In his annual Reunions conversation with alumni, President Eisgruber ’83 explained why he thinks it is critical to expand the undergraduate student body, sharing a conversation he had with Dean of Admission Karen Richardson ’93. He said he asked Richardson how many applicants Princeton turns away each year who could be substituted in the place of an admitted student without changing the overall quality of the incoming class.

“She said, ‘Chris, around 18,000,’” Eisgruber recalled. “Whoa, right?”

While the University’s impending expansion — about 125 more undergrads per class — is modest relative to Richardson’s eye-popping estimate, Eisgruber added that in his view, “more Princetonians is better than fewer Princetonians.”

Eisgruber, speaking at Alexander Hall May 21, welcomed reuners back to campus and recapped the University’s response to COVID-19, thanking alumni for the financial support that enabled key additions such as the on-campus COVID testing lab. He shared an overview of institutional priorities and growth in programs and physical spaces. He also devoted several minutes to discussing Princeton’s policies on free speech and faculty misconduct in the wake of published reports that the University was considering firing classics professor Joshua Katz. (Katz’s dismissal was announced two days later; see story online here.)

The president fielded questions about further growth of the student body, beyond 2026; how Princeton approaches financial aid; and the urgency of fighting climate change. On the climate question, Eisgruber focused on Princeton’s research commitments and reductions of the campus’s carbon footprint. He explained that the trustees are considering recommendations for fossil-fuel dissociation — and how that differs from divestment. “We have said as a university, it’s not our job to make political statements with our endowment,” he said.