Edward Snowden, on video screen, spoke at a May 2 event moderated by Barton Gellman ’82. (Tori Sulewski/Fotobuddy)
By Deborah Yaffe
Mass government surveillance of electronic communications compromises fundamental American values without making the country safer, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told a large and sympathetic Princeton audience on Saturday.
“The government has adopted a world view that, if it is out there, we should know it and we should have access to it,” Snowden said via video link from Moscow, where he gained temporary asylum in 2013. “When we watch everyone all the time, when we collect everything, we understand nothing.”
Snowden arrived in Russia soon after leaking to journalists a trove of classified documents revealing that the American government was secretly collecting vast quantities of data on telephone and Internet use. He faces criminal espionage and theft charges that could send him to prison for decades.
More than 350 people packed the Friend Center auditorium and spilled into two nearby overflow rooms to hear Snowden, a boyish-looking 31-year-old in rimless glasses, as he was interviewed by Woodrow Wilson School lecturer Barton Gellman ’82, one of the journalists who received Snowden’s leaks. Continue reading
Danielle Allen ’93 (Laura Rose)
Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, by DANIELLE ALLEN ’93, has been named a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. Our Declaration is a line-by-line commentary on the Declaration of Independence and an analysis of its contents. The ultimate winner of the award, which is available for nonfiction books of “notable literary merit and critical perspective” published in 2013 or 2014, will receive a prize of $10,000.
In a podcast for the scientific journal Nature, astrophysics professor NETA BAHCALL speaks to Kerri Smith about having her and her husband John Bahcall’s wedding rings travel to the Hubble Space Telescope. John Bahcall, who played a major role in the launch and maintenance of the Hubble, died in 2005. In 2009, astronaut John Grunsfeld traveled to Hubble for its final servicing mission, and he brought with him the couple’s rings as a way of honoring John Bahcall’s important contributions to the Hubble project. Continue reading
The authors of a scathing report on Rolling Stone’s retracted November story, “A Rape on Campus,” spoke at Princeton April 27, with words of caution, and inspiration, for student journalists.
Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School, and Sheila Coronel, dean of academic affairs there, said that they wrote the report to make the controversy a teachable moment for their students and other journalists, especially those that want to take on matters of sexual misconduct. A capacity audience at Richardson Auditorium was eager to learn.
“The failure was entirely avoidable,” Coll said, countering the claim made by Rolling Stone, shortly after flaws in the story were exposed, that the failure was a result of sensitivity to the feelings of survivors of sexual assault.
Student questioners pressed this point, asking if such thorough repudiation of the story would suppress reporting on sexual misconduct, an issue that Princeton and other universities have made recent efforts to address.
“Journalism has a terrible record, over the last 70 years, on sexual assault,” Coll said, and said that correcting that record is essential for tackling the issue, especially in ambiguous cases, such as those that are unadjudicated, or in which facts are underdeveloped. He said that the report is part of the process. Continue reading
On April 10, a guided walking tour led by PUPSA (Princeton University Public Space Authority) left Princeton’s School of Architecture. A poster advertising the tour promised it would “explore public spaces as they existed at Princeton in the 1960s and 1970s and investigate how students and activists tried to manifest, address, improve, and protest urban and other crises both at Princeton and in the broader regional and national communities.”
My tour guide was Nico Krell ’18, a student in Aaron Landsman’s Creating Collaborative Theater class. He began the tour by insisting that the PUPSA, an organization that has apparently been a part of the University since just after the Civil War, is not pronounced “puh-psa” but “poo-psa.” It is “an analogue archive” that relies on other peoples’ memories, Krell said. The tour would focus how common spaces have changed — and have changed activism. Krell, reading from a script I would later learn was written by Landsman, led the group to McCosh Courtyard.
Krell spoke about a powerful moment in 1970 when the student body stayed out of class to protest the war in Vietnam. Pointing to Dickinson Hall, Krell said that this is where the students demanded that the University divest from the war. Krell offered reflections on the changing nature of gathering and, more specifically, activism. Compare this to Black Lives Matter, which brought 500 people out to protest, Krell said. “But maybe if activism is here,” pointing to his phone, “and a hundred thousand people see the video of those 500, maybe that’s OK,” he said. Continue reading
MATT WAGE ’12 was featured in Nicholas Kristof’s opinion column in The New York Times as the titular “Trader Who Donates Half His Pay.” Wage, who was a philosophy major at Princeton and a student of moral philosopher Peter Singer, is now an arbitrage trader who donates half his income to charity. Wage’s efforts are an example of “effective altruism,” a movement championed by Singer that encourages people to consider all the ways they can make a positive difference and choose the one with maximum impact.
Emeritus professor TONI MORRISON is the subject of a New York Times Magazine profile that starts in the century-old barn that is now the studio where Morrison recorded the audiobooks for her latest novel, God Help the Child, and delves into her life and vision as an editor and writer.
At the 38th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, DAN FEYER ’99 took first place after beating his opponent and fellow crossword champion Tyler Hinman by a half-second. Both Feyer and Hinman had previously won five consecutive titles at the tournament, which was founded in 1978 by New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz. Continue reading
What defines us as a nation is our willingness to struggle through tough circumstances, said Anthony Romero ’87, director of the American Civil Liberties Union, during an Apr. 8 lecture at the Friend Center for Engineering. Romero spoke about some of the greatest challenges to civil liberties today, including LGBT rights, mass incarceration, immigration, abortion, and surveillance.
Romero criticized political extremism and scapegoating for their detrimental role in many of these policy areas — for example, anti-abortion laws and the categorization of drugs as a criminal rather than public health issue.
He also commended the millennial generation for its activist impact on policy — and lawmakers. Addressing the issue of surveillance and Internet restriction, Romero said, “I think your insistence that the Internet be free, that it be open, but not subject to government surveillance … is really your generation’s carrying of the torch.” Continue reading