In response to the letter under the headline “Admission Data” in the June 24, 2020, edition of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, the comment that “Dean Richardson and her admissions staff apparently didn’t get [King’s] message” implies a belief that the Class of 2024 was admitted primarily (perhaps solely?) “on the color of their skin, not on the content of their character.” I question the underlying premise: Does evidence exist that the selection process adhered to less rigorous standards than the usual ones upheld by the Office of Admission? (Spoiler alert: No.)
What, then, elicited “Admission Data” comments this year, particularly, and not, say, last year when Jill Dolan was the acting dean of admission? Here’s the reading line from the 2019 press release about the Class of 2023: “Princeton University has offered admission to 1,895 students for the Class of 2023, including 18 percent who will be first-generation college students and 26 percent from lower-income backgrounds. This year’s admission process reflects the University’s enduring commitment to attract, enroll and support extraordinary students from all backgrounds.” Compare this year’s announcement, the first of Dean Richardson’s tenure, in which the Office of Communication highlighted the diversity in the U.S. of admitted Princetonians: “Princeton University has offered admission to 1,823 students for the Class of 2024, including 17% who will be first-generation college students and 61% of U.S. citizens or permanent residents self-identified as people of color, including biracial and multiracial students.” Evidently, the University’s commitment to diversity has been explicit and well-documented for a while now.
The letter to PAW tacitly endorses the admission of first-generation college students and lower-income backgrounds; however, there’s an acerbic warning that admission of “people of color” or “racially and ethnically diverse groups” (the quotes pulled into the letter from the 2020 announcement) may have gone too far. We’ll never know if similar sentiments would’ve been expressed had acting Dean Dolan delivered the exact same results this year. We know only that the letter headlined “Admission Data” appeared during Dean Richardson’s tenure. While it surprised me to see a fellow alum rebuke a highly-qualified dean for executing Princeton’s established recruiting strategy, something about the invocation of Dr. King in a pointed (some might say patronizing) tone bothered me more. I’m confident that Dean Richardson and her team understand the letter and spirit of “I have a dream” perfectly. Thank you, Dean Richardson, for all your efforts, and your team’s, to manifest Princeton’s mission in the world’s service. And to every member of the Class of 2024, congratulations and welcome! You are right where you belong.
P.S. I highly recommend The Radical King, curated and edited by Princeton professor emeritus Cornel West *80, as a relevant resource about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.