Princeton University criticized as `pro Bush'
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
By ELIZABETH LANDAU
Special to The Times
PRINCETON BOROUGH -- In a heated debate last night, journalist Mark Bruzonsky and Princeton professor Cornel West slammed the Woodrow Wilson School for inviting exclusively government and military officials to its 75th anniversary celebration, and not engaging these speakers in critical questioning.
The event put Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter on the spot in front of over more than 200 students, faculty and area residents in the university's McCosh Hall. Students who wrote a petition about the issue in October organized last night's discussion, which consisted of two hours of controversy.
Bruzonsky, a Princeton alumnus, accused Slaughter of using the university as a "stepping stone for future political positions in Washington, should the opportunity arise."
He said the lineup of government officials, but no independent journalists or analysts, led to a "parade" that does not reflect the real world.
"This is not, in my view, in the nation's service; it is in the government's service," he said. "This is a limiting, nationalistic approach which further cuts off Princetonians from our world as it really is."
Slaughter said she is unashamed to aspire to work in government, particularly in foreign policy, but denied that she used the university in the service of ambition. She called the accusation "very serious indeed."
Slaughter said her original intention was not to provide a preponderance of pro-Bush Republicans, including Condoleezza Rice, Gen. David Petraeus, and Michael Chertoff, at the 75th Anniversary event. Among those who were invited were Madeline Albright, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and former Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., to speak, but none was able to attend, she said.
"If you look at overall whom we invite, it is a very broad spectrum of people and we want it that way," she said.
Still, West and some students would like to see more "Socratic" dialogue at Princeton, especially with non-government intellectuals.
"When we want high dialogue to challenge our students, if you look to government bureaucrats, it's going to be difficult," West said. "That's what's intellectuals do -- they're suspicious of these folk who tell lies."
Bruzonsky repeatedly challenged Slaughter to do a content analysis of all foreign policy forums the school has sponsored since 2001. He predicted she would find a trend of pro-government speakers. Slaughter said she accepts the challenge, though Bruzonsky said he doubts the analysis will occur.
Audience members criticized Slaughter for her statement in October that Rice exemplifies the values of the Woodrow Wilson School. Slaughter said she stands by that remark.
"Like Woodrow Wilson, she took expertise from the academy and put it to work in service for her government," Slaughter said. "What the motto (`Princeton in the nation's service, and in the service of all nations') means is that we take our knowledge and energy and we put it to work in the service for the nation and all nations."
There could have been more opportunities for dialogue with officials such as Rice if their schedules had permitted it, Slaughter said. Rice wanted to spend eight hours at Princeton, mostly speaking with students in roundtable discussions, but unexpectedly had to return to Washington immediately after her address, Slaughter said.
Slaughter also was criticized for her lighthearted introduction of Petraeus when he spoke in October. "He e-mailed me while in the Battle of Fallujah," she had said. The audience wanted to know last night why she didn't question him more directly about his actions in Iraq during that speech.
Slaughter agreed that this could have been misconstrued. Though she did question Petraeus about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, she said she sees now how her introduction of Petraeus might have looked to others.
"It was missed opportunity, but more importantly it made light of something that is not to be made light of," she said.
At the end of the debate, Slaughter said she heard a lot she had not heard before and that it may change her behavior, but even if it doesn't, she learned something.
Bruzonsky insisted that little will change, but West remained hopeful. "There's still a chance that some kind of transformation can come about," West said. "There's still a chance that Anne-Marie Slaughter, as dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, can bring that about."