In end-of-year message, Dean Priestley reflects on challenging spring term

Written by
Graduate School Communications
May 20, 2024

Marking the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, Graduate School Dean Rodney Priestley sent a message to the University's graduate students on Monday, May 20. The full text is below.


Dean Priestley's Message to All Graduate Students

May 20, 2024

Dear Graduate Students,

As the academic year ends, I want to touch base with all of you. Some of you will be off to do research elsewhere this summer – I look forward to hearing about your work and travels. For those of you staying here at Princeton, I hope we have a chance to connect on our quieter campus. And, of course, I am thinking of the 478 of you who will be recognized next week for completing your advanced degrees—it is a remarkable achievement. I’ll have more to say at Hooding, but for now, congratulations! Everyone at the Graduate School joins me in celebrating your success. We are immensely proud of you and your accomplishments and are honored to have been a part of your time at Princeton. 

I also want to reflect on what all of us have experienced together over the past several months. When I last wrote to you at the start of the semester, I remarked that Princeton was not immune to the turbulence roiling our world, and I recognized that developments far from our campus can personally impact members of our Graduate School community. This spring, that turbulence deeply affected our Graduate School community and the larger University, as the tragic loss and disruption of lives in the Middle East was keenly felt by many on our campus. 

This spring has been challenging. Last week, the GSG held several listening sessions with graduate students about this moment. We are grateful to the GSG for their work on behalf of all graduate students. Below, I share two general concerns, as summarized by the GSG: 

  • "Students have been concerned with their safety and well-being on Campus in fear that political events, personal perspectives, and preconceptions could deteriorate their relationships with peers and colleagues. Responses also centered on the nature of what makes a peaceful protest, noting that any protests should follow a definite set of rules.” 
  • “In response to recent events, students shared their worry about the University’s actions. The administration’s decision-making process appeared arbitrary and opaque. Students were concerned with a lack of transparency, referring to a disproportionality of responses in ordering arrests, housing evictions, and disciplinary sanctions. They also inquired about the role of CPUC as a platform for making proposals.”  

 

I hear these concerns. As we consider the path forward for our community, I want to reaffirm some things that guide us daily and that you can count on from the Graduate School. 

You can always speak with me and my colleagues at the Graduate School. 

I am proud that I’ve never declined a meeting with a graduate student or a group of graduate students in my nearly two years as dean—we want to hear from you, and we are here for you. We respond to meeting requests promptly and include other Graduate School team members who can address concerns. Often, we can work with you to quickly reach tangible outcomes. You can always sign up for my office hours or email [email protected]. Indeed, many of you do, and I welcome seeing you, whether for difficult or pleasant conversations.

To continue the conversations, I’d like to offer opportunities for small groups to gather in the coming days for me to hear from you and address your questions:

  • Tuesday, May 21, from 4 – 5 PM at Wyman House Sign up here.
  • Wednesday, May 22, from 2:30 – 3:30 PM at Wyman House Sign up here.

Lisa Schreyer, Deputy Dean of the Graduate School, will join me at these gatherings. Please sign up at the links above to attend one of these sessions, and someone will confirm your attendance. 

My colleagues and I in Clio Hall will always treat you with consideration. 

We cheer for your progress, celebrate your accomplishments, and care about you. We work very hard to support you. One of the more difficult recent episodes for our Graduate School staff was the Clio Hall protest. I was not in Clio Hall during this incident, but I’ve spoken at length with staff who experienced it directly. While many of the staff are still unsettled and saddened by the incident, they are as dedicated as ever to their mission of supporting graduate students and graduate programs. I know our community will heal and strengthen. 

We never want to see a graduate student need to participate in our disciplinary process. Yet, when it happens, we treat our students with respect and care and adhere to our policies. 

Faculty members and graduate students who have served on our disciplinary committee can attest to our approach, which combines reason with empathy and a commitment to learning. With the introduction of shared governance earlier this semester, graduate students will become permanent members of the Graduate School’s disciplinary committee. This representation is important to all of us.

We are listening to you. 

I’m proud of the relationships I’ve made with many of you over the past two years and the progress that we have made together to advance issues of importance to graduate students and graduate education at Princeton. But things can always be improved, and they will be. Much of the Graduate School’s work is done in partnership with you. We want to hear your ideas and suggestions. I am always open to engaging with you about your experience at Princeton and discussing ways to make this a place where all graduate students can thrive. 

Building a community is essential: When we come together as a community, we do great things. 

At the Graduate School, we will continue to develop structures and programs that invite meaningful engagement between students, faculty, and staff, whether through High Tables, small group graduate student dinners, or the work of our GradFUTURES, ADI, and Student Affairs teams. For you to succeed, you must believe, and it must be true, that Princeton is a place where you can belong and thrive in all areas of your life. The Graduate School will continue to work toward this goal.

 

We have an unwavering commitment to support you and our graduate programs. We are also committed to continuous innovation so that Princeton remains at the forefront of defining what is possible in graduate education. 

Most evenings during the academic year, you can find me at Procter Hall having dinner with my family. I enjoy being in the community with you all. I enjoy the random engagements and serendipitous conversations. I want to wish you all a summer of meaning and hope.  

Warmly,

Rodney D. Priestley

Cc: Chairs, Directors, Directors of Graduate Studies, and Graduate Program Administrators