Author Archives: Ray Ollwerther

Princeton Students Sit In at Nassau Hall, Demanding Improvements to Experience of Black Students

President Eisgruber ’83, right, listens to the demands of the Black Justice League. (PAW/W. Raymond Ollwerther ’71)

President Eisgruber ’83, right, listens to the demands of the Black Justice League. (PAW/W. Raymond Ollwerther ’71)

Students began a sit-in in President Christopher Eisgruber ’83’s office today to support demands that include acknowledging the “racist legacy” of Woodrow Wilson 1879 and renaming the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College. The students are also seeking cultural competency training for all staff and faculty, required courses on the history of marginalized peoples, and a cultural space on campus specifically for black students. They vowed to continue the sit-in until Eisgruber signs their list of demands. Eisgruber and Dean of the College Jill Dolan met with the students soon after the sit-in began.

President Eisgruber ’83 and Dean of the College Jill Dolan meet with students inside Eisgruber’s office. (Mary Hui ’17)

President Eisgruber ’83 and Dean of the College Jill Dolan meet with students inside Eisgruber’s office. (Mary Hui ’17)

(Mary Hui ’17)

(Mary Hui ’17)

READ MORE: Full text of the students’ demands is available on the Princeton Black Justice League Facebook page.

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.

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

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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Lukens ’46 speaks at University Veterans Day observance

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpg Alan W. Lukens ’46, a retired Foreign Service officer, described his experience as a World War II soldier who helped to liberate the Dachau concentration camp in Germany during a Veterans Day observance Nov. 11 in the University Chapel. Lukens was part of the U.S. Army’s 20th Armored Division when it arrived at the camp in April 1945. “Entering the camp, we were faced with an awful sight,” Lukens said. While an estimated 100,000 people had died at Dachau from 1932 to 1945, about 35,000 survived. “They all looked like skeletons,” he said. Their survival, Lukens said, was due to their faith (many religions were represented), the hope that eventually they would be rescued, and love for each other in sharing what they had.
Lukens said he had been invited to return to ceremonies at Dachau in 1995, when about 50 U.S. military veterans had attended; in 2005, when about 10 veterans participated; and last year’s 65th anniversary observance, when he was the only U.S. soldier present at the camp’s liberation to attend. Lukens said he welcomed the opportunity to tell how Dachau has changed from “a symbol of infamy to one of hope,” and urged those attending the Veterans Day observance to remember the sacrifices of so many “who have died for our country.”
Princeton paid tribute to 76 alumni veterans who died in the past year, and said that 194 University staff members are veterans.

Freshmen to be banned from fraternities, sororities in fall 2012

The University announced Aug. 23 that it will ban freshmen from participating in fraternities and sororities and upperclassmen from recruiting freshmen beginning in the fall of 2012. The delay in implementing the ban, President Tilghman said in a letter to returning students, was to allow time for a committee of students, faculty, and staff to recommend how the ban should be enforced and penalties for violations.
i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgA working group appointed by Tilghman examined the Greek organizations as part of a broader look at campus social and residential life. Among the group’s recommendations in a May report were a ban on freshman affiliation with fraternities and sororities, with penalties “severe enough to encourage widespread compliance which probably means a minimum penalty of suspension.”
Robert K. Durkee ’69, the University vice president and secretary who was a co-chair of the working group, told PAW on Aug. 23 that while the new student/faculty/staff committee would be charged with taking a fresh look at the issue, “what we want to come out is a set of policies and procedures that maximize the likelihood that this policy will be effective.”
Tilghman also said that the University would continue its policy of not recognizing the Greek organizations, though students will not be prohibited from joining fraternities and sororities after freshman year.
She said she recognized that her decision “will be disappointing to some who have advocated an expanded role for Greek life at Princeton,” and said she respected those views. The University estimated that the four sororities and about a dozen fraternities on campus attract about 15 percent of undergraduates.
For more details on the University’s announcement on Greek organizations, see the Sept. 14 issue of PAW.

