at best. However, showing favoritism toward legacies suffers from the same basic quandary, that being a fundamental concern with who you are or, more accurately, who your parents are, rather than what you've done.
Mr. Golden freely admits this when he claims that legacy admission "has nothing to do with the student and everything to do with the alumnus." And this is a good thing? I certainly wouldn't want my son or daughter getting into Princeton just because my wife and I once "graced" the flagstone walkways of Old Nass.
I find Mr. Golden's exposition on "loyalty" as "a two-way street" equally disturbing. While the concept sounds nice, supporting one's alma mater in the expectation of a tangible quid pro quo is simply ridiculous. I certainly can't speak for all alumni, but I support the University because its actions, including the recent sweeping improvements in its financial-aid policy, continue to embody, in my mind, an unparalleled dedication to undergraduate education.
Perhaps the most important element of this mission is the annual worldwide search for the most highly qualified, diverse, and motivated student body available. Undoubtedly, this process leaves some excellent candidates out. The admittedly arduous task of crafting a community of students that best enhances the learning experience of all falls to the admission office. Quite frankly, we as graduates don't owe Princeton anything (we did pay tuition didn't we?) unless we feel it deserves our support. Similarly, the university does not owe our children admission simply because we're alumni.
Jason T. Huse '96
Mr. Golden's letter clearly illustrates that we have let "diversity" rule over common sense. Their is ample diversity in each race (Colin Powell vs. Mike Tyson; Billy Graham vs. Ted Bundy; Pol Pot vs. almost any Cambodian).
Princeton should look for diversity of accomplishments among all applicants. Make all applications blind except for grades, outside accomplishments (sports or community service or artistic achievement), etc. And yes, make legacies part of the factor as multigenerational alumni might be more likely to forgive the University when it strays from common sense.
Would National Basketball Association teams be better if they were more diverse: 15% black; 10% other "minorities," and 75% white and all male?
We are all exposed to diversity from birth through high school and after college at work and play. Lets let Princeton's diversity be diversity of excellence in applicants, and student body.
Robert K. Lewis Jr. 56
In response: to the suggestion of Mr. Golden 60 to have automatic admission for those children of alumni who can do the work (Letters, June 4), 1 thought the divine right of kings (and queens) ended some time ago.
Henry J. Oechler Jr. 68
I am sure there are much less deserving students at Princeton in the name of diversity. Now I have to find a way to get myself off the mailing list of these endless reguests in orange and black for my loyalty (money) while Princeton with an endowment of $8 billion keeps raising the tuition. Maybe it would help to have an admission office and adminstration made up of alumni.
R. Golden M.D. 60
I am sympathetic to Dr. Golden's letter of April 8. At least one "...sucker has woken up..." and perhaps this letter will wake up a few more.
Our son just received his Princeton rejection (actually, he was "wait listed"; cold comfort). Given that he is not a legacy, according to the strict definition, his rejection should be little surprise regardless of his credentials. That the process is both extraordinarily competitive and serendipitous is no surprise to anyone.
But this is the grandson of a member of the Class of 42 whose many years of loyalty and generosity to Princeton culminated with the endowment of a named chair.
With respect to our son's credentials, they can be summarized quite concisely: valedictorian, National Merit Scholar, accepted to Georgetown (early action), Penn, and Harvard, with no family connection.
I am not angry for our son. His four years of relentless attention to his studies (and athletics; he is captain of the football and lacrosse teams) have earned him the privilege of choosing amongst some extraordinary colleges. But I am certainly outraged for his grandfather.
I continued to be amazed that you Princeton alumni tolerate this kind of treatment.
Stuart T. McLean
My daughter got her rejection letter from Princeton yesterday.
She is a third-generation legacy with a 1420 on her SATs, a 4.11 GPA in a rigorous private school, and an All-State setter and captain of a State Championship volleyball team in Florida. Oh, and yes, her sister is presently a junior at Princeton.
Yet this is not another April sour-grapes letter from a disgruntled alumnus. She will be attending Amherst in the fall, a wonderful school, which writes that It is delighted to inform her... .
In the frenzy of debate concerning affirmative action at Michigan, I have heard it argued by minority leaders that somehow legacy and affirmative action are equal and interchangeable. I would challenge that idea.
Legacy, unlike affirmative action, has nothing to do with the student, and everything to do with the alumnus. It should be a demonstration that Loyalty is a two-way street. It is not sufficient for the alumnus to be blindly loyal to the university, while Princeton, in its mindless drive toward social engineering, pays lip-service to the values of Tradition and Loyalty, values which are the backbone of important institutions in this county.
I feel, therefore, that if it can reasonably be ascertained that the student can do the work, there should be an automatic acceptance of legacies to Princeton. After that, the school can be in the business of righting old wrongs instead of creating new ones.
Also, before we Princeton alumni were asked to foot the legal bills for the universitys amicus brief in favor of Michigan with our donation money, maybe the trustees should have asked us if we agreed with that position.
Of course, that wont represent a problem to this alumnus. After 43 years of blind loyalty, this sucker has woken up.
Richard R Golden M.D. 60
Only a Princeton education prepares you
This is further to my September 17 letter pointing out the advantages that legacies have.
I had suggested that an alumni offspring had two to three times the non-legacy applicant's chance of being accepted. I have now received data showing that the Classes of 2001 to 2005 had legacy acceptance rates of 40-41%, while the Class of 2006 was 35%.
However, this means that an alumni child has a three to four times better chance than average! What more can alumni ask for? The yield of legacies accepting Princeton has been in the 79-88% range. Not all legacy acceptees go where their parent went!
