WIlliam G. Bowen *58, who served as University president from 1972 to 1988, died Oct. 20 at his Princeton home at the age of 83. PAW will be writing more about his lasting impact at Princeton and his contributions to higher education in a future issue of the magazine. Today, we look back through this review of his legacy, originally published in the Dec. 23, 1987, issue of PAW.
WILLIAM G. BOWEN was at work in his office at 1 Nassau Hall one afternoon in August 1984 when he received a telephone call from Eugene McPartland, Princeton’s vice president for facilities. McPartland was extremely upset: the wrong bricks had arrived for the $29 million Lewis Thomas Laboratory, then in the preliminary stages of construction. The manufacturer had bungled it. McPartland said: the bricks were the wrong color and wrong texture. and they had been delivered behind schedule.
SHARE your recollections of President Bowen in the comments below, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most university presidents wouldn’t be bothered by a batch of botched bricks — but Bowen was. “It was absolutely vital for us to get the right bricks,” he says, “and time was of the essence.” The project was on a tight schedule. Unless the building could be enclosed by winter, construction work on the interior would be stalled until spring. Such a delay was unacceptable. because the university was campaigning to recruit faculty members for the new molecular biology department, and the facilities in the Thomas Laboratory were an important lure in these efforts.
There were aesthetic considerations as well. According to Bowen, the color and texture of the bricks arc integral to the design of the Thomas Laboratory, because the structural possibilities for the building were constrained by both the budget and the site. “Bob Venturi [’47], the architect, was given the daunting task of making a building shaped basically like a shoebox attractive, and he did it with color and texture,” Bowen says. “The wrong bricks would have been disastrous.”
The brick manufacturer was based in Salt Lake City. So Bowen called John Kenefick ’43, vice president of the executive committee of the Board of Trustees, to see if he could help. Kenefick is the chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad, and Bowen reasoned that he might be able to get things done more effectively from the West Coast. That Sunday, however, Kenefick was sitting in the Union Pacific’s private railroad car in Los Angeles watching his niece, Joan Benoit, run in the Olympics. Bowen called all over the country trying to reach him, and finally tracked him down.
Kenefick immediately realized the gravity of the situation and agreed to help. First he tried to reach the president of the Salt Lake City company. but the president refused to speak to him and had a sales representative field the call. Incensed, Kenefick did some quick research on the brick company and discovered that it was a subsidiary of another corporation, whose chairman he knew well. Kenefick called his friend. Minutes later, the brick manufacturer called to apologize. “I think we’ve got their attention,” Kenefick reported to Bowen. The brick company halted virtually all its other projects and fired a new set of bricks for the Thomas Laboratory —this time closer to the correct color and texture.
“They still didn’t get the bricks exactly right, and the contrast is a little more bold than I would like,” Venturi says. “But they’re a lot better than the first batch.” Venturi was on vacation in Europe while the brick incident was unfolding, but he was kept apprised of the problem by telephone. The university even sent him samples of some back-up bricks by overnight mail — to Geneva — to inspect, in case the second round of bricks was also unacceptable. “I’m sure the customs agents must have wondered what was inside of the bricks,” he says. Venturi lauds the university for sticking to his design: “The university was on a tight schedule and could have gone ahead. Fortunately, Princeton is a wise and understanding client.”
Even with the brick manufacturer working as fast as it could, firing the bricks took three weeks. The time lost dangerously threatened the schedule for constructing the laboratory. So Kenefick stepped in again and arranged to have the bricks shipped cast post-haste. “They ended up,” Bowen says, “under bizarre circumstances on some spur line somewhere in New Jersey, and we had to send someone down with a cashier’s check to release the bricks. But the bricks got here, and the building went on as scheduled.”
