Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

Yale as the “Gay Ivy”

The 16 pages devoted to celebrating Yale's gay students, faculty, and alumni (“Why They Call Yale the 'Gay Ivy,'” July/August) were the ultimate in boredom. Why must gays feel compelled to broadcast their sexual preferences -- and celebrate “gay pride” months? Given its front-cover emphasis, one must assume the Yale Alumni Magazine editors expect readers to share their obvious “pride” that Yale has become known for its gay promotion. The reaction of myself and colleagues I have contacted is quite the opposite -- more one of disgust.

Martin L. Fackler ’59MD
Gainesville, FL


When I entered Yale in 1958, I fell in love, but in that environment was too afraid to let anyone know how I felt, terrified that if it were found out I was homosexual, I would be expelled. I remember sitting on a window ledge with my legs hanging out, seriously moving toward suicide. I was saved by another student. How I envy today's students!

I remember two who did slip out of windows.

W. William McKee ’64
Jacumba, CA


As someone who struggled with same-sex desires throughout my college years, I found your articles on being gay at Yale very interesting. In the 1960s, my Yale friends rejected me when I told them of my struggles. After graduation, I was involved in the gay liberation movement in San Francisco for several years and was extremely promiscuous. In 1970, I became an evangelical Christian. I wanted very much to believe that homosexual behavior was endorsed by the Bible, but I knew this position was intellectually dishonest. Had I not changed my behavior, I almost certainly would have died from AIDS in the early 1980s.

Larry Rosenbaum ’67
Oakland, CA


Chauncey's depiction of the “gay Eighties” at Yale is just as I recall them. It truly was a “people power” revolution, won not so much by marches and picketing, but by individuals gently coaxing each other out of the closet. One by one, we came out to our straight roommates, and then gradually to other friends, professors, and deans, and in so doing, we enlightened our straight peers by being just as unpredictable, neurotic, homesick, creative, and occasionally courageous as they were. Perhaps some of those alumni who now feel repelled by the article unknowingly shared rooms or Mory's cups with dear friends who were also closeted gay men. For them, it was not possible to share fully in those bright college years that the rest of us so fondly recall.

Thank you for your editorial courage.

Lisa Moscatiello ’88
Takoma Park, MD


I am amazed and disappointed to see the emphasis that you gave to the subject of gays at Yale. This cover story is bound to encourage a greater percentage of gays to apply to Yale while at the same time discouraging straight students from applying. Isn't there a real danger of this happening with the admissions office having little control? Also, I wonder how many Yale alumni, especially the older ones, will be turned off when they see this issue of the magazine. Is this the kind of news that will help increase the endowment fund? I doubt it.

Ferdinand Nadherny ’50
Lake Forest, IL


As graduates of the Divinity School, we were both impressed and moved by the excellent coverage of the “Gay Ivy.” There were a few out-of-the-closet gay men in the student body of the Divinity School while we were there from 1949 to 1952. They were accepted and appreciated for who they were. As a married couple, we have been strongly supportive of gay rights in the church over the years.

That Yale hired George Chauncey to teach lesbian and gay history is extraordinary, and, to us, mind-boggling. Your issue helps many of us straight folks to become more deeply aware of the pain and rejection lesbians and gays have experienced in our culture over the years, infected as it is by the virus of homophobia. Thank you for telling it like it is.

Francis and Virginia Geddes ’52BDiv
Santa Rosa, CA


After reading “Why They Call Yale the 'Gay Ivy,'” I've decided to come out of the closet. To the entire world I now declare myself a flaming homophobe. Actually, let me take that back: the term is misleading. Fear of gays is not my problem, unless one is much larger than me and has notions. Disgust or repulsion comes closer, involving something deep and visceral; it is not directed at gays as such but their amorous activity. In that same issue, I discover in another article that my being a conservative has something to do with that. Conservatives, so the article goes, are much more likely to experience disgust regarding all kinds of things that liberals have no problems with. Count me in. For sure, I would be very uncomfortable being a Yalie now, as I am sure most of my former classmates would be.

