September 22, 2021

Asking the University to Work With the Town and its Citizens

To the Editor:

Just because you say it doesn’t make it so. Spin does not replace reality.

University architect Ron McCoy has recently chosen some lovely terms when selling his plans to trample the National Register Historic District on Prospect Avenue: “Connectivity,” “Intimacy,” “Porosity,” “Community,” “Stewardship,” “Public experience,” “Carefully integrated” and “Neighborhood.”

But connections and community, public experience, and neighborhoods are never built on dictation alone, however self-assured, insistent, and suave the words may be. As the great professors of Princeton University teach us, community — like education, democracy, and peace itself — depends not on pronouncements dictated with authority, but on listening, respect for another’s story and values, and working together.

The issue before the Planning Board Thursday is much more than about saving four historic and beloved buildings, as important and cherished as they are. As a town, we are at a crossroads. What meaning do we give to our “partnership” with the University? What worth do we give to our Master Plan, to our laws, to our cultural heritage, and to our citizens’ voices? Do we turn from them when faced with abuse of power, if that abuse comes from a patron and friend?

Please attend the Planning Board meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m., and demand that the University — in a real partnership with the town — give more than pretty words. The University should walk the walk, and engage in an exchange of active listening and compromise, so that solutions to this controversy and future ones be found according to the values that it espouses and that we hold dear.

Éva Martin ’06
South Harrison Street