The conflict between the University and the borough described in the March 2 Campus Notebook article is saddening but not surprising. The University community — students, faculty, and administration — on the whole tends not to think about the community outside the campus, except when forced to. It was that way when I was a student, it was that way when I was a resident of the borough, and evidently it’s no different today.
So it’s not surprising that the University’s planned arts center does not take into account the needs of non-University residents — commuters, in particular — or that it was presented with so little consideration as to how borough residents predictably would react. Robert K. Durkee ’69’s comments, as quoted in the article, come off as particularly arrogant (not to mention inexpedient), but they reflect the University’s attitude: that doing what is good for itself (the University) is ipso facto good, and how it may affect those outside is irrelevant.
If this were just another case of gown vs. town, it wouldn’t be worth a letter. But Princeton turns out people who are going to be running (and often ruining) large chunks of the world. They are spending four very formative years surrounded by the unspoken attitude that being part of an elite means you don’t have to think about those who aren’t part of your elite. It seems to me that this can hardly result in anything you could call “in the world’s service” except by accident. It isn’t even all that sustainable: We’ve recently seen a number of regimes that were based on the same principle go down in flames.