I am dismayed by a letter from John Milton ’57 (Feb. 9), in which he argued that Princeton is not worthy of support from its alumni because a high percentage of its 2010 graduates entered the world of finance. Milton believes that this fact is somehow in opposition to the famous phrase “Princeton in the nation’s service.”
In my view, there are serious problems with Milton’s argument. First, we need to keep in mind that the University really has no control over the employment decisions of its graduates. Second, we do not know that all the people who enter financial occupations are intent only upon enriching themselves. Third, it is not impossible that some of the graduates that Milton criticizes may at some point work in government or in the nonprofit sector.
Fourth, it is quite possible, probably likely, that many of these graduates will devote significant amounts of their time to community services of various kinds, perhaps in part by using skills that they have learned in finance. Fifth, Milton ignores the employment decisions of graduate students. Sixth, the research programs at Princeton are in themselves worthy of support, even if one is outraged by the employment decisions of undergraduate students.
Milton says that Princeton provides “(arguably) the best education in the United States.” How can one possibly object to supporting such a university? I suggest that Milton and others who may be concerned about undergraduate employment decisions propose ways to change Princeton education, orientation, and employment services to encourage more graduates to enter governmental and nonprofit employment. As a matter of fact, I believe that PAW gives a good deal of attention to alumni who are not working in the private sector.