The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, April 17, 2002  


One Carlos Ramos-Mrosovsky, still but a sophomore at Princeton University, deserves and wins our respect and acclaim for his column in yesterday's edition of the Daily Princetonian entitled "Academic Sharptonism."

It is refreshing, even edifying, to read such an intelligent, coherent, and cogent argument from one so young. Moreover, The Rittenhouse Review congratulates Mr. Ramos-Mrosovsky for his bravery. We would not be surprised to learn that this young scholar has been subjected to hate mail, threatening phone calls, and the destruction of his personal property.

Nor would we be surprised to learn that a group of mindless thugs is calling for his resignation or termination from the Princetonian. Worse, should this be the case, we would be shocked if the current administration of Princeton University administration failed to adopt a similar position.

Princeton University, as some readers may already know, has been under fire in recent years for its allegedly lackluster efforts to attract an acceptable number of students from academia's currently favored minority groups, as well as for admitting an insufficient number of Jewish students.

Now, we at TRR have spent some time in Princeton, and it is our observation that the village of Princeton, lovely as it is, and its immediate environs, ugly as they are (consisting largely of nondescript, box-like, four-story corporate office parks, though with several attractive, even quaint, hamlets like Cranbury and Lawrenceville thrown into the mix), hardly represent an environment that would excite a minority high school senior being relentlessly recruited by every reasonably respectable college or university on the East Coast.

True, Princeton is within easy traveling distance of both New York and Philadelphia. Nearer still, however, is the dump known as Trenton and the cesspool that is called Camden. Moreover, the train station serving the town is actually in Princeton Junction, almost four miles from campus, making a quick get-away difficult for students who do not have cars or cannot readily afford taxi fare.

Given the lack of local distractions, the university's social life still revolves around the storied "Eating Clubs" (organizations much like fraternities, some being selective, some not, and some admitting women and some not). With this in mind, as well as the fact that Princeton is the most southern (in character, if not geography) of the Ivy League schools, TRR is not surprised to learn that it does not top the list of priority destinations of black, Hispanic, and Jewish high school seniors.

Such is the environment into which Princeton University's president and provost, Shirley Tilghman and Amy Gutmann, respectively, have recruited Cornel West, most recently one of just over a dozen "university professors" at Harvard University. Both women are excited about the "diversity" West will bring to Princeton. Yes, indeed. We're certain Cornel West has much to say that Princeton's undergraduates haven't already heard by virtue of having ponied up $26,000 a year just to cover the school's tuition.

Ramos-Mrosovsky is a sharp young man, writing with just the requisite amount of sarcasm given the gravity of the situation under discussion.

"Cornel West's return to Princeton seems to have been acclaimed as the greatest faculty acquisition since Albert Einstein," he writes. "On closer investigation of West's record, however, the wisdom of Princeton's no-holds-barred campaign to recruit him becomes a little bit blurrier. In particular, West's tactics in his recent dispute with Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, in which he turned an admonition about his short publication list into a racial incident, threatens a kind of academic Sharptonism that can only be a threat to freedom of inquiry at Princeton University."

"[I]t is precisely the manner in which Professor West made his exit from Harvard that should give us pause. Following the now-infamous meeting in which Summers expressed concern about West's sparse publications record, inflated grades, and release of a rap CD rather than a book last November, West and others threatened to leave for Princeton and publicly attacked Summers for expressing an insufficient commitment to affirmative action in Harvard's admission process," Ramos-Mrosovsky adds.

"West's instant move to racialize his conflict with Summers was unfair and destructive. . . . To imply racism on the part of President Summers because he tried — if feebly — to insist on a little bit of accountability from his faculty is a manipulative smear tactic," asserts the Princeton sophomore. "That a university president should face such political bullying in response to perfectly reasonable concern about the performance of one of his 17 highest-ranked faculty members, is surely not the kind of institutional dynamic we want imported to Nassau Hall."

And virtually guaranteeing himself the enmity of every zombie-like adherent of political correctness at Princeton (and elsewhere) -- adminstrators, faculty, and students alike -- Ramos-Mrosovsky adds: "Yet racial power plays are familiar ground for Professor West. Insofar as he may be judged by the company he keeps, we ought to remember that Professor West chairs the Rev. Al Sharpton's Presidential Exploratory Committee. Only a brief sampling of the supposed civil rights leader's demagogic antics — trying to frame New York Prosecutor Steven Pagones for the rape of Tawana Brawley in 1987, stirring up New York City's bloody Crown Heights riots in 1991, denouncing a Jewish landlord in Harlem as 'a white interloper' thereby provoking the famous 'Freddy's Fashion Mart Massacre' in 1995, yet somehow emerging as a political power broker and supposed key to New York City's African-American vote in the late 1990s — suffices to show that Professor West happily associates himself with those who exploit race as a political weapon."

Whoa. Them's fightin' words, as they say. It's the truth of course, but the truth is all too often controversial these days, especially at the more selective institutions of higher education in this country.

"What will happen if Professor West meets with accountability at Princeton University?" asks Ramos-Mrosovsky. "Will . . . West be free from any kind of accountability, able to publish as few books and as many CDs as he likes?"

Our guess, our determination actually, is an unequivocal yes.

"Insofar as the threat of academic Sharptonism goes, it remains unclear whether Princeton or Harvard has emerged as winner in the Cornel West saga," writes Ramos-Mrosovky.

Young man, you are too kind. At TRR we're detached enough from the situation to answer that inquiry with conviction. The score: Harvard 1, Princeton 0.

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