Letters to the Editor: Nov. 23, 2009
Regarding “Egyptian activist’s invitation withdrawn” (Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009):
Princeton University, with its tradition of “free inquiry” and “free expression” (from University handbook “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” 2008) is the last place we would have expected a guest speaker to be muzzled because of what she might say. The University’s own handbook cites the benefit of exposing students to diverse viewpoints and allowing them to learn from a broad range of human experiences. Students are encouraged to question, critique, challenge and grow in the pursuit of truth.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, like Princeton, believes students, along with all Americans, deserve access to the full facts about such crucial issues as those related to the Middle East. For this reason we sponsored Nonie Darwish’s speech which includes facts about the serious problem of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Christian hate indoctrination in Arab schools and mosques— a phenomenon she describes from first-hand experience as a Muslim raised in Egypt and educated in its religious schools. She provides a unique perspective on this very troubling topic, one that is not often presented in the Western media.
In the speech Ms. Darwish was to have delivered at Princeton, she explicitly avoided criticism of all Muslims as a group and individual Muslims’ “relationship with God.” She dealt with political Islam as it relates to human rights — and women’s rights especially. Had she been allowed to speak, those who disagreed with her might have had the opportunity to question, challenge or debate her. Unfortunately, students were denied that opportunity when the student organization, Tigers for Israel, decided at the very last minute to withdraw their sponsorship, forcing the event’s cancellation.
Ms. Darwish has spoken freely at scores, if not hundreds, of university campuses about her experience with hate indoctrination in the Arab world and its damaging effects on the minds and beliefs of people. While there have been students at some meetings who challenged her, they did not deny her the right to present her point of view. But, in one case, at Brown University when support for her appearance was withdrawn, the university itself then invited her back, lest there be any doubt where the institution stood with regard to defending free speech. Brown should be a model for Princeton and Nonie Darwish should be invited by the University to affirm that principle.
National Student Coordinator, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America
'Prince' should have considered repercussions of publishing name
Regarding “Tiger in the nude” (Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009):
When Margaret Sullivan ’12 considered posing for Diamond magazine, she had a decision to make. This letter is not regarding that decision. I want to address yours.
Sara Connolly wrote her article well. She made it interesting while deftly assigning neither positive nor negative labels to Sullivan’s involvement with the magazine. That is no mean feat. But when an article addresses a “hot topic” and names an individual, there is more at stake than writing the article well. In a community of less than 5,000, the news is no longer the material. It becomes the individual. And whether this should impact the scope of that individual’s participation in the community, the fact is, it will.
I am confident you had Sullivan’s permission to print her full name, or you would not have done so. But a good name is to be preferred above a great many things. When an individual gives you permission to do something that might mar hers, whether or not you believe that doing so should mar it, preserving that name is up to you.
To that end, in a community of this size, it doesn’t matter whether you had permission. An individual’s choice to partake in a public activity and consent to an interview does not mean she gives up the right to an active role in the way this information meets her immediate world. In a newspaper serving a much larger community, printing her name could perhaps still honor this right, in that people interacting with Sullivan might not replace her human character with the contents of a news article. That is not the case in a community of this size.
This is not a comment on whether her activity was dignified. Rather, it is a comment that your publication ought to have more closely considered what the resulting community discussion, magnified by your article, would be.
Rivka Cohen ’12
Misunderstanding in letter regarding University retirement contributions
Regarding the letter to the editor “Equalize retirement contributions for all employees” (Tuesday, Nov. 10. 2009):
A central goal of retirement programs — the University’s included — is to provide a vehicle that contributes money based on a formula to replace a reasonable percentage of each individual’s pre-retirement income. Princeton’s program is designed with that in mind and is a supplement to Social Security savings.
In her Nov. 12 letter to the editor, Patricia Gibney asserts that the University should level the contributions made to all employees — whether above or below the Social Security wage cap — to 9.3 percent. The letter is based on a misunderstanding of University contributions and mistakes the type of retirement plan at issue. Ms. Gibney’s analysis misses one critical part of our formula.
The program that the University has in place is intended to level the contributions. As the letter stated, Princeton puts 9.3 percent of each employee’s annual salary into his or her Princeton University Retirement Plan, a 401(a) plan, up to the Social Security wage base (currently $106,800). However, the University also contributes 6.2 percent to Social Security, up to the wage cap, for all employees.
The law requires that the University contribute 6.2 percent on all income below the Social Security wage base into Social Security. Therefore, for all employees, the University contributes 9.3 percent plus 6.2 percent (15.5 percent) towards each employee’s retirement account on income below the cap.
The law does not allow the University to contribute into Social Security on dollars earned above the wage base ($106,800). Therefore, the University is contributing 9.3 percent plus 5.7 percent (15 percent) into the retirement plan for dollars earned over the Social Security wage base.
We believe this is a consistent approach to ensure all employees can replace a percentage of their pre-retirement income. This levels the contributions on all income, whether it falls above or below the Social Security wage base.
Director of Benefits, Human Resources