September 19, 2018

Princeton-based Boy Scout Troop 43 kicked off its centennial year with a community picnic on Sunday afternoon at Mercer Meadows Rosedale Park in Pennington. The event included a hike, fishing, lawn games, a first aid demonstration, flag ceremony, grilled meal, and ice cream. Participants share their favorite things about scouting in this week’s Town Talk on Page 6. (Photo by Erica M. Cardenas)

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE: Twenty-eight area residents from 14 different countries were sworn in by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Deputy District Director Tamika Gray to become U.S. citizens at the Princeton Public Library on Monday. Welcoming Week events continue in Princeton through Sunday, September 23. (Photo by Donald Gilpin)

By Donald Gilpin

It’s Welcoming Week in Princeton, September 14-23, and a full slate of welcoming events is underway, highlighted by Monday’s naturalization ceremony where 28 Princeton area residents took the oath of allegiance to become new citizens of the United States.

“This week is a celebration of the town and all of the different peoples that make this such a vibrant community,” said Welcoming Week Co-Organizer Kim Dorman of the Princeton Public Library (PPL). more

By Anne Levin

Princeton University’s intimate art museum is on track to become considerably larger. The University has selected Sir David Adjaye of Adjaye Associates as design architect, in collaboration with Cooper Robertson as executive architect, for what is being called the new Princeton University Art Museum.

“The reimagined museum will be the cultural gateway between Princeton University, its students, faculty, and the world, a place of mind-opening encounter with art and ideas ‘in the service of humanity,’” said Adjaye. “We are deeply honored to be part of the next chapter of its history.” more

By Donald Gilpin

Sheila Reynertson, senior policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective, warned a gathering of Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) members and others at the Suzanne Patterson Center Sunday night that the new tax bill is a bad deal for most New Jersey residents and that the majority of benefits accrue to the wealthiest five percent.

In addition, she noted, the bill’s increasing price tag, now estimated to be about $1.9 trillion, up from $1.5 trillion a year ago, exacerbates the impact on middle-class and low-income Americans by putting increased budget pressure on vital programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, and housing support.

Reynertson shared the podium with Karen A. Artasanchez, a CPA and tax professional at Wilkin & Guttenplan, who presented information on how tax legislation impacts individuals.  more

PRESIDENTIAL DESIGN: Woodrow Wilson and his wife had an active role in the design of this house on Library Place, where they lived during his tenure as Princeton University president. To honor the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of World War I during Wilson’s U.S. presidency, the home’s current owners are holding an event to benefit the nonprofit Give Something Back foundation. (Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton)

By Anne Levin

Woodrow Wilson has been the focus of numerous events that Robert Carr has held in his home at 82 Library Place. It was Wilson, after all, who designed and built the house in 1896, during his tenure as president of Princeton University.

But the “Party of the Century,” planned for Sunday, November 11, is the first time Carr is using his historic home for a fundraiser. The event will benefit Give Something Back, which provides scholarships and mentoring to students facing economic hardship and other adversities. Carr founded the nonprofit in 2003, the same year he bought the house. more

BLOSSOMING CAREER: Princeton University biochemistry postdoctoral researcher Melanie McReynolds has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna Gray Fellow, with an award of up to $1.4M in funding for her research on aging. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky)

By Donald Gilpin

She came from rural Mississippi to a special Bridges to the Doctorate Program and a PhD at Penn State University, then a postdoctoral research position in biochemistry at Princeton University, but Melanie McReynolds is not resting on her laurels. Last week, she added to her achievements with an award of $1.4 M in funding over the next eight years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

McReynolds was named one of just 15 postdocs across the United States who was selected by HHMI as a Hanna Gray Fellow, gaining “the freedom to follow her curiosity, and the support of the vast community of HHMI scientists, a stellar group that includes the world’s leading biomedical researchers,” according to the HHMI announcement. more

By Anne Levin

Concerns about a rapidly changing climate are the focus of “Accelerating Climate Action in the United States,” a conference taking place at Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment Thursday and Friday, September 20 and 21.