Paul Loomis ’60
Vancouver, WA


While I appreciate your devoting an article to Yale's gay history, I found Ari Shapiro's article “Banality as a Gift” to be at best wildly naive and at worst immensely selfish. Shapiro thanks the innumerable activists who have come before him, then concludes that he has “the privilege not to be an activist.” Simply because Shapiro is privileged enough to be able to live a life without fear does not mean that every homosexual person resides in a similarly idyllic paradise of open-armed acceptance.

Shapiro would do well to recognize that there are many who don't share his circumstances or environs, many who cannot simply avoid tense political discussions, harassment, or threats of violence -- for their very existence and happiness constitute an inherently political act, and a dangerous one at that. Shapiro would do well to return “the gift of banality,” at least until everyone can unwrap it.

Bradley Bailey ’05, ’10MBA, ’11PhD
New Haven, CT


As a graduate of the Class of 1959, I accepted myself as a homosexual my sophomore year, when I met my first lover while we were both heeling the News. As undergraduates, we lived in separate colleges so our visits were “overnights” in each other's rooms, but of course we had to keep our relationship secret from our roommates and classmates. We met very few like-minded classmates, even though we belonged to the same fraternity. We visited the few gay bars in New Haven and drove down to New
York to partake of its gay bar scene. We roomed together for my one year in law school, and we remained friends until his untimely death in 1989. In 1965, while a graduate student at Harvard, I met my life partner, Yale ’62, and after 39 years together we were legally married in Massachusetts, just in time for us to return as “the Class Newlyweds” at my 45th reunion.

Jim Hinkle ’59
Cummaquid, MA


After reading the author's claim that Yale has “changed for the better” regarding LGBT, I silently mused, “According to whom?” According to LGBT folks and their straight supporters?

I'll wager that Yale has become an even more “hospitable and exciting place to be gay” than it was 25 years ago when I was a straight, conservative student at the Divinity School. Those were the days when a gay man knocked on the door of my dorm room and flashed the centerfold of a gay magazine in my face and then left chuckling -- all to let me know what he thought of my “bigotry.” Then there were those two fellows who took a shower together in the stall next to me while I was trying to take mine.

With prejudiced people like me around, those were awfully difficult days for gays at Yale to experience any hospitality whatsoever. So it appears that the sons of Eli have broken through the line. But don't think that “Gay Ivy” was won fairly. The day simply came when the rest of us could no longer send our sons to Yale.

John Barber ’84MDiv
Jupiter, FL


Sixteen (16) pages plus the cover on gays at Yale. One (1) page on athletics. Nuff said!

Nat Bundy ’49
Norfolk, VA


Thank you for this wonderful and historical article. As a gay man who learned so much about who I was and how to be myself in the world during my years in New Haven, it moves me deeply that the Yale Alumni Magazine has recognized in such a public and significant manner the contribution gay people have made to the life of the university. I'm prouder of being a Yalie now than I have ever been.

Ira Sachs ’87
New York, NY


Upon reading the recent article on Yale as the “Gay Ivy,” I have become concerned about the future of our university. Yale's pursuit of truth rests upon the four pillars of reason, evidence, logic, and precedent. Within this structure, debate flourishes, knowledge is gained, and humanity benefits. I fear that a school marked as the “Gay Ivy” will become unable to pursue Lux et Veritas. Only the single plinth of Personal Identity will remain, supporting a bust of Individual Truth. When Identity is the standard, disagreement is intolerable. Assent must be given to the truth (that only the Individual can know!). Dissent is now a personal attack, a form of oppression. The correct answer is now unimportant. The struggle, the narrative, the personal journey is now supreme. Unable to reconcile this torrent of conflicting personal truths, the only approach will be a radical relativism. This will mark the end of learning and the end of Yale.

Stephen Schmalhofer ’08
Stamford, CT


Reading some of the online comments about your article is very disappointing. But mostly I find it comical that some alumni think calling Yale the “Gay Ivy” will make it a less desirable place to matriculate. Knowing the Millennial Generation, it seems like it would be a compelling selling point.

