Category Archives: Campus News

Hirshfeld ’73 To Open Hatcher Lecture Series at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Alan Hirshfeld '73 (Sasha Helper)

Alan Hirshfeld ’73 (Sasha Helper)

Astronomer Alan Hirshfeld ’73, author of the book Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe, will deliver the opening talk in the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s Ronald E. Hatcher Science on Saturday Lecture Series Jan. 9 at 9:30 a.m.

Hirshfeld, a professor at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth, leads off a string of lecturers with Princeton connections in this year’s series, which also includes former University president Shirley Tilghman (Jan. 16); Frank von Hippel, co-founder of the University’s Program on Science and Global Security (Jan. 30); chemical and biological engineering professor Lynn Loo (Feb. 6); mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Edgar Choueiri *91 (Feb. 13); molecular biology professor Coleen Murphy (Feb. 27); and astrophysics professor David Spergel ’80 (March 12). View the complete schedule here. Continue reading

France Should Promote Personal Freedoms, Charlie Hebdo Survivor Lançon Tells Princeton Audiences

A month before he was slated to begin teaching a course as a visiting professor at Princeton earlier this year, French journalist Philippe Lançon was seriously injured during a terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris.

The satirical magazine had previously published cartoons on the prophet Mohammed, inciting Muslim extremists to murder 12 of Lançon’s colleagues while he lay on the floor, fully conscious.

Lançon, speaking at a packed public discussion with Latin American studies professor and Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa last month, said that the right to freedom of speech is a pillar of democratic society that is essential in the battle against terrorism.

The talk, delivered less than a week after the Nov. 13 attacks at a Paris café, theater, and stadium that left 130 people dead. Those attacks also revolved around freedom, Lançon said, as the Islamic State militant group aimed to prevent French citizens from enjoying rights to leisure and entertainment. Continue reading

At ‘Black Activism and Consciousness’ Teach-In, Students and Alumni Discuss Campus Issues

At a Dec. 12 teach-in on “Black Activism and Consciousness at Princeton,” students and faculty described the challenges of defining a black identity and discussing racial issues on campus. The event, sponsored by the Black Justice League (BJL), which organized the Nassau Hall sit-in, drew about 100 students and alumni.

BJL member Destiny Crockett ’17 said it was not easy to balance acknowledging and respecting a wide range of views — in both the black community and the wider University community — while remaining firm to achieve action on the group’s demands.

“My issue has been figuring out what is disagreeing and what is discounting someone’s humanity,” Crockett said.

“Solidarities are made; they can’t be presupposed,” Professor Eddie Glaude *97 added. “We know we don’t represent the entire black community.”

Professor Tera Hunter and Olamide Akin-Olugbade ’16 explained that when others focus on criticizing the methods of protest, they derail conversations about the important underlying issues. Continue reading

PAW Goes to the Movies: ‘Victor Frankenstein,’ with Professor Susan Wolfson

Professor Susan Wolfson, right, notes that in the book, Victor Frankenstein is a student, not a doctor, and his creature is “a thesis project gone horribly wrong.” (Beverly Schaefer)

Professor Susan Wolfson, right, notes that in the book, Victor Frankenstein is a student, not a doctor, and his creature is “a thesis project gone horribly wrong.” (Beverly Schaefer)

Frankenstein the novel and Frankenstein the monster are distant cousins, at best. The creature in Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic has no name, no green skin, and no bolts in his neck. The title character, of course, is Victor Frankenstein, the man who created him. But tell that to the people who make Halloween costumes.

Director Paul McGuigan takes another crack at the misconstrued legend in the new film Victor Frankenstein, starring James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class) as Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) as Igor — another character who doesn’t appear in the novel. Who better to review it, though, than English professor Susan Wolfson? She is the co-editor, with her husband, Rutgers professor Ronald Levao, of The Annotated Frankenstein (Harvard, 2012) and also teaches Shelley in her course, “The Younger Romantics.”

Did filmmakers finally get it right or was Victor Frankenstein another monstrosity? In the latest installment of PAW Goes to the Movies, senior writer Mark F. Bernstein ’83 took Wolfson to see the film, prepared to throw tomatoes but hoping for the best.

moviesMFB: You went in thinking this was going to be terrible but came out feeling a little better about it. What changed your opinion?

SW: If your expectations are zero, there’s a good chance you could be surprised. Despite the heavy-handedness of the writing, I found myself appreciating parts of the film. The visual imagination was superb and I liked the reverse mythology of Victor Frankenstein turning Igor, an abused creature, into a human being. Victor and Igor become alter egos, in a way.

There were a lot of plays on humans and monsters. Igor is physically monstrous but beautiful inside. The people who abuse him are monsters. Finnegan, the invented character who funds Frankenstein’s work, is blonde and handsome but he’s a moral monster. And Victor, of course, becomes a monster. The creature himself was actually the least interesting monster in the film.

MFB: Was anything faithful to the novel?