Tammy Snyder Murphy, New Jersey’s first lady and an advocate for clean energy in New Jersey, will give the keynote address on Friday. Debbie Mans, deputy commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, delivers the public lecture on Thursday.

The two-day event is designed to explore what government, individuals, industry, and other stakeholders can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The conference examines what actions are being taken, with a focus on the power and transportation sectors, the two largest sources of U.S. emissions, and how to facilitate a shift toward a low-carbon economy. more

By Stuart Mitchner

It’s never very pleasant in the morning to open The New York Times

—W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

Auden was speaking in the fall of 1972, a year before he died in Vienna on September 28, 1973. One source of unpleasantness at that moment in history was Richard Nixon, who was into the before-the-fall fall of his second term. In mid-September 2018 opening the Times is like the first jarring swallow of a cup of gruesomely strong coffee you can’t stop drinking. Every morning you feel small stirrings of hope that the taste will mellow down to something closer to the Obama latte flavor you fondly like to think it used to have. Every morning it’s the same ordeal, with just a hint of the the addictive richness of false hope before the super-caffeinated reality hits you.  more

“CORN SNAKE”: This painting by Andrew Lee is the Mercer County winner of the 13th annual “Species on the Edge” contest, in which nature art and essays on New Jersey’s threatened and endangered species were created by fifth grade students from across the state. The exhibit runs through October 12 in the Olivia Rainbow Gallery in D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center in Princeton.

D&R Greenway and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey host “Species on the Edge,” through October 12 at The Olivia Rainbow Gallery in D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, Princeton. Nature art and essays on New Jersey’s more than 80 threatened and endangered species were created by fifth-grade students across the state. Their work evidences intensive study and arresting talent. For this 13th annual contest, over 2,500 entries were juried. Since 2003, over 12,000 New Jersey children have participated. more

Sponsored by the Sourland Conservancy and the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, the third annual revival reenactment is on Saturday, September 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Skillman Park. Featured are the Capital City Gospel Singers of Trenton, with special guests Bertha Morgan and East Amwell historian Jim Davidson. Bring a blanket or chair, beach umbrella, and picnic lunch (or purchase one while supplies last). Tickets are $25 adult ($30 at the gate); $10 children 7-12; children under 7, free. Proceeds benefit the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum. For more information, visit www.sourland.org/2018-camp-meeting-revival.

“WHISTLERS DOG”: This work by Robert Beck is one of more than 40 paintings featured in “Robert Beck: Archetype,” on view at the New Hope Arts Center through October 7. Beck, who has a studio in Solebury, Pa., is the Center’s 2018 Legacy Artist.

New Hope Arts Center at 2 Stockton Avenue in New Hope, Pa., presents Robert Beck, their 2018 Legacy Artist, in “Robert Beck: Archetype,” on view until October 7. The exhibition showcases 40 paintings from Beck’s most recent work: images of New York, Maine, and the Bucks County area. more

“THE AGE OF INNOCENCE”: Performances are underway for “The Age of Innocence.” Directed by Doug Hughes, the play runs through October 7 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre. An Old Gentleman (Boyd Gaines, far left) looks on as Newland Archer (Andrew Veenstra, left) and Countess Ellen Olenska (Sierra Boggess) face the conflict between their love, and their responsibility to their families — and to society in 1870s New York. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson.) 

By Donald H. Sanborn III

An exquisite new stage adaptation of The Age of Innocence opened September 15 at McCarter. In adapting Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel, which in 1921 made her the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, playwright Douglas McGrath honors its literary intent. However, he skillfully edits it to heighten its power as a piece of theater.

As pianist Yan Li plays the pensive opening notes of the incidental score by Mark Bennett, an Older Gentleman of the 1920s enters. He describes New York in the 1870s — the Gilded “Age” that gives the novel its ironic title — as a place where elite society brings rigid social conventions.