Two bricks — two of the right bricks — are now perched on a windowsill in Bowen’s office, next to a model of a Union Pacific railroad car. These bricks are more than just mementos of an amusing incident; they, along with their saga, are mirrors of the Bowen presidency. They reflect his close attention to detail, his commitment to the university’s pursuit of academic excellence in major fields, and his devotion to doing things right. The building built of these bricks, and the molecular biology department housed in it, reflect other aspects of the Bowen administration: successful fundraising and Annual Giving drives; efforts to recruit top faculty; and a vision of the university as an entity that must grow in order to survive.
BOWEN will retire on January 8 after fifteen years as president. To his successor, Harold Shapiro *64, he leaves a university much changed, and not entirely without problems. But the many transformations that Bowen has wrought on Princeton during his tenure are likely to endure, and the direction the university has taken under his leadership will be difficult to alter.
Perhaps the hallmark of the Bowen administration has been the president’s attention to detail, as typified by the story of the bricks for the Thomas Laboratory. According to his top administrative assistants, Bowen has been directly involved in every major decision during his time as president and has allocated his time so efficiently that he has been able to stay abreast of all the issues confronting the university. Last year, a member of one of the committees searching for Bowen’s successor even described Princeton as a “Mom and Pop store,” tended by Bowen and his provost for the past ten years, Neil Rudenstine ’56.
Thomas H. Wright ’62, the university counsel, was recruited by Bowen in 1972 to become Princeton’s first in-house lawyer. He is intimately familiar with the president’s “hands-on” approach. “Bill has the capacity to outlawyer lawyers,” Wright says, “and gets involved in the details of the university’s legal affairs.” Often, Wright says, Bowen helps rewrite legal briefs even though he has no formal legal training. Dean of Students Eugene Lowe ‘71 has also had Bowen’s assistance in preparing reports. One Friday night a couple of years ago, Lowe recalls, “We were working late on a memorandum that had to be done by the next morning. Bill suggested that he ‘proofread’ the final version.
He called me about forty-five minutes later and said that he had a couple of recommendations. When I got it back, it was completely covered with red ink, just like a freshman term paper.”
Few aspects of the university escape Bowen’s scrutiny. He can recite the square-footage figures for additions to university buildings which have been completed during his presidency. He can recall exact figures for university expenditures on various projects. He is as adept at discussing the expansion of the university’s humanities programs as he is at remembering the names of former students from his Economics 101 classes. Professor Arnold Levine, the chairman of the molecular biology department, says that he once found Bowen wandering around the newly completed Thomas Laboratory late one Friday night asking undergraduates what they thought about the facility.
This command of the intricacies of a university that has almost 6,000 students, 700 faculty members, and an annual budget of $270 million is possible only because of Bowen’s legendary energy and capacity for work. Besides putting in long hours during the week, Bowen works most weekends, and he is willing, as the story of the bricks illustrates, to mobilize the university’s resources on Sunday. “Bill doesn’t sleep a lot,” says Wright. Joel Achenbach ’82, a former young alumni trustee and editorial chairman of the Daily Princetonian, even believes that Bowen can manipulate the fourth dimension. “He has an unbelievable ability to expand time,” Achenbach says. “In twelve hours, he’ll do eighteen hours of work.”
Bowen holds luncheon meetings at Prospect House every Monday with the university’s top twelve or fourteen officials: the provost, the deans, and vice presidents of administrative departments. At these meetings, all areas of university policy are reviewed. Sessions like these, Bowen says, are only possible at a school the size of Princeton or smaller; the presidents of larger universities, especially those with large graduate and professional schools, might be overwhelmed if they tried such a system.
Most major policy decisions are reached in these Monday meetings. Joan Girgus, a professor of psychology and former Dean of the College, says that Bowen strives for consensus when making decisions, especially on controversial issues. Everyone present is encouraged to contribute to the discussion. “But don’t be mistaken,” Girgus laughs. “Bill runs that meeting.” Other administration officials comment that, once Bowen’s mind is made up, he pursues a certain course of action vigorously, changing direction only if someone presents a persuasive, logical counter-argument.
