Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

Love and hate at the A&A

The story about the A&A ("Love It? Hate It? Or Both?" November/December) stirred memories of the night they burned the building down. The A&A had been a major presence in our lives -- from the weeks-long light show installations to the ad hoc city planning seminars that it hosted. In 1969, my room on the end of JE looked out directly on the sculpture garden and the A&A. In the quiet time before moving to Morse/Stiles for the summer, I was awakened one night by sirens blaring and auroras flickering on my walls. Running to the window, I watched as flames sprang up the entire front of the building, dancing and spiraling behind three stories of glass windows. I watched until the windows seemed to bulge out, then crack and explode, spewing glass and fire into the street. The following year brought many dramatic and unexpected events, but none with this surreal immediacy.

Steve Estvanik ’70
Seattle, WA


As a grad student in English studies, I felt privileged to explore the much-admired A&A in 1963. What I found brought Milton's line to mind: "In Stygian Cave forlorn." How, I thought, could an artist (or an English major for that matter) survive that dank, cramped, ill-lit, troglodytic confinement? I later learned of more indifference: no a/c and windows that couldn't be washed without scaffolding. The article on the restoration/renovation leaves me with the question of whether the new building indeed completes Rudolph's vision or is a successful apology that should be named after someone less perverse.

Dick Stewart ’64MA
Beaufort, SC


God, how I loved that building. As a freshman in 1964, I pretty much lived there, studying on the orange carpet of the A&A library. (I also slept on the Eames chairs at Stiles, and as a fan of mid-century Modernism, you can't do much better.) The A&A is a major reason I applied to architecture school. We silk-screened posters for the May Day demonstrations in its basement. It was an aggressive honeycomb: you had to know exactly where you were going, and if you didn't you had no business being there. When it burned down and the architecture class of ’72 was scattered all over New Haven, I lost my bearings and almost dropped out. Coming back into the partitioned cellblocks of the rebuilt A&A, I was heartbroken. I am encouraged by the A&A's rebirth, and I can't wait to visit.

Josh Morton ’67, ’72MArch
Pasadena, CA


Certainly no building other than A&A beams as brightly in my memory with both love and hate. Making deliveries for what was called at the time "Yale Audiovisual," I saw nearly every square inch of that building, especially in the lower levels. No route through A&A could be called anything but "circuitous," and from our perspective, it seemed that "intestinal" was a better descriptor than "architectural." And I must say that I found its post-renovation photos quite unlike my memories of the place. I remember a building with every cubic inch absolutely packed with "works in progress," shall we say charitably: every square inch of floor strewn with, and walls caked with, the detritus of the creative process; a riot of odors, the byproducts of painting, photography, ceramics, and God knows what else; and its own special brand of damp dust, absolutely everywhere. Who knew it could clean up so nicely?

But sadly, my most lasting memory of A&A is that it was from its roof that poor Maya Hanway ’83 leapt to her death in our senior year. "Maya's Room" in Silliman memorializes her more tenderly than the building that for me will always be her tombstone. For those of us who knew and loved Maya, and her sweet, beautiful, and gentle heart, memories of the A&A building are very, very bittersweet.

Robert Parker ’82, ’85MusM
Pasadena, CA


I worked in Paul Rudolph's office, had some involvement in the A&A project, and spent time in the building before I left New Haven in 1965. As the project unfolded there was an undercurrent of discussion in the office around the design and detailing process, all of which continued into the construction phase.

I had assumed that my exposure to the design before the work was completed, including having watched as it was under construction, would have prepared me for what to expect on my first visit. Instead I was surprised at my visceral reaction. My experience was one of disorientation, confusion, and mild panic as I moved up, down, and around through a series of contrasting extremes of changes in levels, spatial dimensions, scale, proportions, textures, and light. As Blair Kamin ’84MEnvD writes, "a dazzling variety of interior spaces pinwheeled around four principal interior columns."

It is interesting that Kamin's experience of the building leads him to comment that "I would emerge from Yale seeing the A&A as a tyrannical object lesson in what architecture shouldn't be -- an exercise in willful, self-indulgent form-making that elevated the ego of the architect above the spirits of a building's users." This comment is consistent with the discussions that took place regarding the "form-making" during the design and construction phases, in which study models were used for the purpose of performing what was referred to in our discussions as "design by matte knife."

I would agree with Ada Louise Huxtable's opinion from the 1963 New York Times that is quoted in Kamin's article: the building is "willful, capricious, and arbitrary."

Peter Hendrickson
St. Helens, OR


When I was physical plant manager for the central campus in the early 1970s, the A&A was one of the buildings for which I was responsible.

