Tag Archives: Princeton University

Waking up to racism at reunions

 

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Beyond the beer bracelets and the colorful jackets, the organizers of Princeton Alumni Reunions have included some displays and events that explain the history of white supremacy — the political, economic, and cultural system that manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.

On view today at the Frist Campus Center is the photographic story of James Johnson.  This is a somewhat positive story about a formerly enslaved man who worked at the university, in various capacities including as an entrepreneur selling snacks, from 1843 to 1902. A Princeton woman paid to keep from having him returned to his former owner. (He repaid the debt).

PTI

Until 5 p.m. today, on the south lawn of East Pyne Hall,  experience a solitary confinement cell in an exhibit organized by the New Jim Crow of Trenton and Princeton. This exhibit, also, has a positive spin. It is co-sponsored by the Class of 1994 and the admirable Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI).  PTI offers a panel on Friday, May 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Andlinger Center. 

PUAMOSE_30941In the Art Museum, now and until July 7, resonate with the problems of immigrants at the border in an exhibit: Miracles at the Border, 

 

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You may have noticed odd stones in the sidewalk on campus. They are part of the (In)Visible Princeton Walking Tours, five self-guided tours on your cell phone covering the experience of minorities (African-Americans, Women, and Asian-Americans) as well as standard Tiger traditions. Download and take any tour anytime.

Back by popular demand are the “performance theater” Race and Protest tours. When I took one last year there was some confusion, among those who signed up, about the format. The theater artists tell location-based stories. If you read this TODAY, May 31, meet at the Art Museum for an hour-long tour at 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. It’s well worth going. Or read about my experience here. 

And – if you are a townie – join Not in Our Town Princeton at the Princeton Public Library on Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m. for Continuing Conversations on Racism. At these monthly sessions you can learn about – through discussion with others — what white supremacy really means.

 

Executive male or black teen?

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Graph of MIT survey courtesy of NZHerald

Princeton engineering professor Alain Kornhauser might seem to dominate discussions of driverless cars; he’s making them and leading the dialogue on their controversies.

Now Princeton prof and Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman has been linked to the ethics of how driverless cars make their decisions about who to hit – cats or people? pregnant women or old man? In this article, Kahneman is cited re his experiment on the psychology of health decisions that extrapolates to the choices that driverless cars will make.

Quoting the Washington Post and NZ Herald (note the British spellings!)

The way questions are framed can often have an impact on the final decision that’s made. The behavioural scientist Daniel Kahneman illustrated this through a thought experiment in which the outbreak of an unusual disease was expected to kill 600 people.

Respondents, in this case, were offered two potential health programmes. In programme A, subjects were told they had a 100 per cent chance of saving 200 lives. Programme B offered a one-third chance of saving 600 lives and two-thirds possibility of saving no lives.

In this scenario, most people went for programme A – the guarantee of saving 200 lives.

However, when Kahneman switched the scenario to lives lost rather than lives saved, the choice respondents made was completely different.

When they were asked to choose between the 100 per cent chance of the death of 400 people or programme B (which remained unchanged), most respondents opted for the latter despite the fact that programme A was unchanged in both scenarios.

What Kahneman illustrated was that moral decisions can be swayed by the way in which the questioning is phrased.

Kahneman doesn’t decide. He illustrates the complexity of the decision. What I am asking? Will driverless cars “see” race? 

Entertaining Engineer: Prud’homme

 

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Gathered to hear Bob Prud’homme speak at the Princeton Chamber breakfast was a contingent from Princeton United Methodist Church. In this quickie snap, from left: Bruce Henry, Barbara Fox, Prudhomme in back, Jamileh Gerber in front, Dana Dreibelbis in back, Daniel Shungu in front. Also attending from Princeton UMC: Ed Sproles and Doug Fullman.

Scientific “war stories” were on the agenda today, as Bob Prud’homme entertained members of the Princeton Regional Chamber at the Nassau Club. Some of the twists and turns of his 40-year career at Princeton University revealed good news, some not so good.

In the disheartening category was the realization that, since virtually no drugs are manufactured in the United States, the U.S. stands to lose significant intellectual capital re drug development.

Why? A therapy doesn’t leap from lab to assembly line. It undergoes translation from research to retail in a “pilot” manufacturing plant, where veteran managers and supervisors can keep close tabs on quality control. Until recently the major pharmas built those pilot plants in the U.S., supervised by U.S. managers. If all the pilot plants move overseas, technical managers in the other countries will acquire that extremely valuable expertise.

On the heartening side, Prud’homme says he often finds himself working with research scientists in Asia whom he knows – because they were his students and collaborators at Princeton. Surely this answers any chauvinistic assertions that U.S. schools should limit the number of students from abroad.