SW: It did not have one line from the novel. There were a few lines from the 1931 James Whale film (with Boris Karloff as the creature), but that’s it. Still, I’m willing to grant it its own genre. It’s fascinating that this fable is now almost 200 years old and people still find it worth restaging. It’s sort of like Tom Stoppard reimaging Hamlet to put Rosencrantz and Guildenstern front and center and make it theater of the absurd. Continue reading

Students, Alumni Push for More Discussion on Issues of Race and Ethnicity

Students left Nassau Hall after reaching an agreement with administrators on the evening of Nov. 19. (Mary Hui ’17)

Student demonstrators left Nassau Hall after reaching an agreement with administrators on the evening of Nov. 19. (Mary Hui ’17)

In the wake of the two-day sit-in at Nassau Hall last week by members of the Black Justice League, students, faculty, and alumni have publicly taken positions both for and against the group’s demands related to Princeton’s racial climate. At the same time, a group of Latino students has released a petition and report calling for greater support for and representation of the Latino community on campus.

Nearly 100 faculty members have signed a letter drafted by African American studies department faculty in support of the Black Justice League, urging campus-wide reflection on the issues brought to light. A student petition to counter the group’s demands has more than 1,300 signatures since Josh Zuckerman ’16 and Evan Draim ’16 launched it Thursday, while a similar alumni petition started by Darren Geist ’05 has 44 signatures.

A newly formed student group, Princeton Open Campus Coalition, also wrote an open letter Sunday to President Eisgruber ’83 opposing the Black Justice League’s tactics and requesting a more open campus discussion. “We are concerned mainly with the importance of preserving an intellectual culture in which all members of the Princeton community feel free to engage in civil discussion and to express their convictions without fear of being subjected to intimidation or abuse,” the letter reads.

Another petition has gained 540 signatures supporting the report “Latinx Students Calling for a Better Princeton,” which asks for greater campus representation academically and culturally (the group uses the non-gendered term Latinx to be “inclusive and supportive of all members of our community”).  The report notes that only 2 percent of full professors are Hispanic and finds a lack of cultural space and institutional support for Latino students. It requests that the University support and improve the experience of undocumented Princeton students.

In an email sent Sunday to students, alumni, and other members of the Princeton community over the weekend, Eisgruber acknowledged the concerns of underrepresented students, citing actions taken by both the Black Justice League and the Latinx community. He described upcoming initiatives to address these concerns, including the formation of a subcommittee of the trustees to re-examine Woodrow Wilson 1879’s legacy and his place on Princeton’s campus. Eisgruber stressed that the issues would be considered “through appropriate University processes – processes that allow for full and fair input from the entire University community.”

“Our students deserve better, and Princeton must do better,” he wrote.  “We must commit ourselves to make this University a place where students from all backgrounds feel respected and valued,” adding that hard work and good will are necessary to achieve further progress toward a diverse and inclusive community.

Here’s what others have been writing about Woodrow Wilson 1879 and the controversy surrounding his legacy:

UPDATE Additional coverage related to Wilson’s legacy:

Editorial, The New York Times: The Case Against Woodrow Wilson at Princeton, Nov. 25

PAW Goes to the Movies: Princeton Grad Students Review ‘The Ph.D. Movie 2’

From left, Daniel Vitek, Congling Qiu, Alta Fang, and Florian Sprung spoke with PAW’s Mark F. Bernstein ’83 about their impressions of Ph.D. Movie 2. (Frank Wojciechowski)

From left, Daniel Vitek, Congling Qiu, Alta Fang, and Florian Sprung spoke with PAW’s Mark F. Bernstein ’83 about their impressions of The Ph.D. Movie 2. (Frank Wojciechowski)

Unless you are or recently were a graduate student, you may not be familiar with “Piled Higher and Deeper,” Jorge Cham’s comic strip about the ups, downs, and absurdities of grad school life that commonly goes by the much more grad student friendly name, Ph.D. Comics. Think of it as “Dilbert” for the dissertation set. Cham’s strip, which originated when he was a graduate student at Stanford, has been running in student papers and on the Internet since 1997. In 2011, it spawned the first film version, The Ph.D. Movie, which the Chronicle of Higher Education called “hilarious.” This fall a sequel, The Ph.D. Movie 2, funded in large part by a Kickstarter campaign, has been shown at Princeton and other campuses around the world. As in the original, several of the actors in the film are actual Ph.D. students.

In another installment of our periodic feature PAW Goes to the Movies, senior writer Mark F. Bernstein ’83 attended The Ph.D. Movie 2 at Frist Theater, and then asked four current graduate students — Alta Fang (fourth year, mechanical engineering), Daniel Vitek (second year, mathematics), Congling Qiu (first year, mathematics), and Florian Sprung, a mathematics postdoc — whether the film held a mirror up to their real lives.

MFB:  I heard a lot of laughter during the movie, but I couldn’t tell if it was nervous or sincere. Did it hit home?

AF: I think there were many things that were quite realistic, for example when they had trouble scheduling meetings because the professors were so busy, and the students just having a lot of work.

FS: All the bad jokes in the film are like the ones you hear in graduate school — you know, “Are you writing something novel or writing a novel?” That sort of thing.

CQ: It was very similar to Chinese universities. I understood all the jokes, too.

MFB: Florian, you’re the only one here who has actually written a dissertation. Did the film bring back stressful memories? Continue reading