Former White House adviser will teach in 2011
Jones, who resigned from his government post in September after months of controversy, was an adviser to the White House Council on Environmental Quality. He will hold a one-year appointment at the University for the 2010-11 academic year, teaching a course in the spring semester.
Noliwe Rooks, associate director of the Center for African American Studies, explained that Jones will also conduct research throughout the year and host discussions on such subjects such as “the next phase of green jobs, environmental policy [and] environmental justice.”
The details of Jones’ course have not been finalized, but it would have “something to do with the topic around environmental policy, ecology and race,” Rooks noted.
In a University statement, Jones explained his interest in working with the campus community to further develop ideas on environmental policy.
“America is at a crossroads, facing economic and ecological crises,” he said in the statement. “The next generation of job-creating, green solutions will be even more challenging to conceive. And they will be even more difficult to implement. I look forward to exploring solutions to our nation’s toughest challenges with the students and scholars of Princeton.”
Before working with the White House, Jones co-founded three nonprofit organizations and advocated for the passage of the Green Jobs Act in 2007. His 2008 book, “The Green Collar Economy,” was a New York Times bestseller, and he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2009.
Jones resigned from the White House last fall after facing strong criticism from Republicans for signing a petition by the group 911truth.org in 2004. The petition stated that officials from former President George W. Bush’s administration “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.” Fox News political commentator Glenn Beck fomented calls for Jones’ removal by criticizing him in 16 episodes of his show between July 23 and Sept. 4.
Detractors also criticized Jones for referring to Republican senators as “assholes” in a February 2008 lecture in Berkeley, Calif. He has since publicly apologized for both actions, noting that he did not carefully read the petition before signing it.
Rooks explained that the Center for African American Studies did not take the controversy into account when it offered Jones a position.
“We had a number of applicants, but it was just a normal selection process,” Rooks said.
The Center for African American Studies posted an advertisement for a distinguished visitor early last fall, around the time Jones resigned as a White House adviser, and then offered him the position in January.
Rooks said that when the staff first read Jones’ application, they were “very excited.”
“We had long known about his work. We could hardly imagine what kind of collaboration [he] would bring about,” she explained. “[We] can start to engage with public policy [with] someone with his experience and his background. He’s such a pragmatic worker in this field.”
She noted that Jones was also pleased to be coming to the University.
“He was actually really honored that we chose him,” she said. “It was kind of touching. He said that the reason he was coming to Princeton was [African American studies professor] Cornel West [GS ’80], [religion professor] Eddie Glaude [GS ’97] and [economics professor] Paul Krugman, as well as the opportunity to engage students and some of the leading thinkers in the country.”
Editor's Note: The headline for this article has been updated.