William Robinson ’51 writes with obvious pride in his leadership in reintroducing Greek life to Princeton and suggests that the University’s “disparagement” of fraternities and sororities in Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities “should offend every Princetonian who believes in student freedom of association” (letters, Dec. 14).
Unfortunately, Mr. Robinson fails to recognize that Princeton isn’t just a social community but, above all, an educational institution whose mission is the growth of knowledge and the development of extraordinary young minds.
Mr. Robinson’s clear assumption, with which I agree, is that students prefer to associate with people like themselves. But despite the enormous effort the University has made since the early ’60s to attract a diverse student body, few students take full advantage of it, much to their detriment. It’s a sad statement that pre-orientation is by far the most diverse social experience most Princetonians have in their four undergraduate years.
And why does Princeton care so much about diversity? Because it is through association with people different from ourselves that we grow. I don’t often quote myself, but what I wrote about selective social organizations on campuses in a forthcoming book, Growing Up: Limiting Adolescence in a World Desperate for Adults, seems pertinent: “Walls that exclude are as high from the inside as they are from the outside, and the danger for the insiders is to become decreasingly aware of and ultimately uninterested in any way out, failing to grasp the extent to which social exclusivity arrests them emotionally and intellectually.”
The vaunted freedom Mr. Robinson offers is a Trojan horse. Exercising the freedom to narrow our lives — a right, certainly, but not a particularly good idea — ultimately prevents us from becoming all we might be. That, as the University well understands, is where true freedom lies.