Robin Herman ’73, seen here during her time as a sports reporter for The New York Times in the 1970s, is featured in the ESPN documentary Let Them Wear Towels. (Photo: Courtesy The Daily Princetonian Larry DuPraz Digital Archive)
When Robin Herman ’73 joined The Daily Princetonian staff in 1970, the newspaper’s practice was to give each reporter a news beat and a sports beat. But when she looked at the assignments, her name was not listed on the sports sheet. The editors assumed that Herman, part of the first cohort of undergraduate women at Princeton, would not want to cover sports.
“It struck me as inequitable,” Herman says, so she spoke up. “It was a reflex, really.” She volunteered to cover rugby and later moved on to men’s squash, men’s tennis, and football before becoming co-editor of the section.
After graduation, Herman went to work for The New York Times and joined a small, determined group of women sportswriters who broke barriers in the profession, including the denial of access for locker-room interviews. Their stories are the basis of the new documentary Let Them Wear Towels, which premieres July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. The film is part of the network’s “Nine for IX” series, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
Herman tells her Prince story in Let Them Wear Towels and shares other memories from her years covering professional hockey for The New York Times. Princeton’s decision to admit women was “one of the links in the chain” of her career, she says: She didn’t mind working in a predominantly male field because her four years on campus had acclimated her to that kind of environment.
The Feb. 6, 1974, Prince joke issue — click to enlarge. (Courtesy The Daily Princetonian Larry DuPraz Digital Archive)
The Daily Princetonian’s tradition of publishing a midyear joke issue has produced some memorable stories that fit somewhere in the span between satire and silliness. But the humorous lead item on Feb. 6, 1974, also turned out to be prophetic. The story, “Reform spells the end of ‘grade inflation,’” fancifully quoted Dean of the College Neil L. Rudenstine ’56, who noted that rising grades at Princeton had forced graduate schools to deduct a full point from applicants’ GPAs, just to level the playing field. R.W. van de Velde ’33, a Woodrow Wilson School administrator, sorrowfully wondered, “What will become of our pipeline into law schools?”
Thirty years later, students weren’t laughing when the Prince led with the headline “Grade inflation plan passes.” This time, Nancy Weiss Malkiel was dean of the college, and both the policy and the quotations were real. Guidelines set a 35 percent target for A-grades in regular courses. “We are asking faculty to enter into a social contract to bring grade inflation back under control, back to the way we graded at Princeton in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Malkiel said.
No one mentioned 1974.