IMG_4615In the good news category, Prud’homme and his collaborators get money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop drugs for global health. (UFAR founder Daniel Shungu, seen chatting with Prud’homme before the breakfast, is also the recipient of Gates funds.) What can sell in a blister pack at CVS won’t work for a third world country, which needs drugs to be packaged in jars that will last for six months in a hot damp climate. Princeton’s engineering quad leads the industry in meeting the need for these opportunities in drug delivery.

Only inexpensive drugs can be brought to poor countries. In contrast, cancer therapies are so costly that they can’t be used in the Third World. Prud’homme worries that cancer therapies will even be too expensive for OUR country’s insurance capacity, and that our healthcare business plans are in danger. Either our healthcare insurance will topple, or it will be outrageously unequally distributed, or the people will make decisions about what gets covered and who doesn’t.

One fix would be to deny $60,000 immunotherapy if it won’t prolong life by at last a year. Another way is to adopt the single-payer system used in Australia and make the hard decisions. “I worry about the future of our healthcare system,” says Prud’homme, “and that we will have an unjust society. What problems are we willing to live with?”

Prud’homme memorably described the ins and outs of nanotechnology in clear terms. The challenge for using nano in injectable drugs is that the drug might disperse too quickly, before it reaches the target site. The difficulty with using nano molecules in oral therapies is that many molecules are hydrophobic. They do not live comfortably in water.

His lab, successful in conquering both challenges, has been selected as the “academic lab of choice” by the major pharmas. The story behind that reinforces MY conviction that our town is ever so fortunate to have this university and these research labs at our doorstep.

Many complain that because the university has “deep pockets” it should pay more in lieu of taxes. Exactly because Princeton University has those deep pockets, it can afford to offer generous terms to potential partners. Someone asked how scientists can get molecules through the patent process without revealing secrets to competitors. The answer, says Prud’homme, lies in the university’s motto “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.”

Nobody has approved this metaphor, but here’s how I would explain it. You have five pirates at your door for Trick or Treat, almost identically costumed. One has a face mask, Pirate X. When a big pharma (BASF, GSK, Pfizer, Merck – all Princeton collaborators) wants to secretly develop a molecule, Princeton sends all five to the patent office, revealing the identity of four, leaving one unidentified. This gives the big pharma lead time to develop Molecule X. (Somebody please comment if this comparison doesn’t work.)

Princeton University came late to the entrepreneurial market becauase. as Prud’homme acknowledged, research suitable for the commercial market used to be scorned by the academics. Princeton was one of the most hoity-toity of universities in condemning research that results in a salable product.  He credits the philosophy of John Ritter  (in charge of technology licensing) and the success of two researchers – Steve Forrest and Edward C. Taylor – with changing the university’s attitudes about the inviolable sanctity of basic research. Forrest (now at the University of Michigan) channeled his research on organic light -emitting diodes (OLEDs) into a start-up, Universal Display Corporation that leads the market for displays for smart phones and has revenues of more than $300 million. Taylor developed the cancer-fighting drug, Alimta, and the proceeds from that virtually paid for the university’s new chemistry building.

With its generous endowment, the university does not have to nickel-and-dime its collaborators, and its scientists and engineers can be “in the nation’s service.”

Labs inside the Ivory Tower

Robert_Prudhomme-orig-300x300Find out what’s going on at Princeton University’s e-quad. What research projects will spawn the next billion dollar company? What, exactly, can we expect from nano technology? Hear Professor Robert Prud’homme’s entertaining stories on Wednesday, November 14, 8 a.m. at the Nassau Club. Plus, it’s a yummy breakfast! See you there — Click here for details.

Gossip’s Guide: What to see in 20 minutes?

Antonio Salemme's Paul Robeson
Antonio Salemme;s Paul Robeson

 

Conversing with a reference librarian at the Princeton Public Library, I learned that visitors sometimes ask: “What can I do in an hour before I leave for the airport?”

With my Gossip’s Guide hat on – I suggest: 

In 20 minutes, more or less

The Quick Paul Robeson Tour: Check out the Robeson bust by Antonio Salemme in the Princeton Room on the second floor of the library. Walk past the Arts Council of Princeton’s Robeson bust (this site formerly belonged to the Colored YMCA) to the Paul Robeson house and Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, where his father preached. (Both visible only from the outside).

the Norman Rockwell “Yankee Doodle” painting at the Nassau Inn Tap Room (reminding the patron that it is NOT a colonial era building!). Check out the alumni headshots. If you have time, a free place to sit is the upstairs lounge, by the fireplace.

Princeton Cemetery. Available at the entrance is a new brochure. 

Tiger Walk:  Stroll from the tiger in Palmer Square and the tigers at the entrance to Nassau Hall. Keep going and you will find more.

The Comparative Architecture Tour: Enjoy the interior of the Princeton Public Library, a Taj Mahal of libraries, designed by the Hillier firm. Diagonally across, the work of postmodern architect Michael Graves. Contemplate the differences. Then check out the interior of the Arts Council and the current exhibit.

