In the aftermath of the publication of Ms. Patton’s letter to the editor, there has been extensive media response to the sentiments she expressed. While commentators have largely focused on Ms. Patton’s advice for young women who attend Princeton, the Board feels that there is a second issue in the letter that has not been given adequate attention by the national media. Specifically, while the Board is concerned by several of Ms. Patton’s contentions, we are particularly troubled by the elitism implied in the letter. Ms. Patton’s letter implicitly assumes that those who have attended Princeton are inherently better than others in society. Though many within our community reject her views on marriage, we believe her view of the superiority of Princetonians is far more common among the student body.
The discussion of Princetonian elitism is especially relevant in the wake of the admissions decisions that were released this past week. Over the next month, thousands of high school seniors will decide whether they want to attend Princeton University for the next four years. The University is a wonderful community of intelligent and hardworking students. The student body here has diverse academic interests and a desire to challenge themselves in all facets of their lives. However, attending Princeton will not grant people those desirable traits; students will not be suddenly altered by their choice of college. While many talented and successful students choose to attend Princeton, there are many more who go elsewhere. It is troubling that we as a student body sometimes forget to remember that going to Princeton does not change us as people: It does not change our strengths, nor does it eliminate our weaknesses.
Furthermore, it is often disturbing to see this elitism extend to within Princeton. It seems that too many among us judge friends or romantic partners by their affiliations with eating clubs, Greek life or extracurriculars. While we sometimes see ourselves as Princetonians, as separate from general society, we also see ourselves as separate from our classmates. We have become obsessed with labels to the point where we sometimes forget the individual behind the label.
The truth is that the world is full of hard-working, intelligent people. While many of them attend Princeton, the vast majority of those people do not. Neither Princeton University nor its peer institutions have a monopoly on those qualities. It determinately affects Princeton if society believes that we, as students and alumni, believe that our Princeton education entitles us to some sort of special status within society.
Accordingly, we urge the student body to make an added effort to demonstrate humility. There are many wonderful people here, and there is nothing wrong with marrying a fellow Princetonian. However, there is a much larger world outside our beloved Orange Bubble, a world that is full of intelligent and successful people. And these individuals merit consideration as potential spouses just as our fellow Princetonians do.