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May13, 2009

Vol. 109, No. 13

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Deford on 'cohabiting'

In a 1973 letter to PAW, Frank Deford '61 offered "a modest proposal" to counter alumni concerns about cohabitation on campus.

Posted on May 13, 2009


The following letter was published in the July 3, 1973, issue of PAW.

A Modest Proposal

I have been charmed to learn recently that conspiracy at Princeton is not only concerned with politics but with sex as well. Previously, I thought, only an insidious liberal faculty was at work beguiling conservative students, but now, it seems, libertine peer groups have also been on the attack, luring demure fellows and gals into the most erotic activity.

This comes as some surprise to me, since it has always been my experience, sexwise, that the only time peer group pressure has any effect is at the age of 16 1/2 when you are the couple in the back seat at the drive-in necessarily watching the double dates up front. Or perhaps I am just being unsympathetic; God knows it must be difficult enough for anybody to choose to remain either conservative or celibate (not to mention both at the same time) these days.

Nonetheless, since a large amount of the alumni body appears disturbed at the prevailing moral climate on campus, I would like make some suggestions.

First of all, dispense with the awful word cohabit. Surely, not even Masters and Johnson at the peak of their tedium would fall back on that. It is no wonder that 154 percent of freshman parents do not want their daughters to cohabit. I wouldn’t want my daughter to cohabit either. I wouldn’t even want anybody in my neighborhood to cohabit, less it lower the property values. On the other hand, if my daughter wanted to bunk in with somebody that’s something else again.

Now, beyond that I am somewhat baffled. Never before have alumni been anything but pleased that Princeton men have allegedly been anything but sexual giants. A legion of Bric-A-Brac double entendres or raucous Reunion recollections will attest to that. The only new factors in the equation, then, are Princeton women and Princeton rooms; that is, the home-court advantage.

Since Princeton men have always celebrated Princeton men for being veritable Don Juans, it is clear that this sudden burst of moral indignation is directed at Princeton women, who are, by any double standard, obviously fast and easy strumpets. So, here’s what we do. On registration day every September all the girls in the Princeton freshman class will be traded, even up, for all the girls in the Yale freshman class. Then, when the cohabiting starts, the Princeton alumni can chortle themselves silly about how Princeton men sure can get those Yale girls.

Another advantage of this plan is that the Yale alumni can also chortle themselves silly. The other thing that distresses the Princeton alumni is how their own chaste memories of Blair and Walker, Henry and 1915, etc. are being rattled. So here’s what we do. We put Magic Fingers on all the beds, Gideon Bibles in all the desks, crinkly paper on all the water glasses, and little strips of paper across all the toilets, and rename all the halls on campus: Holiday Inn and Ramada, Best Western, Quality Courts, TraveLodge, etc.

Another advantage of this plan is that the Princeton students can better prepare to be Princeton alumni.


Frank Deford ’61
New York, N.Y.

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CURRENT ISSUE: May13, 2009