At the Academy of Music — which is the preeminent place to see an opera, as the Metropolitan on 39th Street is still under construction — an older woman, Mrs. Manson Mingott, is seated in a box with other female members of her family, including the Countess Ellen Olenska.  more

Papa Leroux (George Agalias, right) proposes to Rubenesque heiress Daisy Tillou (actually “dead” artist Jean-Francois Millet disguised as his own sister — both played by Nick Pecht) in “Is He Dead?,” a “new comedy” by Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives. The production by ActorsNET performs weekends September 28 through October 14 at The Heritage Center Theatre, 635 North Delmorr Avenue, Morrisville, Pa. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors 62 and up, $15 for WHYY members and students, and $10 for children age 12 and under. To reserve, call (215) 295 3694, email actorsnet@aol.com, or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

George Street Playhouse’s Educational Touring Theatre, courtesy of support from The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and RWJBarnabas Health, will premiere a new musical about the opioid crisis and its impact on teens and families. Developed in response to the devastating impact prescription opioid misuse, heroin, and fentanyl have had on communities throughout New Jersey, Anytown will premiere on September 25 at George Street Playhouse as part of a special Spotlight Conference on Opioid Abuse. 

The Spotlight Conference will feature a keynote address from New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal along with workshops for educators, school administrators, and public health professionals conducted by experts in the field from RWJBarnabas Health’s Institute for Prevention and Recovery.  more

BEST BEVERAGES: The staff at Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet in Lawrenceville is proud of the store’s new renovation, offering an even more convenient shopping experience for customers. Its excellent and comprehensive selection of wine, beer, and spirits and its knowledgeable staff have ensured the store’s success for nearly 17 years.

By Jean Stratton

Joe Canal’s, the popular discount liquor outlet, has a new look! It has undergone a major renovation offering more open space, wider aisles, more convenient accessibility, new lighting, and easier checkout options.

“We’ll be open for 17 years this November. We felt it was time for an upgrade, as the store was beginning to look dated,” says Mark Hutchinson, managing partner of Birchfield Ventures, which owns Joe Canal’s.

“Our focus is always to improve the shopping experience,” he continues. “We opened up the entry and made check-out easier. The additional space we created also enabled us to add more than 500 new wine, beer, and liquor items.” more

COMING THROUGH: Princeton University football player Charlie Volker fights to break a tackle in a 2017 game. Last Saturday, senior running back Volker rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns to help Princeton defeat Butler 50-7 in its season opener. The Tigers host Monmouth (2-1) on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As the Princeton University football team headed into its season opener last Saturday at Butler University, Bob Surace was cautiously optimistic.

“It is always hard to predict; we are always going against each other but they have been so good in camp,” said Surace. “They have been focused, they have worked hard. They have done all the things right. It makes you feel good as a coach that they are going to be ready.”

It didn’t take long for Surace to feel very good as senior star quarterback John Lovett returned with a bang after missing 2017 to injury, hitting classmate Jesper Horsted for a 63-yard touchdown pass 26 seconds into the contest. more

By Bill Alden

Lucy Rickerson is just a sophomore, but she stands out as the most battle-tested player on the back line for the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

Last fall in her debut campaign, Rickerson made 17 appearances with 16 starts, earning Honorable-Mention All-Ivy League honors at defender as she played alongside senior stars Natalie Larkin, Mikaela Symanovich, and Katie Pratt-Thompson.

With the trio having graduated, Rickerson has assumed a leadership role despite her relative youth.

“It was definitely a little intimidating at the beginning of the year because we weren’t sure what we were going to do. All three seniors that we graduated were amazing players and mentors to me,” said Rickerson, a native of San Diego, Calif.

“It has been that transition from me being the freshman on a back line with seniors to having to step into that leader role, which is very humbling. I am very thankful that I get to do that. I hope we can just continue to grow; that is all we can do.”

Last Sunday evening, the back line showed growth, holding the fort as the Tigers battled to a 0-0 draw through two overtimes against visiting Drexel, moving to 5-2-1 and earning their fifth shutout of the season.

“I think we did a really good job this game; we got a shutout and they definitely had chances,” said Rickerson, who is being joined in the back by junior Olivia Sheppard, sophomore Emily Hilliard-Arce and sophomore Eve Hewins.

“Numbers four (Rachel Sharkey) and six (Shaelyn McCarty) for them were amazing players. The fact that we held them speaks a lot to how we have grown as a back line this year and people stepping up at those positions.”