The morning of the fire I wore out a pair of perfectly fine new shoes escorting the firefighters around the building. As there were no well-defined floors, but only seven-plus ill-defined levels, it was necessary to bring them to wherever they wanted to go, as it was impossible to describe how to get there. So we went slogging through the flooded, sunken floors, some with live floor-mounted electrical outlets sparking under the water.

The building was known for being rather messy under the best of circumstances and the students tended to work around the clock, so we were very worried about casualties. Fortunately there were none, but we did have an anxious moment when we came across a very realistic life-size vinyl torso in one artist's studio, nearly hidden by a mountain of crumbled paper.On a scorched drafting table we found a melted glass bottle, its paper label intact -- a unique, unintended sculpture.

As for the nature of the A&A, I come down on the side of its being an intricate and enormous sculpture, rather than a building, but that is of course a personal opinion.

Peter H. Tveskov ’56E
Branford, CT


That game

We won't claim to have been there, but my wife and I didn't miss a tick of that fateful final minute over our local TV channel 11 vantage site atop Television Hill, here on Pittsburgh's North Side ("Harvard Beats Yale 29-29,"November/December).

My clearest recollection of the event comes from later, when we made our way through the TV station's parking lot. Just ahead of us, scuffing along, was a totally disconsolate figure, Roy Hunt, a classmate I recognized but did not know personally. To this day I regret not offering a few words of solace that he could take comfort in the realization that we, at least, had just seen the greatest Harvard-Yale game ever played to that time. Forty years later, this is still a good thesis.

John L. Koch Jr. ’50
Sewickley, PA


I had the (good? bad?) fortune to root for Brian Dowling ’69 and Yale at "The Game," and then move to Palo Alto and in 1982 root for John Elway and Stanford at their version of "the game," in which the University of California won as time expired on the notorious five-lateral kickoff return through the Stanford band.

John S. Smolowe ’68, ’72MD
Menlo Park, CA


I was there (really), as a then-MIT student and guest of Robbie Busch, Harvard ’70, my best friend, alas no longer with us. Being married to a ’77 Yalie and now both a Harvard and Yale (grad school) alum myself, I ought to demur as to whether it was the most heartbreaking or the most thrilling game. But I can't recall ever being so excited at any sports event, not even at the huge antiwar protests that occupied so much of our time in those days.

Jeffrey Satinover ’02MS
Weston, CA


There's another Yale game I'd like to read about, and that's the Yale-Princeton game in 1934. Compared with the ’68 game, or any other year, this was perhaps Yale's finest hour. Princeton was a national powerhouse back then and was even being considered for the Rose Bowl, where the best team in the East was matched with the best of the West. Some of the highlights of the game were Yale's win of 7-0 on a touchdown by Larry Kelly ’37, and the fact that Yale played the entire game with no substitutions, earning them the name "Ironmen."

Peter M. Lindsay ’40
North Andover, MA

I appreciated "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29" by Charles McGrath ’68. He has it right. Yale players got more "fame" out of the tie than we ever would have by winning the game outright. It has never ceased to be a conversation piece wherever I have gone. I have come to accept and appreciate the hold that game has had on people.

Andy Coe ’70
Captain, 1969 Yale football team
Palo Alto, CA


A full account of the game appears in Yale's Ironmen, a 2005 book by William N. Wallace ’45W. -- Eds.


What to do about Mory's

I strongly disagree with the "solution" proposed by Phil Goodwin ’56 (Letters, November/December). He has it exactly backward. Instead of trying to break the union at Mory's, the Yale community should work to ensure that all the other hotels, restaurants, and clubs in New Haven become unionized. This is what happened in Las Vegas, so that none of the hotels there are at a competitive disadvantage with lower-wage non-union firms.

This may mean that guests in New Haven may have to pay a little more for its hospitality, but that is a small price to pay to ensure that the employees in that industry receive a living wage.

Martin G. Evans ’68PhD
Professor Emeritus, Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
Cambridge, MA

Solving Mory's financial crisis is easy ("Will Mory's Survive? (And Should It?)" September/October). Pick several of the "best and brightest" at the School of Management and give them a simple case-study assignment: how do you fix Mory's financial problems? Have at least one committee member a graduate of Yale College, and hold at least two of every three meetings at Mory's with no charge for food, but not for "beverages." By spring, the answer should be apparent.

William H. Wheeler ’53
Duxbury, MA


Psychologists are scientists, too

The November/December Light & Verity article "Changes in Yale's Top Ranks" asserts that, with the departure of Provost (and chemist) Andrew Hamilton and the appointment of psychology professor Peter Salovey ’86PhD as incoming provost, Yale will no longer have a scientist in any of its four leading academic positions. At my university, the psychology department (with a few Yale grads on the faculty) is considered a science, not a social science, department. Academic psychologists (notably including psychologists at Yale) conduct laboratory experiments, publish in scientific journals, and obtain funding from the major scientific granting agencies.

