PU president discusses plan for expansion

Implications of growth for campus life, academics and diversity concern students.

By: Jessica Stahl
   Princeton University’s decision to expand the size of its student body in the coming years emerged as the main issue of concern for both students and administration in a conversation on the university’s future led by President Shirley Tilghman on Monday.
   President Tilghman, in the first of what she said would be a number of informal public forums, primarily addressed future goals for campus planning and expansion to accommodate the growing undergraduate student body. The forum took place in McCosh Hall.
   Though she acknowledged the campus would have to expand in the future, President Tilghman reaffirmed the principle that Princeton should remain a "walkable campus."
   "We will not move to the other side of the lake (Lake Carnegie) with university buildings," President Tilghman told an audience of about 75 students and faculty members.
   President Tilghman said she plans to use the land across the lake to construct parks and arboretums for the university community and the Princeton community at large.
   President Tilghman also stressed the administration’s commitment to campus beauty in future construction projects. She said there are plans to tear down the buildings of Butler residential college, largely regarded by students as one of the ugliest areas on campus, as soon as the new Whitman residential college is completed.
   "It is important that we see ourselves as patrons of great architecture," she said.
   While President Tilghman stressed the logistical concerns of expansion, students expressed more concern over the implications for social life, academics and campus diversity. In each case, the president emphasized the university’s commitment to studying and pursuing the issue, though she did not offer detailed plans for doing so.
   A graduate student questioned if the increase in the undergraduate student body would mean a similar increase in the graduate student body. Graduate students currently serve as preceptors for undergraduate lecture courses, teaching small groups of students once a week as a supplement to lectures.
   "You don’t increase the number of graduate students simply because you need more preceptors," President Tilghman replied. She did not address where the needed preceptors would come from.
   President Tilghman also responded to student concerns about the university admissions process, an issue that has recently generated controversy. Harvard, Yale and Stanford universities have switched from binding "early-decision" admissions to nonbinding "early-action" admissions. Princeton has come under scrutiny because, far from making such a change, the admissions department, under new Dean of Admissions Janet Rapelye, accepted about 50 percent of the class of 2008 during the early-decision period, an increase from past years.
   According to President Tilghman, the administration plans to review the admissions process this summer, but she said she supports the university’s current methods.
   "My own bias right now is if you are going to have an early-decision option, our program is preferable to an early-action program," President Tilghman said.
   Monday’s "town meeting," as President Tilghman called it, was her first open forum for students to voice questions or concerns about the university. Though the event did not attract large numbers of students or faculty, those in attendance expressed their appreciation for President Tilghman’s willingness to participate in such a dialogue. On her part, President Tilghman seemed to indicate that she would continue to offer such conversational forums in the future.