Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

Celebrating coeducation

I graduated from Yale recently, and was very touched to read “The Great Bathtub Fiasco,” a Q&A with Sam Chauncey ’57 (web supplement to “On the Feasibility of Women at Yale,” September/October), about Mr. Chauncey’s successful efforts to admit women to Yale. I write to offer my sincerest thanks to Mr. Chauncey and his peers for their efforts to bring about coeducation at Yale.

In my experience, my professors judged me based on my creative and intellectual efforts and not my gender. The same can be said for the administrators I interacted within various residential colleges and departments. As a student, I had the luxury to take for granted that my gender wouldn't limit my education. As an alumna, I am humbled to be reminded of all the work that went into making that possible.

Aurora Nichols ’07
Cambridge, MA


It’s intriguing that you published an article about the 40th anniversary of Yale College’s enrollment of female students in the same issue with letters about the university’s reputation as the “Gay Ivy” (July/August).

The letter from a conservative grad of the Class of ’08 proclaiming the “end of Yale” reminded me of the letters the alumni magazine used to publish when the old guard wrote in predicting the school’s demise from that other crazy experiment—coeducation.

Your coeducation story focused on the early 1970s, missing out on the decades of debate in the letters pages, which made women students, even in the ’80s, feel a bit unwelcome. I hope by now there’s no debate on whether women belong at Yale, and no such thing as a “coed” anymore.

In the same vein, let’s hope that soon, all the Ivies will be “Gay Ivies,” where people’s sexual orientation will seem as banal as whether they are male or female.

Susan Borowitz ’84
Richmond, CA


I enjoyed reading the articles about Yale becoming coed. I would like to add that during the tenure of my father (A. Whitney Griswold, president of Yale from 1950 to 1963) there was already quite a bit of talk about admitting women to Yale. At some point, probably in the late ’50s, he was seen walking around the campus with the president of Vassar, Sarah Blanding, discussing the possibility of merging the schools. (He allegedly tried to disguise himself with his coat collar turned up, hat pulled down and sunglasses on!) Needless to say it never went very far.

I also want to share with you the following limerick by my father:

By keeping in step with the male,
we proceed at the pace of a snail.
Said the Dean of Admission,
“Let's switch our position
and get some fast women at Yale!”

That seems to describe pretty clearly where he stood on that matter!

Sarah Griswold Leahy
Chestnut Hill, MA



“Gay Ivy,” continued

I applaud your continuation of the Yale Alumni Magazine's longstanding independent editorial policy. It contrasts starkly with those of the alumni magazines of other respected universities and schools, which tend to be little more than slick house organs and fund-raising tools.

That the magazine has long stirred the juices of Yale alumni is, in my opinion, a good thing, as it reduces the risk of complacency. The story about “Gay Yale” (“Why They Call Yale the 'Gay Ivy,'” July/August) is very much in that tradition.

In the case of the abandonment of the policies favoring legacies, setting quotas for Jews, and barring the admission of non-whites and women, there were strong, negative reactions—especially from older graduates—objecting to what they correctly saw as radical changes. There is no comparable issue here. There have doubtless been homosexuals on the Yale faculty and in its student body since the college's founding.

I am confident that, even in the most unlikely event it knows the percentage of homosexuals/lesbians on campus, the Yale admissions office has no policy respecting, much less changing, it. I suspect that in time the issue of homosexuality at Yale will join the list of non-issues, at least among the overwhelming majority of graduates.

I can say—based on many years of regular encounters with Yale undergraduates—that, whatever their sexual orientation may be, they have not turned the university into a sink of iniquity. Quite the contrary, they are much brighter, more energetic, capable, and self-confident than I and the vast majority of my contemporaries were at the same age. In my opinion, they are a great credit to Yale and thoroughly worthy of the continued, strong support of all alumni, and particularly of us older ones.