Undergraduate women underrepresented in leadership, academic prizes

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgA yearlong study has documented that women at Princeton are underrepresented in the most visible undergraduate leadership positions and as recipients of major academic prizes, disparities that have existed for the past decade.
“By and large, women feel that they are not expected or encouraged to fill certain types of leadership positions – but not that they are not entitled to fill them,” the Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership wrote in a 100-page report released March 21.
The committee was charged by President Tilghman with exploring how students define and experience leadership and “the critical question of whether women undergraduates are realizing their academic potential and seeking opportunities for leadership at the same rate and in the same manner as their male colleagues.”
The committee found an “upward trajectory” of women holding the top posts in key campus organizations (student government, the Honor Committee, The Daily Princetonian, class president) as the numbers of women increased during the 1970s through the 1990s. But it found a “striking” downturn in these numbers during the 2000s.

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Early admission to return, in non-binding form

The University announced today that it will offer a nonbinding early-action option for applicants seeking admission in the fall of 2012. Princeton had offered an early-admission program for almost 30 years before moving to a single deadline for students hoping to enroll in the fall of 2008.
President Tilghman said in a statement that the University was pleased with its admission process over the past four years, but added that “we hoped other colleges and universities would do the same, and they haven’t. One consequence is that some students who really want to make their college decision as early as possible in their senior year apply to other schools early, even if their first choice is Princeton.”
Students who apply early-action to Princeton will be required to state that they have have not applied for early admission at any other school. They will be allowed to apply to other schools through their general admission process, and will have until May 1 to decide which school to attend.

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Marshall ’72 speaks as University marks Veterans Day

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgRep. Jim Marshall ’72, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, addressed the University’s Veterans Day observance in the Chapel Nov. 11.
Marshall read a eulogy that he had delivered in 2005 for a member of the Georgia National Guard, Sgt. 1st Class Victor Anderson, who was killed in Iraq by an IED (improvised explosive device). Marshall noted that Anderson had been medically disqualified from serving in combat because of diabetes, but fought to overturn the ruling “to do his duty and to be with his men.” The congressman quoted from an e-mail that Anderson sent to his family not long before his death:
“People ask me why I fight. I do not fight for some ideology. I fight for that man to my left, and the one to my right. They are men of their honor. When called, they responded and did their duty. They did not run away. If you believe in nothing else, believe in them.”
“Without men and women like Victor, intolerance, extremism, and evil would dominate our world,” Marshall said. “Religious intolerance and jihadist extremism will diminish in time, but until then, we need the sacrifices of soldiers like Victor.”
Marshall, the son and grandson of Army generals, entered Princeton with the Class of 1970 but enlisted in the Army in 1968. He served in Vietnam as a Airborne-Ranger platoon sergeant and received two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. After his Army service, he returned to Princeton and graduated in 1972. A four-term Democrat in Georgia’s 8th Congressional District, he lost his bid for re-election Nov. 2.
Following the observance, five new members of Princeton’s ROTC unit were sworn in on the steps of the Chapel. The ROTC program has 83 students enrolled: 22 from Princeton, 21 from the College of New Jersey, four from Rider University, and 36 from Rowan University.
Below, links to six recent veteran-related stories from the Princeton Alumni Weekly and PAW Online.
The Medal of Honor [Nov. 3, 2010]
Biographies of the eight Princeton alumni and one professor who have been awarded the nation’s highest decoration for valor in wartime.
W. Barksdale Maynard ’88 tells the story of the “Monuments Men,” who rescued relics during and after World War II.

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Princeton endowment posts 14.7 percent return

i-16f0b5286c4f9bdb8bbd95c5fa4aedd4-wb_campus.jpgPrinceton’s endowment earned a 14.7 percent return on investments during the year ending June 30, the University announced Oct. 15. The endowment was valued at $14.4 billion as of June 30, up from $12.6 billion a year earlier.
Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 cited the “strong performance” of the University endowment, which followed a year in which the endowment’s investment return was -23.5 percent. He said the growth in the endowment, financial support from alumni and other donors, and two years of budget reductions have enabled Princeton to avoid the need for further spending cuts.
 “The endowment’s performance brings us back within our target band for spending, but we will need to demonstrate continuing budget discipline to contend with the effects of the recent financial crisis and persistent economic uncertainty,” Eisgruber said. The endowment is managed by the Princeton University Investment Co. (Princo).
Following is a list of investment returns reported by other schools for the past year: Columbia, 17 percent; Stanford, 14.4 percent; Penn, 12.6 percent; Cornell, 12.6 percent; Harvard, 11 percent; MIT, 10.2 percent; Dartmouth, 10 percent; Brown, 10 percent; and Yale, 8.9 percent.
For more details on Princeton’s endowment’s results, see the Nov. 17 issue of PAW.