Please don't confuse the Yale psych department with Dr. Phil.

C. Peter Herman ’68
Professor of Psychology
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario


Mavericks de-mythed

I think your article missed a nuance in its discussion of the term "maverick" (You Can Quote Them, November/December). It initially referred to cattle, not men. Because Samuel Maverick did not brand his cattle, a calf without a brand was referred to (not without irony) as a maverick. Later the term was applied to a person who "carried no brand"—hence, independence.

David Ewing ’62
Portsmouth, NH


Sam Maverick's grandson, F. Maury Maverick, more famous for his political radicalism than his neologisms, tried to set the record straight in Chapter 10 of his 1937 autobiography, A Maverick American (online at amaverickamerican.blogspot.com).

Maury states unequivocally that his grandfather never owned a cattle ranch and was not the one responsible for the unbranded cattle that gave rise to the myth. Sam Maverick was a San Antonio-based businessman and land speculator who in 1845 accepted a herd of 400 cattle in payment for a debt. The cattle were placed on an island or peninsula near the southern border of Texas. The man assigned to take care of the cattle never got around to branding them, complaining that the task was too great for him to handle alone. In 1853, the cattle were rounded up, moved up near San Antonio, branded with the Maverick brand, and sold.

Larry McClung ’70MDiv
Irving, TX


We asked Fred Shapiro to respond. He writes:

Larry McClung is correct that Samuel Maverick was not a rancher. David Ewing is correct that "maverick" was originally used to refer to the unbranded cattle, rather than to independent-minded people. Thanks to them both for pointing these nuances out. The "maverick" derivation may well be an unusual example of a colorful etymological story that actually corresponds to historical truth, so it is particularly important to get the details right.


The first 50 years

Your article "Press Run" (November/December), the feature about the celebration of the Yale University Press centennial, centers exclusively on the last 50 years of publishing art, academic, and trade books in an atmosphere of competition, money making, and popularity ratings. You manage to dismiss the first 50 years of this centennial celebration when you describe President Griswold's concern, in 1961, that the press was becoming too conservative. But what about the first 50 years, when the press got started, when books were actually printed on presses, when to touch the pages of a finely printed book was a pleasurable experience, when the art of the written word was combined with the art of the printed word? During this time Yale was a leader in setting design standards for university press books throughout the country. It does a disservice to Yale, to YUP, and to books in general to leave this part of the story untold.

Sarah Greene ’76MFS
Corvallis, OR

Ms. Greene is the grandaughter of Carl Purington Rollins, who was book designer for Yale University Press from 1918 to 1948. -- Eds.



Let's hear a loud "bully!" for President Levin's address to the freshmen ("Your Time of Opportunity," November/December).

Bruce S. Williams ’41S
Canton, OH

Not-so-early warning

Re: Robert Shiller and his famous coining of the term "irrational exuberance"around December 5, 1996, the day Alan Greenspan first used those words in a speech (From the Editor, November/December). Although I am a huge fan of Professor Shiller and his housing price data, anyone who dared to ignore the 1996 warning on the stock market (with the S&P 500 around 740) has done just fine.

For almost the entire period since the warning, stocks have been higher, often by as much as 100 percent (even as recently as late 2007). As I write this, in mid-November 2008, the S&P 500 is still above the level of December 1996. While stocks may fall below the late 1996 levels, an 11- or 12-year early warning is not remarkable.

Jon Koplik ’78
Bonita Springs, FL

Hard Plastics

Your article "The Case against Hard Plastics" (Findings, November/December) is appalling for its lack of science. If the annual worldwide production of BPA is 7 billion pounds, the reader should know that the annual plastics production worldwide is over 300 billion pounds. Thus even if all BPA was used in plastics manufacture, only 2 percent of plastics are made using BPA.

Plastics are long chain polymers. For a polymer, if BPA is used, as in polycarbonate or epoxies, it is a building block of a chemically bound-in material. It is like saying that the individual bricks in a brick building are readily available. The FDA has required for many decades that manufacturers of plastics used for food contact purposes provide the Food and Drug Administration with data from extensive extraction studies in food-simulating solvents prior to use for such applications. So FDA knows what is there and in what concentrations. One is hardly going to be exposed to BPA from a plastic that is not in direct contact with food or drink.

As for food packaging, the most recent FDA statement is: "The present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies."

For BPA to be in food the polymer must degrade, like the bricks of a building coming loose. Science can tell us what those concentrations are, if any. Science can easily tell us if unbound BPA is on the surface of a container after any period of use.

More difficult is to quantify health effects of low concentrations. That is where the argument is. One needs good interdisciplinary science. Your article unfortunately does not further the needed understanding.

