War-time speeches center of debate at Woodrow Wilson School

Public forum to examine if school has pushed Bush administration policies

By: David Campbell
   To what extent does Princeton University’s informal motto — Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations — apply in times of war?
   This will be the subject of "Intellectuals and the Institution: What’s in the Service of the Nation?" — a public forum scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in McCosh Hall on the university campus.
   Panelists will include Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the university’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Professor Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion at Princeton; and Mark Bruzonsky, a Washington-based journalist who earned a master’s degree from the Woodrow Wilson School in 1975.
   The sponsors of the event include the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton Justice Project, online student publication Dollars & Sins, Princeton Progressive Nation, the Council of the Humanities, the Program in African American Studies, the Coalition for Peace Action, the Pace Center, the university Undergraduate Student Government and the Arab Society of Princeton.
   Danilo Mandic, 20, a Princeton junior with the Princeton Justice Project and editor with Dollars & Sins, said the forum came about after students, faculty and alumni — including Professor West — objected to the speakers chosen for the fall kick-off of the Woodrow Wilson School’s 75th anniversary observances.
   U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was invited to deliver the keynote address Sept. 30 in which she defended the Bush administration’s policies on Iraq. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who was in charge of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq, also spoke on that kick-off weekend.
   In response, critics published an open letter in The Daily Princetonian student newspaper in October — signed by more than 100 students, faculty and alumni — expressing concern over what they said was a "trend" by the university of favoring guest speakers supportive of the Bush administration and its policies.
   "Alternative views are consistently absent from the university’s guest lists," read the letter, which was addressed to university President Shirley Tilghman, with copies sent personally to her and to Dean Slaughter.
   "There is a conspicuous absence of voices external to institutions — voices that can offer glimpses of the everyday significance of policy," the letter went on. "Discussion of the more uncomfortable aspects of national security policies, such as the current ‘legal’ situation of prisoners held in Guantanamo, or certain unchallenged consequences of the Patriot Act is also constantly lacking."
   Dean Slaughter replied with a letter in which she noted that Secretary Rice took questions for an hour with a smaller group of Princeton students and insisted on an "unstaged" question-and-answer session with the Princeton community following her public address. The dean said the protests outside Jadwin Gym, where the address was delivered, "also reflected a welcome political engagement on this campus."
   Dean Slaughter’s letter concluded, "Engagement, rather than polarization, and dialogue, rather than preaching to the converted, are badly needed in this country. I hope that Princeton can help lead the way."
   President Tilghman also replied with a letter in which she said "an important role for any great university is to engage with the important issues of the day, and we cannot do so without inviting major figures who are in positions of power and influence."
   The president called critics’ allegations of bias "unfounded," saying the public lectures held at Princeton over the past several years have represented "a broad cross-section of speakers, many with strong political views, including very negative views about the Iraq war."
   President Tilghman ended her letter with the observation, "I do find it ironic that I spend considerable time and effort defending the university against those who would argue that we are a bastion of liberal thought!"
   But Mr. Bruzonsky, who edits the blog www.middleeast.org, said critics at Princeton are "a little bewildered as to why their institution has become a conduit for administrative views without any independent academic or journalistic input." He also accused Dean Slaughter of "catering to power" and of reducing the Woodrow Wilson School’s public platform to that of a partisan Washington think tank.
   The dean was unavailable this week to comment or respond to Mr. Bruzonsky’s accusations.
   Mr. Mandic this week said many on campus felt "excluded, betrayed, marginalized" by the choice of speakers for the Woodrow Wilson School’s 75 anniversary kick-off and by what he said were restrictive formats of their talks, which he claimed squelched critical debate. He said the appearance by Secretary Rice was "basically a propaganda session" in which questions from the audience were "exclusively friendly" to the secretary and the Bush administration’s policies.
   Professor West was unavailable this week for comment.