<< The Body Politic

Diamonds aren’t this girl’s best friend: What Princeton’s president gets wrong

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Wick Sloane, a columnist for Inside Higher Education, has a provocative proposal for some of America’s most selective schools: “That Harvard, Yale and Princeton and Williams College (No. 1 liberal arts college in U.S. News) commit to enrolling by next fall as many undergraduate veterans as varsity football players.”

Sloane’s proposal stems from his second annual survey of undergraduate veteran enrollment at elite schools. The numbers are, as he says, “disgraceful.” Princeton and Williams had no veterans among their undergraduates; Yale and Harvard, only two. Dartmouth and Stanford led the pack among the elites, with 12 and 21 veteran undergrads, respectively.

Asked to comment, the universities largely ignored or dismissed Sloane’s proposal. Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman actually sent the following email in response: “You may know that the thesis of your e-mail seems based on somewhat flawed reasoning (I don’t have a diamond, so therefore I don’t like diamonds).”

I’d be curious how Tilghman would regard such reasoning from a president of, say, a Fortune 500 company with no female board members or a university sciences department with no female faculty? Given that she has made advancing women’s leadership a major initiative of her presidency–appointing women to key positions and even creatingcommittee to address the “disparity between men and women in top student leadership positions at the University”–I gather she would be unimpressed. As she told the Daily Princetonian, “I can’t imagine anything more important than using our resources at Princeton to train a broad array of students to be leaders in society.”

So why not use some of those considerable resources to help the men and women who have served our country in a time of war? For starters, Princeton’s undergraduate program doesn’t even participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps veterans afford tuition at private universities. And those colleges that do could be a lot less stingy. Harvard University pledged a mere $3,000 for 50 undergraduates. In contrast, my alma mater, the University of Dallas, a tiny liberal arts college in Irving, Texas, pledged twice as much as Harvard: $6,000 for 100 undergrads. The University of Dallas has a $48.7 million endowment; Harvard boasts an endowment of $27.4 billion.

But let’s give credit where credit is due–although, in this case, the credit largely belongs to two remarkable Columbia students: ROTC leaders and veterans Jose Robledo and John McClelland. This Veterans’ Day, six members of Army ROTC held the first military flag ceremony at Columbia in over 40 years. The Columbia Spectator has the story, and you can watch the video here.

Cross-posted at the Enterprise Blog.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.