Jay Greer ’54
New York, NY


What are the horrible, hateful responses to the “Gay Ivy” article doing on the magazine's website? Please take them down immediately. I'm ashamed and offended, and I know I may sound extremist and hypocritical, but these comments would never fly if they were about an article called “The Black Ivy.” For some reason people seem to have more trouble identifying unacceptable behavior when it is sexist, homo-phobic, or heterosexist than when it is racist, but that doesn't mean that intolerance is any less reprehensible.

Melanie Langer ’10
New Haven, CT


Thank you for publishing letters (September/October) regarding “Why They Call Yale the 'Gay Ivy,'” particularly the vehemently negative ones.

Many of us look back at history and wonder if the anger and hatred surrounding the integration of women and racial/ethnic minorities could have really occurred. Treating everyone equally seems so natural now that we cannot fathom a time when people were against it.

The letters in the Yale Alumni Magazine will serve as important documents when future generations try to verify and understand anti-LGBT sentiments.

I'm saving the issue for my kids!

Chandak Ghosh ’90
New York, NY


I am truly struck by the significant difference in comments about “Why They Call Yale the 'Gay Ivy,'” especially when they are sorted by graduation year.

Rarely has a social movement for basic equality gained so much momentum in a single generation. We have come so far, so fast. That the insecurities and hostilities of so many in older generations are being so rapidly eclipsed by the openness and acceptance of the younger is a tribute to the capacity of human understanding to grow and increase as we evolve as a community, a culture, and a species.

Back in the 1980s, when we were organizing LGBTQ issues on the Yale campus, I never would have dreamed that the Yale Alumni Magazine would run an issue such as this one. And I never could have imagined that the perspectives articulated by older Yale alumni would so quickly become outdated when contrasted with those who have followed.

David Wertheimer ’84MDiv
Seattle, WA


There is an obvious answer to your letter writer's question (Letters, September/October): “Why must gays feel compelled to broadcast their sexual preferences . . . ?” They do so, sir, for the same reason we have had “black power,” the NAACP, and similar organizations for other peoples subject to prejudice: like Ellison's invisible man, these groups realize that if they are to gain equality, they must first be recognized.

As for another letter writer's “disgust and repulsion,” the gentleman might look to himself to understand why he has these feelings. Heterosexual couples have been known to perform the same sexual acts as homosexuals; do they disgust him too?

I am not happy with the erotic acts of some couples, but I do not think my personal feelings should be enacted into laws depriving them of their civil rights. It is time that we leave behind the bigotries that, in the end, cause damage to us all.

Richard Lettis ’56
Ramsey, NJ


In a letter published in your last edition, my 1960 classmate wrote of his “disgust” with the gay lifestyle, opining that “most of my former classmates would be . . . very uncomfortable being a Yalie now.” As a married (44 years) heterosexual with three married children and seven grandchildren (none gay, so far as I know), I'd be even more proud and comfortable to be at Yale now than I was in the late ’50s. Bravo to the Yale Alumni Magazine for dealing in depth with this important subject.

Steven Baruch ’60
Purchase, NY


I was dismayed by “Why They Call Yale the 'Gay Ivy.'” To affix one label on a 300-year-old university is both myopic and sad.

Yale should also be labeled the “singing group Ivy League” and the “Christian singing group Ivy League.” When four Whiffs returned from their European tour in 1979, they formed Living Water, an a capella Christian singing group.

When I attended Yale, it was also the only Ivy League college to have a “need-blind” admission policy, which allowed non-wealthy students to attend. There should be a special, positive label for that commitment.

The Yale/China program certainly caused Yale to have one of the best Chinese departments, as well as other excellent Asian studies departments. Yale was formed because Harvard became too “liberal,” and the founders wanted a Christian college that would more accurately teach the Bible.

There are so many Christians at Yale today, many interested in Asian studies and many from Asian countries. The Christian-Asian connection is a special blessing for Yale.

Yale should also be called “the Ivy that is livable in winter!”