Princeton head coach Sean Driscoll liked the way his team stepped up in the second half after getting outshot 4-2 in the first half.

“I thought we were a lot more proactive defensively in the second half,” said Driscoll, whose team had a 7-4 edge in shots over the last 45 minutes of regulation.

“We made them work harder to get out of situations. We created a lot of turnovers in the middle third, we created some turnovers in the final third. We made the game more difficult for them and that was from a change in the intent of the defending, playing with more focus.”

Driscoll credits Rickerson and Sheppard with displaying good focus in the middle of the Princeton defense.

“Lucy and Olivia played every minute of the game today and they played every minute of the game against Georgetown (a 2-1 overtime loss on September 13); they are a good partnership,” said Driscoll, whose team has been yielding 0.75 goals a game this season.

“Emily did well, Eve did well; they are all working supremely hard. They are still figuring things out back there because they are new playing together. We don’t give up many goals. It is a credit to them and credit to the players in front of them working hard to help.”

The Tigers need to produce better work around the goal. “We created better chances in the second half, I thought, than they did,” said Driscoll.

“In the first overtime, I thought we were better. In the second overtime, I thought they were better. The plan was there; the execution was not as good as we would like but we kept the ball really well, we moved the ball, we generated chances. I think the reality is that we just need to get better in the final third. You have to give the maximum effort every second you are on the field from the first minute to the last.”

With Princeton opening its Ivy League campaign at Yale (5-2-1) on September 22, Driscoll is confident he will get a big effort from his players.

“It is a great group of kids, we have a lot of talent,” asserted Driscoll. “We move the ball very well in the middle third of the field, we move the ball very well out of the back. We just have to get better in the final third; that is our focus.”

Rickerson, for her part, believes that the Tigers are primed to show their talent against the Bulldogs.

“Every game we have grown a little bit, no matter the outcome, and we have learned a lot about ourselves so I personally feel very good going into this first game with Yale,” said Rickerson.

“We know what we need to work on. We have been watching Yale’s games as well; it is going to be a great matchup. Yale is always a great opponent and all of the Ivy games have a different energy. I am excited to get into that. It is fun to play against schools who we have a lot of respect for and get to see every year.” 

GROUP EFFORT: Princeton University field hockey player MaryKate Neff, far left, along with Elise Wong, goalie Grace Baylis and Nicole Catalino take a break during a recent game. Sophomore star Neff scored goals in both games last weekend as No. 5 Princeton defeated Monmouth 4-1 on Friday and then topped No. 13 Delaware 4-2 on Sunday. The Tigers, who improved to 5-2 with the victories, were slated to host No. 3 Maryland on September 18 before starting Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

With one college season under her belt, MaryKate Neff is developing a knack for being in the right place at the right time around the goal for the Princeton University field hockey team.

“The way I like to play and the positions I get on the field helps me to find the last touch,” said sophomore midfielder Neff, a 5’7 native of Villanova, Pa.

“Most of it comes from the other people on the ball finding the back post and me making those runs, trying to get there. On the corners, I am in a prime rebound spot to put it back in.”

Against visiting Monmouth last Friday afternoon, Neff came through on a penalty corner in the first half, redirecting a hit from Maddie Bacskai into the cage to give Princeton a 2-0 lead.

“Maddie was looking to score and I know she tends to go certain places, so I knew to put my stick in and hopefully I got a touch on it,” said Neff.

The Tigers didn’t lose their finishing touch, pulling away to a 4-1 win over the Hawks.

“We really try to have our corners be efficient and we have been practicing them a lot,” said Neff. “They kind of fell a little bit in our last games. I think today, they were executed better; even if we didn’t get them all first, we got the second rebound.”

With so many returners from a 2017 squad that went undefeated in Ivy League play and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals, the Tigers have been showing a greater efficiency this fall.

“The core of our team is still the same from last year,” said Neff, who scored another goal last Sunday as No. 5 Princeton defeated 13th-ranked Delaware 4-2 and improved to 5-2. “It was just finding our identity and playing together a little more. I know where my role is on the team and that helped me settle in.”

