Phi Beta Cons

In Defense of President Tilghman

I received the following thoughtful response to my posting, “Princeton President Joins the ‘No Evidence’ Crowd.” Whereas it is always good to hear that a campus president has good rapport with students, I nonetheless lament that President Tilghman chose not to mention the student body’s declaration on intellectual diversity and washed her hands of the insidious nationwide problem of campus political correctness. And I am, emphatically, also an admirer of Princeton’s James Madison Program. In any event, I welcome this rebuttal by Patrick Miller, a Princeton alum:  

I simply could not let your post on Princeton pass without comment, as I feel it misrepresents the campus climate at Princeton, the “academic bill of rights” passed by the student body, and President Tilghman.
Firstly, your contention that campus complaints are “buried down the chain of command” may be true at many universities, but President Tilghman keeps regular office hours that students can (and do) attend to discuss whatever they like with her. Though she has certainly rankled various segments of the campus community, she has never shown a propensity to back down from those who would question her, or to find ways to shield herself from “tangling with campus ideologues.”
I would also suggest looking more carefully at “program statements, faculty syllabi and research, multiple case studies, the politicized nature of campus events.”  I think you underestimate the impact that Robert George’s James Madison Program is having on campus discourse.  The program brings a steady stream of some of the brightest stars from all sides of the political spectrum – though the biggest events always seem to draw from the Right.  I know the Madison program had a profound effect on me during my time there. One program does not diversity make, but it certainly inspires other conservative entities on campus.
Finally, your characterization of the passage of the “academic bill of rights” as an admission that the campus is hostile to various perspectives is also misguided.  Those promoting the bill made certain to distance themselves from Horowitz, and the language of the bill itself is fairly benign. It asked students to affirm that intellectual diversity and respect for a variety of viewpoints is a worthy goal.  It was not a referendum, as you seem to indicate, on whether the campus is intolerant of intellectual diversity. Princeton has its faults, but I do not believe hostility to intellectual diversity can be counted among them.

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