Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 8
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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University Appoints Van Jones Visiting Fellow

Dilshanie Perera

Former White House adviser on the Council on Environmental Quality Van Jones has been appointed as a distinguished visiting fellow in the Center for African American Studies and the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

The appointment of Mr. Jones, who is also an environmental activist and social entrepreneur, “has everything to do with his extraordinary career, his body of work, and experience in environmental justice that covers well over two decades,” said Eddie Glaude, chair of the Center for African American Studies and William S. Tod Professor of Religion at the University.

During his tenure as White House adviser, Mr. Jones had been the target of criticism by conservative media personalities, most vocally Glenn Beck of FOX News, for being associated with radical protest movements, and for past public comments. The media frenzy led to Mr. Jones’s resignation from the post in September of last year.

“What we are focusing on is Van Jones’s 20-year body of academic work, and his insight into African American communities and communities of color,” Mr. Glaude said, adding, “We think universities are places where diverse ideas can coexist and collide. They are vibrant and vital spaces.”

Mr. Glaude elaborated, “The appointment of Van Jones represents our commitment to this value, especially in the context of difficult discussions about environmental challenges and African Americans.” He emphasized that the Center’s “model is a kind of conversation that is civil, where folks can disagree.”

Author of The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, Mr. Jones was a primary advocate for the 2007 Green Jobs Act, and served from March to September 2009 as the Obama administration’s special adviser for green jobs, enterprise, and innovation. Mr. Jones is also the co-founder of three non-profit organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All.

The one-year appointment will be for the 2010-2011 academic year, with Mr. Jones slated to teach a semester-long course on race, ecology, and the environment, which Mr. Glaude described as a “wonderful opportunity” for students to engage with someone with experience in politics, policy, and activism.

Mr. Jones is the third distinguished fellow to be appointed to the Center. Previous appointees are Professors Keith Wailoo and Imani Perry, who study the history of science and critical race theory (among many other topics), respectively.

The selection of Mr. Jones as someone outside of academia was characterized by Mr. Glaude as “reflective of the Center’s ambition. We see ourselves as a kind of convening place for wide array of ideas and personalities, in order to better understand the complexities confronting race.”

Upcoming events at the Center include the annual James Baldwin Lecture, “The Meaning of Race in the Post-Genome Era” presented by University President Shirley Tilghman on March 9 at 5:30 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium. The event, which is free and open to the public, requires tickets that will be available from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 1, at the Richardson Auditorium box office. After March 1, tickets for the general public will be available at the Frist Campus Center ticket office from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday while supplies last. Individuals without tickets may wait in a line outside the auditorium on the day of the event for any seats that remain.

“We want to become a resource for the nation,” Mr. Glaude said of the goals and vision of the Center for African American Studies. “We want to generate new languages and model new dispositions.”

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