Reading in the May 11 issue about the celebration of Jewish life at Princeton makes me proud and worried — proud that my University has such a long record of inclusion, but worried that such assertions of group identification may divide Princeton into ethnic, racial, and religious enclaves at the expense of affection for the University as a whole. This is already happening on many campuses as minorities call for more affirmative action and sensitivity to their particular needs.
In the late 1960s, a similar campaign was waged to increase inclusion and diversity at Princeton. Activists sought to convince the administration to abandon its in loco parentis role, democratize student government, admit women, and oppose the war in Vietnam. But the difference back then was that, despite many disagreements on these issues, students never lost sight of the fact that we were all Princetonians. My class was a “well-rounded” melting pot, made up of Northerners and Southerners, liberals and conservatives, rich and middle class, graduates of Exeter and the Bronx High School of Science, blacks and whites, Christians and Jews. But none of these labels really defined who we were or how we thought about anyone else, or prevented us from sharing life and learning at this University during that tumultuous and divisive era.
Sometimes contrasting the present unfavorably with the past can be dismissed as nostalgia for the “good old days,” but the “assimilationist” approach of the ’60s has more to offer than simply turning back the clock.