Honest Princeton Donation Solicitation

By Shaun Tan

By Shaun Tan

Founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Staff Writer


Picture Credit: Yakinodi

From the Office of the President, Princeton University


Dear Jim,


It was so good to see you and Lorraine back on campus on Alumni Day. Few alumni have made Princeton as proud as you have: you are a captain of industry, a pillar of New York society, a selfless philanthropist, and an exemplar of the university’s exhortation to work “in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” And few others have given back to Princeton as much as you have, through your mentoring of young graduates and your many generous donations over the years. Your family’s magnificent collection of watercolors continues to grace our Art Museum, and will be enjoyed by many generations to come.


I was so pleased to hear of your desire to donate a further $150 million to us; the entire Princeton community is indebted to you, and your generosity will never be forgotten. I am happy to tell you that our screening committee has parsed your record (standard procedure, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate) and found nothing that could be construed as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, oppressive, or otherwise politically-incorrect, and that we can therefore accept your donation!


You will no doubt be interested to hear ideas for how your donation could enrich life at our university. After consultation with the Board of Trustees, I am delighted to present you with the following proposals.


1) The Steelman School of Public and International Affairs

As you know, our School of Public and International Affairs – formerly the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs – is in need of a new namesake. It is also in need of refurbishment, a new lecture theatre, and a new professorship for the study of anti-racism. In honor of your donation towards those ends, we would like to rename the school “The Steelman School of Public and International Affairs.” We would also like to establish an endowed chair in your family’s name, the holder of which will be known as “The Steelman Professor of Antiracism Studies.”

Note: Although you passed our rigorous screening process and your record is impeccable, as we know, times change, and sometimes things we deem acceptable today are deemed problematic and hurtful tomorrow. Should that ever happen with regard to anything you’ve said or done, or anything you may go on to say or do, a mob of students will probably form to vilify you and demand the scouring of your taint from campus. (The Steelman Professor of Antiracism Studies will probably also vilify you and bemoan how “ashamed” he or she is to be associated with your name.) Should that happen, the Princeton administration will be forced to denounce you and all your works. Princeton will devote a section of its website to “Acknowledging the Shameful Steelman Legacy.” The Steelman name will be stripped from the School, and this office will release a statement apologizing for accepting your money and pledging to “do better in future.”


2) The Steelman Center

Whilst Princeton has many cafes, dining halls, and eating clubs, it lacks a central dining hub where all may gather to break bread together. We would therefore like to propose the construction of “The Steelman Center,” and have already identified a plot of land we think would be suitable for it. This Center will be the heart of student life on campus, and will be a place for all students to gather to eat and socialize. As a tribute to your generosity towards this end, we would also like to erect a statue of you by the entrance to this Center, so that all who pass through its doors will know of your contributions to Princeton.

Note: As before, times change. Should an angry student mob form to vilify you for failing to meet some future standard of moral purity, the administration will try to reach a compromise with this mob, perhaps by appending a plaque to your statue to contextualize your record, which will probably read “Capitalist Expropriator,” or “Modern-Day Slaver,” or something like that. Should this fail to placate the mob, however, it will probably rampage through campus and tear down your statue like the Iraqis tore down Saddam Hussein’s. I hope you understand that, in this event, the administration will be unable to do anything to stop it. We will, however, propose a compromise whereby your statue is allowed to remain on campus so long as it lies in a prone position at the feet of a new set of statues representing the people you have allegedly oppressed. The Steelman name will, of course, have to be removed from the Center. To justify this decision, Princeton’s website and alumni magazine will feature reflections by students and graduates relating how uncomfortable they always felt eating in a building associated with you and the trauma this experience has inflicted upon them.


3) The Steelman Wing

The Firestone Library is in need of a new wing to house our ever-expanding collection of books. Your donation could go into building this wing, which would also include an open-air courtyard for refreshment and contemplation. In gratitude for your donation towards this end, and to commemorate your family’s singular relationship with Princeton, we would like to name this wing “The Steelman Wing.” We would also like to dedicate the central reading room of this wing to your noble father, the late Francis Steelman, Class of ’48, who was such an accomplished student in his time. His portrait, currently in our Art Museum, will be displayed prominently in this reading room, so that students may be inspired by his example.

Note: Times change, etc, etc. Should an angry student mob form to vilify you, Princeton will issue a statement disavowing all association with you. The Steelman name will be excised from the wing, and the portrait of your late father will unfortunately be seized by student activists, thrown onto a pyre, and ceremonially burned before a jeering crowd.


In any of these cases, your gift will be non-returnable – though it will be tax deductible! Let me know which of these proposals seems most appealing to you!


With best wishes to you and yours,

Christopher Eisgruber

Christopher L. Eisgruber


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