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Town-Gown Relationship Failures Should Not Be Blamed on Tilghman

To the Editor:

The University had a recent meeting with members of the community seeking advice in the selection of a new president to replace Shirley Tilghman. Their comments confirm that Princeton is not much different from other college towns that don’t know how to deal with the “elephant in the room.” Relationship failures between town and gown should not be laid at the feet of President Tilghman nor should we ask the Trustees to pick a president whose prime responsibility is to smooth over those relationships.

The problem as I see it has to do with the missions of the two entities. The mission of the University is to be the best University in the world. By contrast, towns don’t seem to have a mission other than to satisfy the wishes of the electorate with plans that are limited to preserving the status quo. The contrast in planning efforts between the town and the University reveals the tremendous disparity. The University should not consider moves that are harmful to the town even though certain conflicts are to be expected. It appears that the town considers that its mission is to constrain and prohibit growth and expansion.

I am not optimistic that town and gown will reach accord on all issues. It would be helpful if the town rearranged its priorities so the missions were compatible and that the dialogue move beyond the issues of “payments in lieu of taxes” are whether The University has the right to relocate the Dinky.

As a proud Princeton Alumni, I want our next president to be a great educator, in the mold of Woodrow Wilson. I think Shirley Tilghman has been a great president and I am glad she didn’t come from the world of politics or business.

Jeremiah Ford III, AlA

Ford 3 Architects, Nassau Street

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