Bowen’s hands-on management style has its critics. One administrator, who does not wish to be named, says that Bowen’s willingness to get involved in minutiae has led to a centralization of authority. “Power has tended to gravitate toward those willing to exercise it,” the official says. “And in this administration, those people are Bill Bowen and Neil Rudenstine.” A tenured professor who has served on several major university committees also is troubled by what he calls the president’s “consuming interest” in detail. “The problem in the current managerial process is that overemphasis on day-to-day operations makes it difficult to do the other part of being a university president-articulating a clear sense of mission.”
Others in the university community warn that it is inaccurate to think that Bowen makes all decisions by himself. “I have a lecture in which I compare the Princeton administration to the Politburo and the faculty to the Supreme Soviet,” says Cyril Black, an emeritus professor of Russian history. “The Politburo puts up a unified front, but there is considerable debate within that body. The Supreme Soviet is often viewed as powerless, but members of the Politburo regularly consult with its different factions. The same is true at Princeton. While it may seem that decisions come from above, there’s a tremendous amount of politics, and all the interest groups on the faculty are consulted before action is taken.”
Lowe served on the Board of Trustees before being named Dean of Students, and he recalls that he was continually amazed to arrive at Princeton for meetings and discover “everything polished and every top spinning perfectly.” Only once he took his place at the Monday luncheon, Lowe says, did he become aware of “how highly deliberative and consultative decision making was, and how many times things got iterated before becoming policy.”
BOWEN’S interest in detail serves him extremely well in the area of faculty recruitment. When the university woos a scholar from a different institution for a tenured post at Princeton, Bowen is on the front lines of the recruitment effort. He personally courted Levine, who was being sought to take charge of the new molecular biology department. “Bill called me down to Princeton and took me out to lunch at the Great Wall Chinese restaurant in the Princeton Shopping Center,” Levine says. “Then he spent two and a half hours vigorously interviewing me for the job.” Levine accepted.
“At no other university of Princeton’s caliber does the president get so involved in faculty recruitment,” says Wright. “He is not only concerned about what someone can add to the university, but about finding jobs in the area for faculty spouses, about housing, and all the other things that are important to someone thinking of coming to Princeton.’’ In addition to recruiting Levine, Wright notes, Bowen interviewed the other professors who were being courted for the molecular biology department. The group was concerned about Princeton’s commitment to the new program, because the university had been unable to prevent the slow decline of the biochemistry department in the early 1980s. According to Wright, however, “Bill answered all the tough questions.”
In Bowen’s view, faculty recruitment is the “single most satisfying set of activities that I have been involved in.” The faculty should be the top priority of any university president, he stresses, because the “quality and the commitment of the faculty just dominate everything else.” Bowen says that it is as important to find professors who are interested in and enthusiastic about teaching undergraduates as it is to attract excellent scholars. Toni Morrison, a novelist who was recently appointed to an endowed chair in the Humanities Council, chose to teach at Princeton because of both its commitment to undergraduate teaching and the kinds of undergraduates that it attracts. Nobel Laureate Val Fitch still teaches an introductory physics course. And according to economics professor Uwe Reinhardt, teaching large introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics courses is considered a privilege among faculty members in his department. “People stand in line for the chance, but it’s only given to those who love to teach,” Reinhardt says. “Some people are great lecturers of undergraduates, and others are great researchers. The genius of this place is that it tailors the allocation of duties so that both types can flourish.”
In addition to his role in faculty recruitment, Bowen is deeply involved in the tenure process. Princeton is unusual among Ivy League colleges in that almost half of all appointments to tenured positions are made from within the university’s junior faculty; elsewhere, that proportion is much smaller. (At Harvard, for instance, it is almost unheard of for an assistant professor to receive tenure.) Bowen sits with the “Committee of Three,” the sixmember faculty Appointments and Advancements Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations for tenure. Although he does not vote with the committee, Bowen has the authority to veto any appointment, a power he rarely exercises. According to W. Robert Connor *61, chairman of the Council of the Humanities and a member of the committee, “In Bill’s commitment to strengthen the quality of the faculty, he has by no means run roughshod over the opinion of the committee.” Professor Black, who taught at Princeton for almost fifty years, notes that Bowen “is extremely careful to get top-notch people, and he and the committee are unafraid to reject inappropriate departmental recommendations.”