Earning a spot on the U.S. Under-21 team this summer gave Neff the chance to sharpen her skills.

“I had the opportunity to play in a bunch of different tryout tournaments,” said Neff.

“Playing at that high level of hockey, playing with new coaching styles and new people helped me keep my game at a certain level and not to fall off, to keep skills and stay in shape. I had the opportunity to make the 21s, which is great.”

Princeton head coach Carla Tagliente likes the way Neff capitalizes on her chances around the goal.

“MaryKate is one that is opportunistic; she gets her nose in there and rolls her sleeves up,” said Tagliente of Neff, who has three goals in Princeton’s last four games and now has a team-high four on the season. “She is a gritty player and has one of those engines that doesn’t stop. It is good and timely as well, when we need them.”

While acknowledging that the Tigers could have been sharper against Monmouth, Tagliente still saw a lot of positives

“A win is a win and it feels good; I would like us to be a little more opportunistic with the chances that we had,” said Tagliente.

“Monmouth defends well, I think we had some nice goals tonight. Overall, we played nice hockey. We possessed the ball well; we were very close to executing on some more.”

Freshman Ali McCarthy enjoyed a nice moment on Friday, tallying her first career goal.

“That was helpful because I think she struggled out of the gate to get going; hopefully this is a boost to her confidence,” said Tagliente of McCarthy, who added another goal in the win over Delaware on Sunday. “I think she had a nice game today; she almost broke open a couple more.”

Senior star Sophia Tornetta has given the Tigers a big lift in the early going this season.

“Sophia has gotten off to a good start; she has played extremely well all over the field,” said Tagliente of Tornetta, who has tallied three goals and two assists.  “She has been a big bright spot for us so far; her confidence is super high.”

Tagliente is confident that her squad’s best hockey is ahead of it.

“We are playing good hockey,” said Tagliente, whose team was slated to host No. 3 Maryland on September 18 before starting Ivy League play by hosting Dartmouth on September 22.

“I don’t think we have played our best hockey yet, which is fine. We have room for growth. Their responsiveness to ‘take each game as it is and not look ahead’ has been good. I am happy with the potential that we have. We have done really well, but we have not quite hit our stride yet, especially in the attack end. So when that happens, it will be good.”

Neff, for her part, senses that the Tigers are on their way to a very good season.

“I think our team is really, really special this year. There is something about the way we show up to practice, everybody has this energy and everybody is willing to put the work in,” asserted Neff.

“Every single person on the team has the capability to play on the field and make an impact; everyone always gives 100 percent and it brings out the best in everyone. The attitude of everybody on the team is so positive. We are all genuinely like a family and that shows on the field.”

STICKING WITH IT: Princeton Day School field hockey Gwen Allen controls the ball in recent action. Last Thursday, senior star and tri-captain Allen scored the winning goal as PDS edged Stuart Country Day School 2-1 in overtime. The Panthers, now 3-0, host Blair Academy on September 22 and Peddie School on September 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Gwen Allen and her teammates on the Princeton Day School field hockey team were a bit frustrated as their battle with local rival Stuart Country Day School headed into overtime last Thursday.

“I feel like we should have scored earlier on; we had a lot more opportunities than they did and we had great offensive sequences,” said Allen.

“We felt like we were playing well, we just weren’t able to finish it. It was ‘let’s just close it out.’”

After coming to the bench for a brief rest during the overtime, Allen returned to the contest and finished it off, tallying a goal with 3:36 left in the extra session to give PDS a 2-1 win as it improved to 3-0.

“When I went back in, Val [Radvany] had the ball at midfield and there was nobody in front and I got it and it was a one versus two,” said Allen.

“I tried to get close to the circle and my first shot was bad, but Lyla Allen (not Gwen’s sister) got the rebound and passed it to me. It was a weird shot; it kind of trickled in.”

While the shot may not have been a thing of beauty, the result was heartening for PDS.

“It was really exciting. It was definitely a relief,” said Allen. “Most of all, I was really proud of my team. It was the first time we have gone to overtime and we have a really young team with a lot of freshman. I was proud of everyone for sticking with it.”

