I write in reference to the article on “Princeton’s Special Sauce” (July/August issue). As chair of the National Schools Committee (and an Alumni Council member) in the 1980s, I observed a break point in alumni-University relations for many alumni who volunteered to interview applicants. A major change in the admissions office led to an instruction that alumni were no longer to provide evaluative comments regarding applicants. Rather, interviewers were to act as ambassadors from Princeton whose role was to present the University in the best light to applicants. This sea change resulted in a considerable number of resignations from alumni who, for many years, had seen themselves as providing helpful input to the admissions office in its difficult decision-making process. Now, they saw their views as unwelcome.
Of course, alumni were not trained as interviewers nor were they, in any real sense, vetted for the role. This change was likely inevitable even though it caused serious angst among some of Princeton’s longest-serving volunteers. During the remainder of my term as chair, I spent a lot of time defending the University’s new policy. It was important for alumni to educate applicants about Princeton, and it was important to defer to the admissions office as it used its special expertise in its challenging task of evaluating applicants. My success rate with this argument was not as high as I had hoped.