There are drawbacks, of course, to the tenure system. One assistant professor says that “tenure anxiety” is a common affliction among the university’s 197 junior faculty members. At schools where tenure is granted to very few junior faculty, she says, a kind of fatalistic camaraderie develops; at Princeton, where the chances for promotion are somewhat higher, the resulting competition can sometimes be counterproductive to faculty unity. Reinhardt worries that the demands Princeton places on its junior faculty-advising senior theses and junior papers, as well as teaching and research-might discourage the cream of the academic crop either from coming to Princeton or staying once they arrive. “So far, we have done an excellent job at retaining the best people,” Reinhardt says. “But if we get a reputation for letting people go, we will be in trouble.”
During the Bowen years, Princeton has paid its faculty competitive salaries, but average faculty renumeration is not as high as at some institutions. Further, salaries differ widely among fields and by person; in the words of an economics professor, “salaries reflect the market value of the professor.’’ Engineering, physics, and natural science professors, for example, often receive substantially higher salaries than professors in the humanities or arts. (It is university policy not to release individual salary figures.) Regardless of department, however, tenured faculty generally earn more than non-tenured ones, and stay at the university for as long as they want to. The university must therefore be careful before making any senior appointment. As sociology professor Marion Levy says, “Faculty are a peculiar economic good — you can buy us, but you can’t sell us. Unlike baseball, you can’t trade a tenured professor for future prospects.”
In 1972-73, Bowen’s first year as president, the university employed 368 tenured professors and 173 assistant professors; last year, those figures had risen to 409 tenured and 197 non-tenured — a total increase of around 11 percent. Almost two-thirds of the new appointments were to tenured positions. These professors are teaching in thirty-three separate departments and twenty-three programs, compared to thirty departments and seventeen programs at the beginning of Bowen’s presidency. Among the new departments are comparative literature and computer science; new programs include theater and dance, women’s studies, and population studies.
These new departments and programs reflect one of the overriding academic objectives of the Bowen era. In Bowen’s first report as president, in the fall of 1972, he wrote that “we should continue ... the ever closer integration of undergraduate teaching, graduate teaching, and scholarship and research.’’ Princeton, Bowen continued, should “take advantage of the ways in which these sometimes all too distant activities can be mutually reinforcing.” Fifteen years later, Bowen was able to say that “clearly, we have made significant progress in the never-ending process of integration.” He cites as an example the molecular biology department, in which, he says, there is a mix of undergraduates, graduates, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty working together. Another program in which the university resources have been combined, he says, is the Council of the Humanities — an “integrating mechanism with great potential.”
If Bowen has succeeded in integrating the undergraduate, graduate, and research aspects of Princeton, he will have achieved a goal which eluded many presidents of the past, most notably Woodrow Wilson. The mission of the university is to be a center of learning, Bowen argues, and not just an undergraduate college with a small number of graduate students. “It is a misconception to believe that you can work on the undergraduates with one part of your mind, work on graduate students with another part, and have research somewhere else,” Bowen says. “All these elements interact with each other. Without the Graduate School and without research, Princeton would not be a great university.”
THE INTEGRATION of various university activities fulfills another of Bowen’s primary academic goals. “No university has the resources to do what it ought to do in every field,” he says. “So at Princeton, we’ve tried to pick and choose carefully, and make one dollar do the work of two.” In comparative literature, this philosophy meant taking professors in the university’s language and literature departments and joining them in a new program. Bowen predicts that, over time, various fields of study will continue to become more integrated a proposed program in “Materials Science,” he says, would incorporate elements of the geology, computer science, engineering, and physics departments.