Allen credited the Stuart defense with making PDS work overtime.

“They were good at getting out quickly and finding the girl in the middle and distributing it out, but for the most part we had possession, which was awesome,” said Allen.

In Allen’s view, the team’s 3-0 start has been awesome if a little unexpected.

“After the preseason, I was a little worried; we lost a lot of really good players and starters from last year,” said Allen.

“We have a super young team. The Allen twins (freshmen Lyla and Emily) have really been helping; they are super athletic and in shape. They are a huge help, and the other younger players are all stepping up and doing well. We had some players who were on JV last year and got bumped up to varsity and they have been great.”

The trio of senior stars Allen, Radvany, and Sasha Sindhwani looking to help the younger players feel comfortable on the varsity.

“We are really close; it has been us three since freshman year, so we are super excited to be able to lead the team together,” said Allen.

“It is a good dynamic; we have good communication. We all agree on leadership style and how we do things. It is fun to be captains with Val and Sasha.”

PDS head coach Heather Farlow had fun seeing Allen come through with the game-winning tally.

“We were talking to Gwen; we wanted her to shoot more at the top of the circle,” said Farlow. “During the game, we were telling her you have got to yell that you are wide open and stuff. We finally got her the ball; it was good.”

The Panthers played some good hockey against the Tartans.

“I knew that we wanted to play a passing game; I felt that we really did control possession most of the game,” said Farlow, who also got a goal from Sindhwani on a first half penalty stroke. “They had some good defensive plays; they were tough.”

Surviving the extra session was a good step forward early in the season for PDS.

“It points out some strengths and weaknesses; it is good competition,” said Farlow, whose team hosts Blair Academy on September 22 and Peddie School on September 25.

“We just want to keep moving forward, we have done some nice things. We have executed what we have practiced but we just need to keep putting it together.”

Allen, for her part, believes that the Panthers need to sharpen up on their execution around goal.

“I think next week we are definitely going to be working on fitness and finishing on attack,” said Allen. “It will be moving and shooting and how to get around the defense and the goalie. Circle attack will be the focus.”

THIRD PARTY: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Nicole Samios hits a serve in a match last fall. Junior Samios is playing at third singles again for PHS this fall and has helped the team get off to a 2-1 start. In upcoming action, the Little Tigers have matches at WW/P-South on September 20 and at Allentown on September 21 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on September 24 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Although the Princeton High girls’ tennis team may not boast any superstars in its 2018 lineup, it possesses the depth and experience to maintain the program’s winning tradition.

“We have a lot of seniors,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, noting that the roster includes six seniors with four currently in the starting lineup.

“We want to send them out on a high note and we are hoping to have the best season we can.”

One of those seniors, Sydney Vine, has moved into the first singles spot.  more

BUSHWHACKER: Princeton High girls’ soccer player Greta Bush, left, battles a foe for the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, sophomore defender Bush scored a goal in a losing cause as PHS fell 3-1 to visiting Steinert. The Little Tigers, now 2-1-2 after defeating Trenton Central 6-0 last Monday, host WW/P-North on September 20 before playing at Allentown on September 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After getting called up to the Princeton High girls’ varsity soccer team last year as a freshman, Greta Bush has established herself as a key defender for the squad this fall.

But last Saturday as PHS hosted Steinert, Bush demonstrated that her tenacious defense can lead to offense, lofting a volley for a goal to help the Little Tigers knot the game at 1-1 in the first half.

“I didn’t realize I was going to get the ball from her; I was just fighting for the ball and I didn’t want to give up,” said Bush. more

September 12, 2018

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) hosted its annual Fall Open House on Saturday afternoon, which included an opening reception for the “Members Exhibition” in the Taplin Gallery. Participants share their favorite art forms in this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

The conflict seems to intensify as postponement of the Princeton Board of Education (BOE) vote on Princeton Public Schools’ (PPS) proposed $129.6M bond issue, and consequent postponement of the ballot issue until after the November 6 general election, gives both sides the opportunity to develop and clarify their cases.

