Keith Whittington is departing the University after 20 years to teach at Yale Law School starting next fall. Whittington’s departure has aligned with the departure of a number of other high-profile professors, including Jhumpa Lahiri, Peter Singer, and Imani Perry.
In an analysis, The Daily Princetonian discovers who professors on campus are with the highest public profile through a breakdown of Google Trends. While there have been prominent departures, they have not been concentrated among the most well-known professors on campus by Google searches.
The ‘Prince’ analyzed Google trends from 2010 to the present day for all current faculty members, including emeritus faculty members who are permitted to teach courses. The values were scaled to the average number of searches for President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 in the same period of time. For example, a faculty member with a score of five has been searched an average of five times as much as Eisgruber over the course of the past 13 years. Many of the faculty members have more prominent namesakes, making it difficult to disentangle their Google search results.
Among faculty members who dominate search results when searching for their name, the most-searched was Paul Krugman, professor emeritus of economics. A Nobel Prize winner in economics, Krugman’s most public role is as a columnist for The New York Times. Krugman does not regularly teach on campus anymore.
Krugman is followed by Cornel West GS ’80, a professor emeritus of African-American studies. A prominent left-wing public intellectual, West is currently running a third-party campaign for President of the United States. Interest in West jumped nearly 25-fold after he announced his third-party presidential bid. West is closely followed by Robert George, a conservative intellectual who serves as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and is best known for his work on constitutional interpretation and conservative social policy. George and West are close friends and often appear together in public.
Sociologist Paul Starr, founder of the liberal magazine the American Prospect, follows behind George. Other professors with significant interest through Google searches include Wallace Best in African-American studies, physicist Robert Austin, then Singer, the intellectual godfather of the effective altruism movement and an advocate for animals’ rights. Notably, the top seven searched faculty members are all men.
Of the other professors that are retiring or have left the University, their profiles are still significant.
Lahiri, former director of Princeton’s Creative Writing department, left the University in 2022 to join the faculty at Barnard College after seven “extraordinarily stimulating and productive” years, Lahiri wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’ at the time. Lahiri would rank 288th out of current faculty in Google searches, with an average of 4.084 times the searches for Eisgruber.
Whittington also credited a new opportunity: “Yale Law School has been a place in which there has not been a lot of political diversity on the faculty,” he said in an interview with the ‘Prince.’ “To my knowledge, I'm the first right of center faculty member teaching constitutional law topics that Yale has ever hired in its history.” Whittington ranks 528th out of current faculty in Google searches, with about 1.12 times as many searches as Eisgruber.
Imani Perry left Princeton earlier this year to join Harvard University’s African American Studies Department and would rank 593rd among current faculty in Google searches with 0.869 times the searches for Eisgruber. Perry had a significant national profile as a columnist for The Atlantic.
Major national news did have an effect on the searches. Maitland Jones Jr., a professor emeritus of chemistry, saw his searches jump to 120 times Eisgruber’s searches in November 2022 after a New York Times article about New York University (NYU) failing to renew his contract after student concerns about his grading processes.
A number of the top names were faculty members who shared a name with a prominent cultural figure, including the Princeton Writing Program’s Jessica Jones, who shares a name with a Marvel character.
The ‘Prince’ also analyzed the searches for top administrators.
Eisgruber began his term as the University’s 20th President in July 2013. Google searches for Eisgruber peaked after he was named the next President on April 21, 2013 at a press conference in front of Nassau Hall.
Eisgruber, with a weight of one, ranks 557th most searched out of 1750 faculty, placing him in the top 35 percent of well-known faculty.
Andrew Bosworth is an assistant Data editor for the ‘Prince.’
Head News Editor Isabel Yip and Data Contributor Nathan Beck contributed reporting.
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