Those exploring the Princeton campus today cannot help but be impressed (if not overawed) by what they see. In every direction are new creations: classrooms, libraries, dormitories, playing fields, laboratories, stadiums, you name it. And everything, old or new, is in first-class condition, each a model of its kind. Even the trees and shrubs thrive in meticulously raked and shaped blankets of dark brown mulch. Truly, one has to conclude that Old Nassau can boast of having one of the most beautiful and luxurious campuses in the world.
At the same time, not far away in Trenton, New Jersey’s state capital, the physical plants of the city’s schools are in a shocking state of disrepair. In many of them, classrooms are uninhabitable, with crumbling ceilings, windows stuck closed, leaking pipes, and broken furnaces, and in at least one case – at Trenton Central High – whole areas off-limits due to asbestos problems. Is it any wonder that students have a hard time learning under such circumstances? Would any Princeton grad tolerate her/his child attending school under such circumstances?
Suppose Princeton’s officials were to allocate, say 1 percent, of what I understand was the nearly $300 million spent on the new chemistry building and devoted it to repairing Trenton Central’s classrooms. Imagine what a difference that $3 million could make in so many lives. Wouldn’t that really be “Princeton in the nation’s service”? You actually could see it happen. And it’s only about 13 miles west of Nassau Hall.