Noah Mamis ’08
Washington, DC



Yalensians unite!

I very much enjoyed the article “For a Song” (Old Yale, July/August). Not only was the article informative and entertaining, but it gave me a very useful word. As an alumnus of the Graduate School, I've often wondered how to refer to myself. Surely not “Yalie,” as that term is reserved for students and graduates of Yale College. Having read the article, I know that I, like all alumni of Yale University, am a Yalensian.

Martin Jacobs ’59MA
Brooklyn, NY

The term “Yalie” is now widely used on campus for all graduates of the university. But we agree that “Yalensian” is pretty cool. -- Eds.



The “Woolsey Mammoth”

I was absolutely delighted to read the July/August 2009 article on the “Woolsey Mammoth,” as organ buffs call that wonderful instrument (“The Behemoth of Woolsey Hall”). Anyone who has heard the beast, felt the very air quiver with both its softest and loudest sounds, can never forget it; but as someone who was lucky enough to play it, and even luckier to play it on many occasions, it has even more powerful memories.

The first time I ever sat at that console, I was completely overwhelmed. It took a tremendous mental effort simply to keep track of its capabilities, much less to stay intellectually and emotionally “in sync” with it. Over a quarter-century after my last performance as a Yale student, I was working last spring with an undergraduate on his registration for the premiere of one of my compositions with the Yale Concert Band, and I could still remember the sound, and the best use of, every stop. Every stop.

For me, the Yale Concert Band and that organ will always be inextricably linked. I regard my performances on that organ with the band as my most precious musical moments at Yale. A band is in many ways a living organ, with a strikingly similar range and tonal palette, and when the energy of 50 people in the band's “living organ” joins with the floor-rattling power of the Woolsey Mammoth, filling every cubic inch of that marvelous room with glorious sound -- and when your left foot is on the low C that's shaking the windows -- that, my friends, is what Heaven is all about.

Robert Parker ’82, ’85MusM
Pasadena, CA




Is Gothic good for Yale?

I was disappointed and saddened to read about Yale's plans to build a large new complex of pseudo-Gothic buildings (“New Colleges Aim to Match the Old,” July/August). When I attended the School of Art, I was very proud of the university for hiring the best of contemporary architects to design new buildings. With modern works by innovators such as Saarinen and Kahn and Rudolph, the campus was an architectural gallery for the work of the best and brightest. I was very pleased that Yale saw this as an essential part of the mission for a great institution of higher learning.

The world certainly does not need another building paying homage to an age gone by when we have many forward-thinking, contemporary architects who can design buildings that inspire students and faculty alike. Yale has the means -- and, I believe, the responsibility, even in these difficult economic times -- to show the world that it has confidence and faith in the future by looking forward rather than backward.

Joe A. Watson ’61MFA
Rochester, NY


So an exhausted architectural idiom is to be rolled out again since “Georgian is not as central to our DNA as Gothic.” Um, wouldn't Yale architectural DNA be encoded in Connecticut Hall? And to accomplish this, historical and otherwise handsome, useful buildings are to be razed to clear the site. Oh, just like 1950s-’70s knock-'em-down, doze-'em-out urban renewal. That worked out well, as we know. Maybe this buttress just shouldn't fly.

David Jeffery ’60
St. Michaels, MD


Although Robert A. M. Stern's design for the Prospect Street facade of South College between the two towers is a bit too regular for the Gothic idiom, in general the design would be a magnificent addition to Yale's ensemble of Gothic buildings, one that is unmatched anywhere outside of Oxbridge. If the preservationists had had their way 80 years ago, James Gamble Rogers would never have done his work, and we'd still be looking at the Berkeley Oval.

Thomas Webb ’84JD
West Hartford, CT






In “Commencement 2009” (July/August), we reported that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ’73JD, an honorary degree recipient, was accompanied by the Secret Service. Clinton is in fact protected by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) when fulfilling her official duties. “As a former DSS civil service employee, and the spouse of a retired DSS Special Agent, I would just like to give credit where credit is due,” wrote Nicole Zupan ’84. We regret the error.


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