Last week, shortly before its Tuesday night meeting at which it was planning to vote to place the referendum on the November ballot, the BOE was informed that due to a backlog the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) was still reviewing the district’s plans and that the referendum would have to be postponed until after the November ballot.  more

By Anne Levin

A new lawsuit has been filed by opponents of Rider University’s proposed sale of Westminster Choir College to a company they say is owned by the government of China and threatens the music school’s academic freedom.

Seven people are plaintiffs in the suit filed in New Jersey Superior Court this week. It names Rider, the Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation, and Beijing Kaiwen Education Technology Co., Ltd., claiming that the proposed sale is “a disguised takeover of an American college by the Chinese government,” said Bruce Afran, attorney for the Westminster Foundation, in a press release. The Foundation is made up of alumni and supporters working to maintain the choir college and protect its independence. more

By Donald Gilpin

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has called for the immediate release of Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, who has been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years.  The Working Group has concluded that the government of Iran had “no legal basis for the arrest and detention” of the 37-year-old history scholar, that Iran committed “multiple violations” of his right to a fair trial, and that his “deprivation of liberty is arbitrary.”

Responding to a petition filed earlier this year by Wang’s wife Hua Qu and his mother, the Working Group’s report, adopted on August 23, states, “The Working Group requests the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Wang without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms.”  It goes on to assert that the appropriate remedy would be to release Wang immediately.

A naturalized American citizen and fourth-year graduate student, Wang was in Iran in 2016 to study Farsi and conduct research for his doctoral dissertation, reviewing documents dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Iran’s National Archives.

He was arrested in August 2016, confined in Tehran’s Evin Prison, convicted in a non-public trial on two counts of espionage, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Working Group, which expressed grave concerns about Wang’s health and about the conditions in which he is being held, concluded that Wang was peacefully exercising his right to seek and receive information for academic purposes; that Iran’s espionage laws are vague and overly broad; that no trial of Wang should have taken place; that the Revolutionary Courts that tried Wang and heard his appeal “do not meet the standards of an impartial and independent tribunal”; and that Wang’s case is part of a pattern of Iran targeting foreign nationals for detention.

In Iran’s response to the petition, according to the UN Working Group, “the government did not explain…how Mr. Wang had cooperated with a foreign state… against the Islamic Republic of Iran, nor how accessing historical archives relating to a period of governance over 100 years ago could amount to an attempt to overthrow the Iranian government.”

Iran also “did not explain how Mr. Wang’s trial on espionage charges posed a national security threat so serious that it warranted a closed hearing,” the Working Group noted.  The report went on to claim that Wang’s imprisonment was motivated by the fact that he is a United States citizen and that his 10-year prison sentence is disproportionately heavy, “as there is no evidence that…he was intending to, or did in fact, conduct espionage or cause ethnic crisis in Iran.” 

Responding to the U.N. Working Group report on Monday, Princeton University Vice President and Secretary Robert K. Durkee said, “The Working Group makes it clear that Wang was in Iran solely to do scholarly work, and that the charges against him were entirely without merit.  We hope these findings by the Working Group and its call for his immediate release will, in fact, expedite his release so he can return to his family and come back to campus to complete his Ph.D.”

In a separate statement also issued Monday, Hua Qu described “many cruelties” that her husband had undergone “from being kidnapped to enduring solitary confinement, repeated interrogations, humiliating treatment, harsh living conditions, unjust legal proceedings, and immense emotional distress,” resulting in deterioration of his physical and mental health.

“He has lost weight, developed arthritis in his knees, suffered rashes and pains all over his body, and fallen victim to depression,” she wrote.

Urging the U.S. government and the international community to work together to secure Wang’s release, Hua Qu described their son, “now 5 years old and starting kindergarten.  Over the two years of his father’s absence, he has developed a remarkable resilience.  But the problems of the adult world trouble him every single day.  The devastating reality of our son’s young life is encapsulated in the question: ‘Why can’t Daddy come home after 855 days?’”

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established in 1991 by the former Commission on Human Rights to investigate cases of deprivation of liberty imposed arbitrarily or otherwise inconsistently with international standards and rights.