As an alumna and mother of a Princeton student, I have been following the administration’s  response to the student protesters with great interest. I have been baffled by leadership’s unwillingness to meet with the protesters until last week after months of their repeated requests. This demonstrated a lack of compassion and respect for student voice, as well as a lack of understanding for the overall vulnerability many students feel; their need to be heard, taken seriously and have a seat at the table where decisions are made.

These students already have lived through a period of relentless trauma. School shootings, George Floyd, a dysfunctional government, growing polarization and mis- and disinformation, COVID, the attempted overturning of an election, the rollback of reproductive rights, and an ongoing climate and mental health crisis, all amplified and made even more immediate courtesy of social media.

It is with an appreciation for this larger context, that we should approach all students’ responses to the events of Oct. 7th and the ensuing war in Gaza..

As a civic education/youth civic action advocate and adult ally to youth activists, I understand the importance of respecting and uplifting student voices, and actively listening to their needs, something the administration has failed to do in a timely fashion and with great consequences to those who were disciplined, arrested, and now are starving themselves. The administration should have met with student protesters months, not days ago, so that the University’s “process”  could have begun in earnest before students felt the need to occupy a hall or go on a hunger strike.

I understand the issues at hand are complex, that there are competing interests and universities, especially those as tradition bound as Princeton, are slow to change. But perhaps we would be in a different place, had the administration followed Brown’s approach. Their leadership arrived at an agreement with student protesters who renounced the encampment in exchange for an opportunity to present their divestment proposal to the university’s committee responsible for investments (who will review and vote on it in the fall).

I can only hope that moving forward Princeton’s leadership meets all of its students where they are, respects their voices, seriously considers their ideas, and lives up to its service ideals not only for the sake of humanity but for its own students.

Jane Hatterer ’83
New York, N.Y.