Although Princeton has moved into many new academic areas during the Bowen years, the university has resisted the temptation to follow the fickle fashions of academe, says Van Zandt Williams ’65, vice president for development. The university has largely avoided sinking resources into departments that are considered stylish at one point but that later are thought to be without substance. According to Girgus, the converse of this policy is that Princeton has sometimes been “a little late” in entering those fields which turn out to be of lasting interest and value. Once the university decides to get involved in a field, however, it generally takes swift action to recruit faculty members and develop course offerings. In women’s studies, for instance, Princeton has built a program acclaimed as one of the best in the nation in the space of a few years.
The establishment of the molecular biology department (and the bricks of the Thomas Laboratory) exemplify another trend accentuated during the Bowen years, Princeton, university officials are fond of saying, is a “major research university,” on a par with such other national research centers as Stanford, Berkeley, and Harvard. But the fundamental differences between Princeton and these other institutions — its small size and the absence of professional schools — make such an ambition difficult to realize. According to Provost Rudenstine, the university must therefore select the “niches” in which it can compete as a major research institution. “Obviously, Princeton cannot be a leader in every educational field,” he says. “What is important is selecting the integral fields that the university cannot do without, and remaining strong in them.”
Bowen asserts that life sciences is one of these critical fields. Thus the creation of the molecular biology department was vital, because the university could not afford to have “as glaring a gap as modem biology with any hope of achieving our vision of Princeton.” Of all the university’s academic departments, he says, life sciences and engineering were the most neglected during the 1960s and 1970s (the number of engineering faculty actually declined during that time). A great university, Bowen argues, must be strong across the board; otherwise, dangerous signals are sent to other segments of the institution. “It was not a complicated question, because the need was blindingly clear,” he says. “What was required was time, effort, and resources.”
Certainly, the financial resources required to operate world-class facilities in some areas of the sciences and engineering are greater than in the humanities and arts. In the case of the molecular biology department, these expenses ran around $40 million for the Thomas Laboratory, for faculty development, and for start-up costs. In some circles of the university, these large expenditures are viewed with suspicion, and perhaps a little jealousy. There is concern among some faculty members that the delicate balance among the various branches of the university is being skewed by the heavy investments required to remain in the forefront of scientific research. It does not cost the same amount for an English professor to engage in groundbreaking research as it does for a biologist. Other faculty members-especially those in the “Big Four” departments (English, history, politics, and economics), in which 40 percent of undergraduates major claim that the greatest teaching burden falls on them, while scientists have greater flexibility to pursue research.
University officials rebut these arguments. From a purely financial standpoint, Rudenstine says, as much money, if not more, has been channeled into facilities for the humanities and social sciences during recent years as has been spent on the sciences. The planned Center for International Studies, renovations to the creative arts building at 185 Nassau Street, the expansion of the Art Museum, and two additions to Firestone Library-all typify a balanced approach to the growth ofthe university, he says. “Individually, these projects may be smaller, but together they add up to a significant strengthening of our resources in the humanities.” In Bowen’s view, the increase in Firestone’s holdings in the last fifteen years alone (up by about 1.4 million volumes) is ample evidence of a strong commitment to non-scientific fields. As he puts it, “The library is the laboratory of the humanities.”
Professor Reinhardt also challenges the notion that the sciences absorb a disproportionate amount of the university’s budget. He observes that most of the university’s scientific researchers are supported by outside grants that recoup many of their expenses. Writing grant proposals also takes an “inordinate amount of time,” Reinhardt says-time which other professors spend teaching. The pool of money from which scientists can tap — from government, foundations, and even alumni donors — is also larger than that available to non-scientists. “Contrary to what economists say,” Bowen asserts, “all dollars are not fungible,” meaning that some resources can be applied only to certain projects. More often than not, money for the sciences is not fungible.
OF BOWEN’S many successes during his tenure as president, perhaps none is so striking as his tireless efforts to increase the university’s fiscal resources. Princeton’s endowment, $625 million in 1972, has mushroomed to more than $2 billion. The recently completed “Campaign for Princeton” met its original goal of $275 million halfway through the five-year project and easily passed the revised goal of $330 million. By the time the Campaign books were closed in July 1986, $410.5 million had been raised. Annual Giving by alumni also soared during the Bowen era: in his first year as president, the total was about $4 million; last year, Annual Giving raised $17.5 million. The percentage of alumni donors has remained constant at about 59 percent, remarkable given the much larger number of alumni today.