Dohm Alley: a startling array of thoughts and objects in a small narrow space. Plus, there’s a water feature good for contemplating, and it’s right down the street from the town’s college bookstore (never miss a chance to enjoy a college bookstore.)

In 30-40 minutes

A quick Einstein tour — the Einstein museum in the back of Landau’s plus the Einstein bust at the corner of 206 and Nassau Street, great photo op. (The house is too far to walk in a hurry, but I tell people to drive and park on Edgehill.) 

Morven, now made relevant by truthful and inclusive exhibits that tell the stories of female occupants and slaves.

Prospect Gardens, always attractive in any season.

Cotsen Children’s Library inside Firestone Library

Princeton University Chapel, always open and it has a brochure about the windows

Tiffany Window Tour at Princeton United Methodist Church on Fridays and Sundays noon-2.

Quick sculpture tour 1: Circle of Animals by Ai Weiwei and Picassso’s Head of a Woman, down by the former Dinky Station.

Quick sculpture tour 2: The Plaza in front of the chapel: statue of John Witherspoon, Song of the Vowels by Lipschitz, and (just inside the University Library, and open to the public) Noguchi’s White Sun. Throw in Oval with Points if you are walking that way.

This tour works if a Princeton native can direct the visitor. Later I may have time to add the links. What would YOU recommend?

 

Prep for the P-rade

pamperedFor an in-depth look at Princeton Reunions, here is E.E. Whiting’s research in U.S. 1 Newspaper

plus wristband reflections by Richard K. Rein.

In the sister paper, Princeton Echo, the Pampered Princetonian: reflections on student privilege.

But by all means don’t miss the P-rade. Best viewing area, steps of Whig or Clio. It starts at 2 but bring water and sunscreen and nab an early seat.

Discrimination x three: Princeton stories

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Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, photo by Denise Applewhite

Thanks to Planet Princeton’s Princeton Wire newsletter for the news roundup that alerted me to an article on housing discrimination research at Princeton University by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies and author of From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation. She has a fascinating biography.

“Putting the blame on the individual suggests that racism can be overcome by education alone,” said Taylor. She is quoted in the article as reminding us that throughout history racism has been used as a way for the powerful to control others for material gain — and it is still used that way.

Another amazing but grim story from the Planet Princeton lineup is about the wrongfully imprisoned Princeton alumnus from Iran. 

If first aired on the Moth Radio Hour, which if you didn’t know about, you want to.

Less grim but still unsettling is the Daily Princeton article on research showing that, at the tender age of six, kids think boys are smarter than girls.

Race discrimination, nationality discrimination, gender discrimination — does this go on  forever?  Parents, start with your two year olds, they have to be carefully taught.

Princeton’s Got Innovation

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Thirty thousand grand will be on the line on Wednesday, February 15, at the Innovation Forum organized by Princeton University’s Keller Center. Participants present their research in a three-minute “elevator pitch” to the audience and a panel of judges. Simon Cowell’s got nothing on this show!

Register to come and watch the excitement.  You get to see inside the Andlinger Center and there’s networking and refreshments afterward.

 

The dollar value of Orange and Black

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I’m not among those who think Princeton University should pay more taxes. The University is the reason my house is worth more than a house three miles away. The University is a big part of the reason I moved here.

Here is the report citing the dollar value of the university. It was put together by a New York-based consulting firm, Appleseed. Yes, the university paid for it. But that doesn’t make it untrue.

While I’m thinking about the plethora of university events that I could attend if I had the time, many of my favorite events take place at the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding. It’s on the edge of the Engineering Quad at the corner of Prospect and Olden.

As one of the several events that will commemorate the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the university will host a free community breakfast on January 16 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Fields Center. Everyone’s invited.

Insider tip: this even used to be held after lunch in Richardson Auditorium. This year it changed to a breakfast and, for the first time (!), the MLK day is a holiday for university employees.

 

Sassy Latina? Maybe not always.

 

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“I am inspired by lessons from the Caribbean that underscore creativity, resilience and the capacity for both resistance and celebration in the midst of difficulty,” says Alicia Diaz, a professional dancer who grew up in Princeton. She will participate in an unusual lecture demonstration this Friday afternoon  at Princeton University. Entitled “Diasporic Body Grammar: an encounter of movements and words,” it will be December 2, 2 to 5:30 p.m. in the Wilson College Black Box Theater.

Asked, in an interview, whether she struggles with stereotypes, Diaz brought forward the stereotype of the “sassy Latina.” “Here ethnicity, gender, and sexuality come together to be consumed and dismissed at the same time. I struggle with rejecting the stereotype and its negative implications while also acknowledging and owning its potential power.” 

Diaz, assistant professor of dance at the University of Richmond, will perform with her partner, Matthew Thornton. Here is a video of her work. Also participating will be a Brazilian artist, Antonio Nobrega. For information, contact Pedro Meira Monteiro pmeira@PRINCETON.EDU