Gordon Nelson ’70PhD
Dean, College of Science
Florida Institute of Technology
Melbourne, FL

Our article did not seek to investigate the range of BPA levels found in humans or their effects. Rather, it covered Yale professor Csaba Leranth's research showing that BPA levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency are associated with abnormalities in primate brains, apparently wiping out the memory benefits of certain hormones. As we also noted in the article, the FDA statement Dr. Nelson quotes is outdated, as Canada recently banned BPA in baby products. -- Eds.


Another shot of Walker Evans

I had the privilege of studying with Walker Evans as part of a 12-person photography seminar in 1971 (Object Lesson, November/December). My classmate, Michael Moses ’73, informed me of the course the night before applications for the seminar closed. I stayed up most of the night making prints in the Branford College darkroom, submitted my portfolio in time the next day, and was selected for the course.

Mr. Evans was a giant of twentieth-century photography. Yet as a teacher he was not distant but available, thought provoking, and a catalyst for introspection. In addition, he had a wry sense of humor. Not one for spending time on technical aspects of photography, he focused his teaching on content and form as well as composition and the use of light. Although your writer's brother, John, "realized he had been had," Mr. Evans was always purposeful, and I suspect that John learned more about life from this encounter with Mr. Evans than he realized at the time.

Robert P. Hendrikson ’72
Waterbury, CT


Thanks for the breks

I'm very proud to see an American man knows about the keleustes ("Greek Revival," July/August). The frogs play very often here, but we don't give them much importance. So thanks for this "tribute."

Mary Papadopoulou
Athens, Greece


Muslims & Christians & more

Regarding "Love Thy Neighbor," the September/October article about the recent meeting of religious leaders at Yale, yes, the world's religions do agree on the injunction to love one's neighbor as oneself. The question is, of course, who does one consider one's neighbor? Only fellow Christians, fellow Jews, fellow Hindus, or fellow Muslims? Only fellow Americans, fellow Arabs, fellow Chinese, or fellow Africans?

Isn't today's world too interconnected to allow us to retain such a limited view of who one's neighbor is? Isn't it time to extend the concept to its ultimate limits, namely, to everyone living on this little planet? What a difference it would make were we to do so.

Donald Bishop ’50MDiv
Pullman, WA


Your article about the recent interfaith conference at Yale stated that Muslim participants "agreed that no one should be compelled to follow a particular religion." If so, that would be a radical change in Islamic theology, because Muslims are not free to leave Islam.

Islam's denial of the freedom to change religions—unique among major monotheistic faiths—is why the conference participants were able to agree in writing only that human beings have the right to preservation of religion (whatever that means) and not freedom of religion.

It's also why the majority of the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have adopted a Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights (which does not explicitly grant the freedom to choose one's religion) rather than simply stick with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which does grant this freedom).

And it's why Christian evangelicals are prohibited from proselytizing in most Islamic countries. The supposed tie between Christian proselytizing and "the colonial past" has nothing to do with it.

Mark Casey ’92
San Francisco, CA


We asked Rev. Joseph Cummings, an organizer of the conference, to respond. He wrote:

Among the important issues discussed at the conference was that of religious liberty, evangelism, and da'wa (invitation to Islam). In quiet conversations away from the limelight we talked constructively and frankly, and both sides sensed real progress.

Islam is not monolithic: lively discussions among Muslims have addressed the apostasy question in recent years. Non-Muslims must not prejudge those discussions' outcome; but influential Muslim leaders argue conversion should not be punished in this world unless accompanied by other crimes. Most Muslim leaders consider humankind morally bound by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but they note America also falls short of its ideals.

Similarly Christianity is not monolithic: Christians hold diverse convictions regarding ethically appropriate evangelism, but generally agree the Gospel must be without coercion, inducement, or hidden agenda.

Such ideals are often violated in practice. Muslims share shocking stories of unethical Christian behavior. And I have personally seen dear friends tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. That's why this dialogue is imperative. If you're interested in getting involved, visit our website: http://www.yale.edu/faith/reconciliation/.


The amoral education?

Not that he much needs my help, but I feel the need to stand up for Stanley Fish ’62PhD and the position he put forth in "Education: The Deflationary View" (Forum, July/August 2008). Fish did not argue, as some of his critics in these pages suggest, that universities should ignore moral questions, or offer only subject matter acquisition and skills attainment, or are morally irrelevant. A more reasonable reading of Fish is that when it comes to moral controversies, university faculty should present all sides of the question and help their students to develop the ability to assess those arguments, so that they can come to their own reasoned positions on the issues.

To those who disagree, I would ask, from what authority does a faculty member offer moral truth? How does a PhD in history or a career of intensive study of Shelley or invertebrate biology give one license to tell students the "right" answer to moral questions?

John Solow ’76
Associate Professor of Economics
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA

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