Author Archives: Ray Ollwerther

Faculty Committee Recommends Ending Grade Deflation Targets

A faculty committee is recommending that Princeton reverse course on its 10-year attempt to curb grade inflation that has been widely unpopular with students. The University should drop numerical targets for A’s, which are too often “misinterpreted as quotas,” and instead allow departments to set their own grading standards, the committee said. The changes could be voted on by the faculty as early as October.

The faculty voted in 2004 to adopt a policy recommending that each department limit A grades to 35 percent for undergraduate course work and to 55 percent for junior and senior independent work. The percentage of A’s dropped from 47 percent in 2001-04 to 41.8 percent in 2010-13.

But the policy raised a number of concerns, and few colleges followed suit. In his fourth month in office, President Eisgruber ’83 appointed a group of nine faculty members to review the policy and determine whether it meets the University’s goals with as few negative consequences as possible.

The group’s report was released Aug. 7. In a statement, Eisgruber praised the committee for “a set of recommendations that I fully support.” Continue reading

University to Offer Meningitis B Vaccine, Pending Approval

The University is making preparations to offer a vaccine that targets a strain of meningitis tied to seven cases contracted by Princeton students and a student visitor since March, pending final approval from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If approved, the vaccine would be offered to all undergraduates, graduate students who live in campus dormitories, and others with specific medical conditions. 

“The University has taken this outbreak very, very seriously,” said Princeton spokesman Martin Mbugua. State law requires students living in dorms to have received the meningitis vaccine, which protects against most strains of the bacteria but not against serogroup B – the type tied to the Princeton cases.

A vaccine that targets serogroup B, called Bexsero and produced by Novartis, has been approved for use in Europe and Australia but not in the United States. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration told the CDC that it would allow the vaccine to be imported solely for use in the Princeton community. According to the CDC, one-third of the approximately 480 cases of meningitis in the United States in 2012 were caused by serogroup B.

CNN reported that a decision by the CDC on recommendations to proceed with the vaccinations could come this week.

“The University is prepared to accept these recommendations and make arrangements to provide access to this vaccine as soon as possible,” Princeton said in a statement today.

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ROTC Director Honors Veterans at Chapel Service

The director of Princeton’s ROTC program, Lt. Col. Peter G. Knight, paid tribute to the University’s military veterans across generations during the annual Veterans Day service Nov. 11.

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Bronze memorial stars at West College. (Photo: Brett Tomlinson/PAW)

“Princetonian military service dates from our most recent conflicts all the way back to the days of James Madison [1771], as a young military colonel in the American War for Independence,” Knight told a gathering of about 100 in the University Chapel. “It is indeed an incredible legacy.”

Citing figures that less than 1 percent of the U.S. population will ever serve in a military uniform, Knight said that observances like Veterans Day help keep the military connected to American society while also honoring all veterans.

He cited several alumni “who have followed [Princeton’s] selfless ideas into the profession of arms”: Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley ’80, commander of NATO ground forces in Afghanistan; Brig. Gen. Christopher Cavoli ’87, deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division; Ambassador Alan Lukens ’46, who as an Army PFC helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp in April 1945; and former congressman James Marshall ’72, who took a leave of absence from the University to serve in Vietnam as special operations platoon sergeant.

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Presidential search committee gathers input at open forums

The University’s presidential search committee did plenty of listening last week, holding four open forums in three days to seek suggestions and comments.

The first, which took  place during a meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC), drew observations from students, faculty, and staff on a successor to President Tilghman, who is stepping down at the end of the academic year. The other forums targeted specific groups — members of the local community, staff, and graduate students.

The committee heard a wide range of views, with some common themes but sometime contradictory recommendations. At the CPUC meeting, one speaker urged the committee to consider endorsing a candidate from outside academia — a businessman or scientist “with a fresh perspective” — while another said experience with research and the faculty was most important.

Other advice: Select a candidate who values “interaction among different departments,” who embraces diversity, who is concerned about mental-health issues, who will ensure that Princeton continues to play a leading role in higher education, who will pay more attention to the humanities and social sciences, who has a vision of “where Princeton fits in the technological society of the 21st century,” who is more than just a competent leader but is willing to take some risks and “can inspire us to excellence,” and who has a “strong tie to the traditions of Princeton.”

And then there was what might be called the X factor — that the search committee should pick a candidate who “will excite you … You are our great hope.”
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Grafton honors veterans, urges better support of the military

History professor Tony Grafton, speaking at Princeton’s annual Veterans Day Service Nov. 12, called on the University to provide more support for those who have served in the military.

“Probably Princeton will never again have its own field artillery unit, with 70 horses and hundreds of members, as it did in the 1920s, or a course on ‘hippology’ in its curriculum,” Grafton said to about 125 people in the University Chapel. “But we can, and should, do a great deal more than we have.”

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgGrafton, who has written on the importance of the academy understanding the role of the armed forces, said that Veterans Day provides an opportunity to acknowledge the debt that Americans owe to its veterans.

“As professors, students, and members of the Princeton University community, we should demand that our university support the military in every way that is consistent with its own larger enterprise, and that it offer opportunities to as many veterans as possible, as it did in the years just after World War II,” Grafton said.

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Committee recommends suspension for violators of freshman Greek ban

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A University committee has recommended to President Tilghman that students who violate the ban on freshman affiliation with fraternities or sororities face a penalty of suspension.
 
The prohibition takes effect this fall. In approving the ban last summer, Tilghman created a committee to make recommendations on enforcement and penalties that would be “effective in encouraging full compliance with the policy.”
 
That committee, headed by Kathleen Deignan, the dean of undergraduate students, issued its report March 25. The group said that it regarded University policy, “which is to discourage all students from joining sororities and fraternities at any time during their college careers,” as an “institutional value judgment” that was not open to question. The committee acknowledged that some members of the University community disagree with that policy.
 
The report included these points: 
  • Freshmen would be prohibited from affiliating with a Greek organization or “participating in any activity sponsored by a fraternity or sorority” from the receipt of an offer of admission through the end of spring-term exams of freshman year.
  • Students would be prohibited from soliciting the participation of any freshman in a Greek organization, including inviting or organizing a  sponsored event to which freshmen are invited.
  • Soliciting freshman participation in fraternities or sororities should result in suspension.
  • A freshman who joins, pledges, or rushes should expect to be suspended. A freshman who takes part in any other Greek-sponsored activity may be subject to disciplinary probation.
  • An organization cannot evade the policy by dropping its Greek letters or its national affiliation.
  • Recognized student organizations should be exempt from the policy. The policy also should exempt the eating clubs.
  • Casual conversations about fraternities and sororities should not be prohibited.
 

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