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Princeton mom's letter telling women to 'find a husband on campus' strikes nerve

April 2, 2013 at 1:25 PM ET

TODAY /
Princeton grad Susan Patton unintentionally launched a media storm with her open letter to young women.

A Princeton mother's advice to the Ivy League school's female students that they should “find a husband on campus before you graduate” has struck a nerve among women already debating whether they are “leaning in” enough into their careers.

In an open letter to the school’s newspaper, Susan Patton suggested that Princeton women should take the opportunity to find a husband while on campus, because they will never again have a deep pool of qualified potential mates once they leave.

"Smart women can't (shouldn't) marry men who aren't at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are,” she wrote.

“And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you. Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them."

Patton, a 1977 graduate, is the mother of a Princeton alum and a current undergraduate — both boys.

“If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them,” she explained in her March 29 opinion piece, which has drawn such interest that it briefly crippled the Daily Princetonian’s website.

It also fueled the debate already being waged over Sheryl Sandberg’s career manifesto, “Lean In.” Patton refers to the Facebook executive’s book in her article.

“Forget about having it all, or not having it all, leaning in or leaning out — here’s what you really need to know that nobody is telling you,” she wrote.

The piece heightened tension among panelists who took up the issue Tuesday in TODAY’s Professionals segment.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who lives in Princeton, N.J., and described herself as the product of public schools, called the piece “arrogant” and appeared incredulous at the advice it offered for young women.

“They’re too young to get married when they’re in college,” she said.

When Star Jones defended the notion that college is a good time to meet like-minded individuals, Snyderman replied: “Meet them and go on birth control, but don’t get married.”

But Jones said it’s not as easy as that, noting that "as a 50-year-old without children," she regrets not making certain personal choices earlier in her life, during a time when she was more focused on her career.

“I had a plan of action, I had a strategy and it all came to fruition. I did everything I was supposed to do and everything I wanted to do professionally,” she told TODAY.com. “And there came a time, when I looked up, I realized that all of the stuff I wanted personally, I sort of let go to the back burner.”

Jones said she agrees that college is the best time to be surrounded by individuals with similar motivations and ambitions. However, she expressed disappointment by the behavior of many college students.

“There’s more of a hooking-up in college, as opposed to a dating and mate-finding culture. And that speaks to the immaturity of young people at this time," she said. "Or maybe at that time in their lives."

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