Bowen has immersed himself in the cause of fundraising. He has spent countless hours addressing alumni groups and courting potential donors. According to Van Zandt Williams, Bowen has the ability “to match the institution’s needs with a donor’s area of interest.” The university’s large alumni body makes this practice possible, Williams says, because the law of averages favors finding an alumnus whose interests correspond with a need of the university. “Sometimes this takes a little negotiation, but it must be a win/win situation — both for the university and the donor,” he says. “We’ve turned down some very, very large gifts from people who wanted the university to move in a direction where we didn’t want to go.”
The money raised by Bowen has funded a remarkable number of projects. He has overseen the construction of five new buildings, the expansion of a dozen more, and the renovation of numerous other facilities, including many dormitories. “I haven’t been a ‘building’ president, like Bob Goheen,” Bowen jokes. “I’ve been a renovating president.” The university’s annual budget has grown from $80 million in 1972 to more than $270 million in 1987. (These numbers validate the “Bowen Rule,’’ an economic principle which posits that the costs of higher education grow inexorably at a rate at least two percent faster than the rate of inflation.)
Bowen’s financial wizardry has extended beyond the realm of fundraising. His reputation as a superb money manager was first acquired during his term as provost (under President Robert Goheen), when Bowen drew up and implemented the university’s first comprehensive budget. In the minds of some observers, this is his greatest achievement and most important legacy. As president, Bowen supervised an aggressive expansion of the university’s business interests. This has culminated in the profitable commercial development of real estate at the Princeton Forrestal Center on Route l near the main campus. Bowen also engineered the sale of Palmer Square in downtown Princeton to the Collins Development Corporation in 1982 for $17 million.
Both the development at Forrestal and the Palmer Square sale, however, have drawn criticism. In the case of Forrestal, local elected officials have accused the university of participating in the overdevelopment of the region and diminishing the quality oflife around Princeton. Opponents of the Palmer Square deal, meanwhile, argue that the university had a responsibility to take care of its “front yard.” Bowen strenuously objects to both of these charges. “Selling Palmer Square was one of the best decisions I’ve made as president,” he says. He argues that the university did not have either the time or the resources to make the necessary improvements to the stores on Palmer Square, and notes that Collins has sunk millions into the expansion and upgrading of the complex. Bowen also defends the university’s actions in the development of Forrestal. “It’s unrealistic to think of cows grazing along Route I in New Jersey in the 1980s,” he says. “Development was clearly coming to the area, and we took the initiative to help shape the quality of the surrounding environment.”
THE STRUCTURES governing the lives of Princeton students, and indeed the composition of the student body itself, have undergone a wholescale transformation during the Bowen years. Of these changes, the most sweeping has been the implementation of the residential college system, the result of the recommendations of the Committee on Undergraduate Residential Life (CURL). Under the CURL plan, the majority of freshmen and sophomores no longer take their meals in the cavernous halls of Commons, but instead are grouped into five residential colleges. Each of the colleges has separate dining, social, and academic facilities, and each offers advising and other services as well. Even the Freshman Herald photo-address book, long an alphabetical listing of each freshman class, is subdivided by college. From the perspective of university officials, the residential colleges address several of the most pressing needs of undergraduate life. “The residential colleges are a perfect example of one dollar doing the work of two,” Bowen says. “There were a number of problems: living conditions for freshmen and sophomores were very unsatisfactory; we weren’t taking advantage of the diversity of the student body; and there were serious deficiencies in the advising system for individual freshmen and sophomores.” The residential colleges, Bowen says, have improved living conditions on the one hand, while making Princeton “a more humane place” on the other.
