One of the most striking pieces I’ve ever read in PAW was about the alumnus who foresaw the 1929 crash and got Princeton’s money out of the market in time. Now I read the sad comment that “like most investors, Princo was blindsided by the near-collapse of the financial system” (feature, Dec. 9).
Princeton is not “like most investors” or universities. Princeton dodged the bullet at least once and also seems unusually capable of producing the Paul Volcker ’49s and Ben Bernankes of the financial world. So I expected PAW to have written, “Unlike the crowd, Princo’s exceptionally competent and foresighted leadership has minimized our endowment losses to a few percentage points during a nearly unprecedented financial collapse ... ” This problem was caused not by sunspots, but by risk bubbles.
It may be my imagination, but even President Tilghman’s Opening Exercises address about Princeton’s vast opportunities and abilities to fix the world may have been less about Western hubris in a world that does not want to be fixed by Americans and more about her focus on fixing the problems related to the endowment loss and new debt.
Meanwhile, PAW states that our new dorms need to be lavish enough to attract (or pander to) the very brightest. Maybe the dorms will help the best and the brightest to overlook that we are, at least in the world of current finance, just like everyone else.
Enough defensiveness and half-reasons. Princeton can do better.