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July6, 2011

Vol. 111, No. 15

Watering down WWS

In response to: Wilson School to end selectivity for major

Published on July6, 2011

I note the announcement (Campus Notebook, May 11) of the ending of the certificate program and of selective admission at the truly great program of the Woodrow Wilson School and its replacement with a watered-down version that in my view is so radical, it should result in the name of the school being changed. Since I majored in WWS and get its periodic alumni newsletters, I would like to comment on the worst elements of this plan:

1. Replacement of one of two policy task forces with a seminar. I quote from the 2005-06 Undergraduate Announcement: “The most distinctive aspect of the undergraduate experience in the school is the policy task force.” I absolutely agree, and I think most WWS graduates would, too. There could not have been better training on the undergraduate level for either government service or law school than defending your position in one of those policy conferences. Many departments have seminars; only WWS has policy task forces. Now, one-half of those are gone.

2. End of selective admission. In my class (1958), 50 undergraduates were admitted; they were the 49 smartest men, as a group, with which I ever was associated. A member of the WWS Advisory Council stated in the recent WWS undergraduate alumni newsletter that he had talked with students who were not accepted “and were devastated when they were not accepted.” I thought Princeton was supposed to be selective.

3. Failure to consider alumni experience. According to the alumni newsletter, the only alumni (besides a couple on the advisory council) who were consulted prior to the adoption of the radical new program were “alumni who graduated in the last 10 years.” Would it not have been a good idea to consider the opinions of those in the real world long enough to evaluate what was meaningful and what was not in their undergraduate experience?

Walter Winget ’58
Peoria, Ill.

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