“Every age needs its own structures, and it was increasingly apparent that the old residential system was not suited to the 1980s,” according to Rudenstine. “When I was an undergraduate, for example, the student body was all-male, much more homogeneous, and much smaller than it is today. But with a diverse and complex student body and a more complex institution, there are different needs.” Andy Brown ’69, who was Dean of Students while the residential college was being phased-in, served on the CURL committee. “The upper classes have always been split into small groups, both in departments and in eating clubs,” Brown says. “There was a perception that underclassmen were somewhat ignored. The intention of the residential colleges was to involve the lower classes more in university life.”
Earlier this year, however, students in the residential colleges protested that the advising system had not achieved the goal of increasing the personal attention paid to each student. Others have argued that residential colleges have actually fragmented the university, and that freshmen and sophomores rarely get the opportunity to meet or socialize with upperclassmen. (Only eighty upperclassmen, almost all of them resident advisors, live in the colleges.) The academic role of the colleges — or lack thereof — has also come under scrutiny. “I don’t believe that we’ve explored all the possibilities for the academic aspects of the colleges,” says Girgus. “I hope that in the future we press on to integrate the academic side with the residential side.” One move in that direction has been the creation of non-credit “freshmen seminars” in the colleges, taught by senior faculty members.
Another trademark of the Bowen administration is the “diversity” that, in part, necessitated the creation of the residential colleges. When Bowen became president, undergraduate men outnumbered women by more than three to one. This year, the balance is much closer-I,728 women and 2,788 men-and administrators, professors, and students agree that Princeton is a better place since co-education. (Bowen, who served on the committee which recommended that the university adopt coeducation, has said that he would not have stayed at Princeton if it had not begun to accept women.) Minority enrollment has also grown-in 1974, minorities composed 12.5 percent of the student body; this year, the figure is 18.5 percent.
Diversity has brought about new frictions. Sexual harassment has become a significant campus issue, prompted by an ugly incident in the spring of 1987. Bowen’s address at the opening exercises this fall focused on the need for a “bond of respect” between students of all races, creeds, and backgrounds, and he said later that “improving conditions for women is an important part of our continuing agenda.” Bowen has also overseen an expansion of university support services for a number of campus minority groups. One achievement in which he takes special satisfaction is the increased receptiveness of the university to the Jewish community. ‘‘No Princeton student, regardless of race, religion, or belief, should feel like a secondclass citizen,” he says.
Bowen cautions that the university has not solved all of its problems. “In a way, everything I’ve been involved with is a series of half-told stories,” Bowen says. “Every department in the university can be improved. Our handling of many aspects of student life can be better. The athletic program, which in many ways is very good, can be strengthened. There really isn’t an aspect of campus life that isn’t in need of improvement.” The challenges ahead, Bowen says, “make this such an important and exciting opportunity for President Shapiro, because there’s so much good work he can do here.”
WHAT PROBLEMS lie ahead for Shapiro? In academics, the top priority seems to be a review of the curriculum for underclassmen. “The question is, how do we educate our freshmen and sophomores?” asks Nancy Weiss, the recently appointed Dean of the College. “Are the current distribution requirements appropriate? How do we introduce underclassmen to the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge and bridge the gap between engineering and the liberal arts?” Girgus, Weiss’s predecessor as dean, adds that faculty members are concerned that too many underclassmen are being taught in large lecture courses, where they are not exposed to the give-and-take that is supposed to be at the core of the Princeton educational experience.
Other faculty members are concerned by the increase in the average size of preceptorials and the consequent reduction, as Professor Black puts it, in “intensive teaching.” Black also is ambivalent about the proliferation of courses in some departments. It is important to give each professor the chance to lecture in his or her own area of specialty, he says; with professors thus occupied, however, the burden of leading preceptorials often falls on graduate students. “Education at Princeton has moved from a sit-down meal to cafeteria style,” Black says.
