Eisgruber outlines major priorities, Princeton’s role in turbulent times

Universities have a responsibility both to serve as forums for rigorous impartial debate and to stand up for their core values — especially during times of political tumult, President Eisgruber ’83 told the Princeton community at two meetings in February.

Speaking first at a CPUC meeting and later at a “town hall” in Richardson Auditorium, Eisgruber said he was receiving frequent requests to make statements about political and social issues and that he considers two things before deciding to speak out: whether the issue specifically applies to the Princeton community, and whether he feels that he has expertise on the topic. For example, as a scholar of religious freedom and president of a University where more than 30 percent of faculty members are not U.S. citizens, he decided to speak against President Donald Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order on immigration.

“[Princeton is] exceptionally international by comparison to the rest of American society, which is a society of immigrants,” Eisgruber said. “Higher education depends on the ability of people and ideas to cross international boundaries.”

His comments were part of his annual update to the Princeton community detailing upcoming plans and projects. Eisgruber devoted most of the meetings to discussing the University’s strategic-planning process, recently completed after three years. In a Feb. 15 letter sent to the Princeton community, he outlined 10 areas that will “define a major part” of his agenda in the coming years.

They include: achieving unsurpassed quality in all academic fields; emphasizing service; expanding the undergraduate student body; enhancing socioeconomic diversity; attracting and supporting talented people from all groups and backgrounds; exercising visible leadership in the arts and humanities; providing outstanding research and teaching about the world’s regions and cultures; undertaking an interdisciplinary initiative centered on environmental sciences; investing in engineering and information sciences; and improving Princeton’s connections “to the innovation ecosystem.”

Eisgruber said a new capital campaign would help the University achieve some of the goals outlined in strategic-planning reports, such as construction of a new residential college and renovations to the engineering school. He said that although Princeton’s endowment exceeds $20 billion, it supports about half of Princeton’s annual operating budget, and more funds will be necessary to begin new projects.