I write this letter with a heavy heart.
As my previous letter to PAW noted, I thought that the decision in a short period to expunge Woodrow Wilson from Princeton’s history thoughtless and damaging to Princeton’s reputation as an intellectual and carefully analytical leading research university. I am now subsequently appalled by Chris Eisgruber’s long dissertation claiming that Princeton has been imbedded with systemic racism. Not only is that an extremely questionable thesis but clearly no careful analysis was done to raise the risk that the current government would seize on that to attack an “elite” university. Certainly both decisions are severely damaging to our beloved university and exhibit extremely poor judgment by our leaders.
Princeton’s hard-earned reputation rests on its ability to attract leading professors, admitting and educating future leaders, and doing cutting edge research as well as on its extraordinary history. These two recent decisions betray the above and appear to be merely succumbing to the wind of current social trends.
For background, I am the product of parents who went only through the 10th grade and who lost close relatives in the Holocaust. For over 20 years I ran the New York area Schools Committee and beginning in the early 1970s recruited many outstanding African American students to Princeton. Future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was also encouraged to attend Princeton by our Committee. Now I am responsible for a wonderful Vietnamese current undergraduate. So I find lectures on racism and diversity by Princeton misinformed and misguided.
We expect the leadership of Princeton to be thoughtful, intellectual, analytical, and particularly protective of our hard-earned reputation — as well as being respectful of predecessors upon whose shoulders they are fortunate to stand. These two recent decisions reflect none of these criteria and certainly raise questions about their judgment.