Adrian Woodhouse '59
September 17, 2002
On a percentage basis, the legacy has a two to three times as greater chance of admission than the average Joe (or Joette).
Back in the days when 15 percent of applicants were accepted, legacies had a 40-45 percent acceptance rate. As the overall acceptance percentage decreased over the years to a roughly 10-percent level, I think one would find that legacies are still getting in at a 20-30 percent rate. As Dean Hargadon remarked at a Reunions reception in June, he could have accepted three complete classes out of 5,000 outstanding applicants without lowering standards!
What can one do when the physical plant size limits
one's options? Certainly not what one alumnus I knew: He felt that Princeton
should accept any alumni offspring that was not certified brain dead and
fill in the rest with a few "bright kids!"
Send a letter to PAW
July 25, 2002
To Messrs. Koster, Geroulanos, Waterhouse, and Jean, "tu che d'un padre ridi al dolore", I offer up the following apology instead.
God's will she flourishes! Thou should'st be brave.
PS: For Those who still doubt whether or not the admission office is cancerous, did not understand the original sonnet, or, like Mr. Koster, desire some hints, try "The admission office needs to be canned and replaced by only Princeton alumni."
July 3, 2002
Please don't misunderstand me. I do not agree at all
with the underlying theme of Mr. Innerfield's vitriolic poetry (nor do
I suggest that Drs. Jean or Waterhouse ever will either); but as someone
who has had to look into the baleful eyes of a child who did not get into
Princeton (my daughter did get in and is there now...but six years ago,
my son did not), I will tell you that, temporarily anyway, it does hurt...and
June 4, 2002
I am aghast at the sentiment expressed in R.J. Innerfield '67's sonnet printed in the May 15 PAW. At least, I think I am aghast. It's hard to say for certain what he claims the "tumor" in the admissions process to be, couched in florid iambic pentameter about "the glue that's shaped our destinies" as it is. The only message conveyed unambiguously, I find, is that Innerfield considers Princeton's refusal to admit his progeny ab privilegio into the Class of '06 to be a national tragedy. That this may be a personal tragedy, I surely grant; rejection is brutal for everyone. But evidence of a "cancer" that is eroding the "very sustenance" of our alma mater? Please.
What disturbs me even more than the tone of righteous indignation, however, is the subtext I'm picking up about this cancer originating in "our left" with "foreign genes." I'm no mathematician, but that sounds to me like it adds up to nothing more than a poetic spin on the time-honored tradition of alumni proclaiming in these pages that "Princeton has gone to hell ever since they let the _________ in."
Of course, I equally suspect that Mr. Innerfield chose the classical poetic form precisely so that he could avoid being pinned down and labeled with the ism(s) to which he may subscribe. If one is going to point the finger of blame, one should at least have enough courage in one's convictions to identify clearly the perceived culprit(s). I invite Mr. Innerfield to write again, this time in plain prose so that the non-English majors like myself can understand, and tell us: Precisely whose fault is it that your daughter was not accepted? What dastardly member of which perfidious and cancerous group will be enrolling in her place?
Dan Koster 93
Im sure R.J. Innerfields
poetic lament of his daughters unsuccessful application to the Class
of 06 is shared by many alumni whose children have received the
same letter. I have two daughters who received the same treatment, forced
to receive educations at Brown and Northwestern because they couldnt
make the Princeton admissions cut as legacies. The rejections angered
me and changed my attitude towards Princeton, but it certainly didnt
ruin their lives.
One must publicly praise R.J.Innerfield's stalwart vision of purity of seed and natural selection, as well as his flabbergasting poetic and philosophical discovery that "progeny's" rhymes with "destinies."
It is indeed heartbreaking to learn that another tumor cell (perhaps even like myself, a foreigner, and certainly not a legacy!) has taken over his daughter's rightful place, a place which he so mightily retained for her against malignant tentacles of characterless administrators and the lesser candidates whose parents did not attend Princeton.
West College, center of the "tumour," has indeed
expanded to pull in those who will go on to complete the destruction of
Princeton that myself and so many others have already partaken in.
Just hope, for your daughter's sake, that the caste-ish
arrogance and splenetic self-congratulation you exhibited in your letter
are not the "hereditary traits" that you so resentfully pride
As a nonlegacy Princetonian and a surgeon who treats
people with brain tumors every day, I am shocked and dismayed to read
R. J. Innerfields 67 letter-poem
entitled "West Collegeioma." By equating the rejection of his
daughter from Princeton with a tumor growing in West College, he not only
betrays his venomous and egotistical bitterness, but also his ignorance
about, well, tumor genetics. The analogy of Princeton with a biological
specimen is not in itself inappropriate. However, contrary to what the
author implies, the diversity generated by the incorporation of "foreign
genes" is the ultimate foundation of natural selection and the strength
of the species. The stagnation of the gene pool by inbreeding, far from
"being the glue thats shaped our destinies," actually
heightens the susceptibility to cancer.
April 4, 2002
A cancer creeps insidiously here
Within our midst and masquerades about
Destroying as it goes the very dear
Attachment we cant bear to be without.
Beginning as a nidus in our left
Its tentacles in generations new
Have colonized destroying in its cleft
The very sustenance thats kept us true.
Its foreign genes implanted midst our own Have strangled from our seed our progeny's. Unnatural selection they have shown,
So goes the glue thats shaped our destinies.
Yes, Princeton hear me well the bell does toll, That none of us this tumor can control.
R.J. Innerfield 67 (on learning that my daughter, Caitlin, was not to be among the Class of 06)
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