Several national stories have appeared on our editorial radar screen, and we have to admit that we aren’t sure how or whether to cover them. One is the rescue effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Lots of area people are helping. To get the full picture Google “where to donate to Harvey victims” and remember every organization can use money.
Another story: The well intentioned people revisiting history to right the wrongs that occurred many years ago. Most recently it was those confederate statues in Charlottesville, Virginia. They had to go, many of us agreed, or at least be removed and placed in a museum or educational center dedicated to teaching history so that we might not repeat it.
Those concerns are coming closer to home: Stockton University has removed a bust of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, from its campus library. Stockton’s “crime” was that he owned slaves. The college, it should be noted, intends to eventually return the bust to its original location but with an accompanying exhibit that will describe Stockton’s life in a more complete context.
Readers of U.S. 1 may recall Dan Aubrey’s story — in operatic form — describing another moment in Stockton’s life, when British troops over-ran his home in Princeton and imprisoned him. His release after six weeks prompted rumors that he had signed an oath of allegiance to the king (U.S. 1, July 1, 2015). In light of all this, will the folks at Morven, Stockton’s home in Princeton and now a museum, feel obligated to revise their materials? Another story, but not for us, at least not at this time.
And there’s one more story, where our present-day values could cast everyone in a vastly different light. Last week’s issue of U.S. 1, in which we printed an excerpt from Nancy Weiss Malkiel’s book about the struggle for coeducation at Princeton and other prestigious colleges a half century ago, made us take a second look at that period of time. It was a look made even more interesting because some of us were eyewitnesses.
In the excerpt Malkiel, who will speak at the Princeton Chamber luncheon on Thursday, September 7, notes the cautious way Princeton president Robert F. Goheen approached the topic. In the spring of 1967, Goheen commented in an interview with the Daily Princetonian that coeducation was “inevitable.” The ‘Prince’ made that a banner headline, and caused some alumni to howl in protest.
But Goheen, in what some of us at the time believed was a clever instance of news management, noted that the remark was part of what he thought had been an off-the-record exchange of personal ideas, not firm university policy from some zealous believer in women’s liberation. In short,a trial balloon.
In fact, if you wanted to judge the president by present day standards you could make the case he was more a male chauvinist than a zealous advocate of women’s liberation. Here’s a quote from E.E. Whiting’s report on the Class of 1967, printed in U.S. 1 last May 31 on the eve of that class’s 50th reunion:
“Goheen’s views about coeducation may have evolved over the years but this did not stop him from giving some words to the wise in his address to the seniors in 1967: ‘One word of caution — as one alumnus to another. You must exercise extreme cunning in introducing your wife to the mystique of Princeton alumni enthusiasm. The days of your life will be far happier if — early in your marriage — you perform an adequate ‘snow job’ for Princeton. If you don’t do this, you may even find yourself tramping about her campus, when you might be here.’”
In that same address, Goheen alluded to the possibilities of coeducation. The president also had apparently taken note of one young woman, a graduating senior’s date who had taken the place of her boyfriend’s ill classmate in the graduation procession.
On the cover of its graduation issue the Princeton Alumni Weekly ran a photo of the woman in her borrowed cap and gown, with one of the male seniors near her wearing a pained expression. The PAW’s caption reflected the tone of the time: “At commencement President Goheen reflected on coeducation at Princeton, saying that the college was founded to raise up ‘ornaments of the state as well as the church.’ Well, he predicted, some Princeton graduates are going to be more ornamental than others. As an omen, perhaps, of things to come he spotted marching, sitting, and rising in the procession of graduating seniors the most ornamental sight above.”
The woman, a member of the Class of ‘69 at Wellesley, was described in the photo caption as “auburn-haired, 5-5, shy but well spoken.” The PAW proclaimed she “would be an ornament indeed to the Princeton alumni body — she even has that most important requisite of being an alumni daughter.”
The rhetoric may not have been politically correct, but people ended up doing the right thing. Later in 1967 Goheen convened a committee that produced a landmark report recommending that Princeton pursue coeducation, as opposed to creating a coordinate but separate women’s college nearby. Hopefully we won’t have to report on any statues being removed or buildings being renamed.