As Tilghman mentioned in her email, her tenure witnessed a great expansion and diversification of the student body. Her success in increasing financial aid resources was crucial in Princeton’s efforts to attract a broader array of students. We believe that these developments have been and will be instrumental in helping Princeton achieve its informal motto, “In the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” Tilghman also championed the creation of the Lewis Center for the Arts and various efforts to strengthen Princeton’s scientific community. These steps contributed to the breadth of a Princeton education and helped guarantee Princeton’s place as one of the world’s leading research universities. Additionally, Tilghman introduced the four-year residential college system to Princeton. While the system remains imperfect, it has nonetheless succeeded in adding another academic and social dimension to the lives of undergraduate students. Perhaps most importantly, she helped maintain the quality of Princeton’s educational infrastructure in the face of the economic challenges posed by the recession and led the enormously successful Aspire capital campaign.
But her tenure was not without tension and mistakes. Princeton’s recent decision to prohibit freshmen from affiliating with a fraternity or sorority elicited much animosity. As we have argued previously, we feel that this policy and the consequences for its violators are misguided. The controversial grade deflation policy was also introduced during her presidency. While the merits of that policy continue to be debated among students and faculty, about 56 percent of respondents to last year’s Academic Life Total Assessment survey either “opposed” or “strongly opposed” grade deflation while only 27.5 percent “supported” or “strongly supported” it.
Nevertheless, when these setbacks are weighed against Tilghman’s successes, it is clear that her presidency was beneficial to the University community. As the search committee for a new president enters its initial stages, we hope its search will be guided by the principles that have sustained Princeton and by a commitment to ensuring the University grows to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In particular, we hope the search committee selects a candidate dedicated to bolstering Princeton’s international presence, attracting leading scholars in both traditional disciplines and newly forming fields and working to improve the social and academic experience that makes up a Princeton education. We also hope they will select a candidate with experience in dealing with both professors and with a demonstrated record of listening and being sensitive to students’ needs. As Tilghman’s tenure demonstrates, university presidents can have a substantial impact upon the trajectory of their institutions. Accordingly, we urge the search committee to carefully consult all stakeholders — students, faculty, staff, alumni and others — before deciding who will serve as Princeton’s 20th president.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/23/31206/