The composition of the faculty itself is another area that warrants examination. Of the 606 assistant, associate, and full professors, only seventy-eight are women (thirty-four of whom are tenured) and only forty-six are members of minority groups (twenty-eight tenured). Of the top university administrators, only one — Dean Lowe — is black. “Despite the strenuous efforts to increase the number of minorities at Princeton, the fuller integration of the university is a question for the future,” Lowe says. “For the next generation, the question extends to both the faculty and the Graduate College. It’s not a judgment on anything that’s happened here, but a problem throughout higher education.” Weiss, the highest-ranking woman in the administration, says that a focus of her term as dean will be “increasing the representation of women and minorities at all levels in the university.”
Also on the agenda is the future of upperclass residential and social life. Lowe has proposed creating a sixth residential college, so that more upperclassmen can live and mingle with underclassmen; he also favors greater coordination and cooperation between the classes. The ongoing lawsuit brought by Sally Frank ‘80 against the two remaining all-male eating clubs could have major ramifications for Princeton upperclass life as well. Even absent the Frank case, university administrators say that the nature of the relationship between the clubs and the university remains unresolved. An example is the clubs’ policy of serving alcohol. “The change in the drinking age [to 21] presents an immensely complicated problem,” says Girgus. “It’s hard to set policies for self-governing entities, but there are legal issues involved.”
Perhaps the biggest concern of faculty, administrators, and students is the bloated concentration of upperclassmen in the “Big Four” departments. Forty percent of undergraduates major in economics, history, politics, or English. The politics department has been so overwhelmed that it has limited the number of undergraduates who can major in the field. The history department, long one of the largest in the university, has undergone unprecedented growth in the past few years-up from an average of 250 upperclass concentrators in the 1970s to 346 this year. (Dean Weiss points out that Princeton is not alone in experiencing this phenomenon: one out of four Yale students arc history majors.) At Princeton, however, there has not been a concomitant increase in the number of tenure-track history positions. This year, the history department hired more than a dozen lecturers with one-year contracts to handle the overflow; they are sharing, with the department faculty, the advising of senior theses and junior papers as well as the teaching of preceptorials and junior seminars. As a short-term solution, says one history professor, hiring lecturers to take up the slack is fine. But if the practice becomes institutionalized, the professor says, there could be serious academic consequences and a deterioration of faculty morale.
According to Aaron Lemonick, Dean of the Faculty, the overconcentration of students in the four largest departments is a “chronic problem.” But, he says, adding faculty is not the solution, because that would make the affected departments even harder to manage. On the other hand, it is undesirable to limit students in their choice of major. “It seems to me that the answer lies in attracting more students to the sciences and humanities,” Lemonick says. “The easiest route for that is to have sensible advising, and let students know what options are available.” Rudenstine agrees that fields related to the “Big Four” can be made more attractive to undergraduates. “The boom has been here too long to wish it away,” he says, but he expects that the “rhythm of nature” will in the long run swing enrollments back toward a greater balance among departments.
None of these problems will be easily resolved, and by no means do they constitute an exhaustive list of the challenges ahead. But Bowen leaves Shapiro a university that is fundamentally healthy. Princeton is in a strong financial position, has maintained its aging physical plant, retains its excellent faculty, and still attracts highly qualified students. In all of these senses, Shapiro is the fortunate heir of the Bowen legacy; many incoming university presidents have assumed their duties under more difficult circumstances.
Bowen insists that when he looks back on his stewardship of the university, he does not view his contribution in terms of the number of new buildings, the number of faculty members with Nobel Prizes, or the number of courses added to the curriculum. To concentrate on the residential colleges, the diversity of the student body, or fundraising efforts, he says, is to miss the more subtle — and ultimately more significant-focus of his administration. Instead, he prefers to say, his efforts during the past fifteen years have been devoted to preserving the essential “freedom and independence” of Princeton. “Many of us have worked very hard to make sure that people of any persuasion can be heard here and to see that the university is not the hostage of any ideology,” he says. “This is a free place-let it make its own mistakes, not mistakes imposed by someone else. Princeton is not for sale. In the long run, these more important things underpin everything else.”