Catherine Pratt Starnes ’86
Plant City, FL


We agree that Yale is many things; its variety is what makes it so interesting. The fact that Yale has a positive reputation today as a campus hospitable to gay people -- so much so that undergraduates and young alumni all know the “Gay Ivy” nickname -- struck us as new and newsworthy. If other nicknames emerge, we'll do our best to cover them too.—Eds.



They called him “Mr. Bubble”

I received the September/October issue, with its cover story on Robert Shiller (“They Called Him 'Mr. Bubble'”) the day Yale reported its endowment loss. Yale's managers did not listen to their own renowned prognosticator. But Yale was not alone. I have a handout, dated February 2005, by Rick Rieder, then one of Lehman's chief strategists. He forecast that innovation in risk-avoidance (the whole alphabet soup of CDOs, etc.) would cause higher leverage with increased systemic risk. I quote from his conclusion: “It would be no surprise to anyone if that bubble burst at some point.”

He was wrong: his own employer, like Yale, was surprised—terminally in their case. Andrea Zana ’96 worked in Mr. Rieder's department at the time. He told me that Lehman parted with Mr. Rieder and cashed out his stock and options near the high. Looks like Mr. Shiller will also do well in spite of his employer's lack of timely recognition.

But the history of finance is the history of bubbles. We cannot forecast exactly what group will run with the new bladderball of leverage, but, as at Yale, it will return to the ground at the end of its day.

Joachim W. Schnabel ’67
North Haven, CT


Whether it was hyperbole born of hero worship, or a lack of knowledge, the article about economist Robert Shiller is mistaken in referring to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act as “a lemon law—which was meant to protect buyers of used cars.” While I am unable to comment on any influence that George Akerlof ’62 may have had regarding the Act—doubtful, I think, five years after publication of his essay—the fact is that Magnuson-Moss is broadly applicable in setting national standards for all retail warranties, not only for used car sales.

Richard Lange ’60LLB
Rock Hall, MD




Reading well

In “The Truth about Learning to Read Well” (Forum, September/October), E. D. Hirsch asserts that “ample research shows that scores on fill-in-the-bubble reading tests are the most reliable predictors of Americans' . . . ability to become effective citizens.” But effective citizenship cannot be empirically measured, and cannot be divorced from value judgments.

The more the fate of the teachers, principals, and schools has come to rest on squeezing a few more points out of their students, the more they have, inevitably and predictably, resorted to even higher levels of coercion and control, and emphasized one value above all others: unquestioning obedience to authority. Worse than test-prep centers, our schools have become obedience schools, employing a host of behavioral techniques and reward systems.

Hirsch admits that as the curriculum has become more test-driven, reading scores have declined. It is entertaining to watch him struggle to explain how the tests are not the problem. When our economy tanked, Alan Greenspan admitted that his hypotheses were flawed. How much educational damage do we have to sustain before Hirsch does the same?

Chris Liebig ’87
Iowa City, IA




The Danish cartoon controversy

The Campus Clip in the September/October issue on Brandeis professor Jytte Klausen's book, The Cartoons that Shook the World, provides valuable lessons.

The “experts” in the clip who advised Yale that publication of the cartoon “images might incite violence” were “security and counter terrorism officials,” according to a Boston Globe piece on the same subject on August 22. Let us recall that terrorists took 200 lives worldwide in reaction to the original publication of the cartoons in Denmark in 2005, so the conclusion of the “experts” is easy to accept.

Some important lessons flow readily, I think, from Yale's reaction to edit out the cartoons from Professor Klausen's book.

Violence by Islamic terrorists has acquired so much credibility that the chance of more violence has been enough to change Yale's behavior. Yale has surrendered and will do its stuff the terrorists' way, without them having to do their stuff. The Islamic terrorists are winning.

Stephen N. Miller ’55
Waban, MA


For more on Jytte Klausen and Yale University Press, see “No Middle Ground: Yale University Press and the Danish Cartoons.” -- Eds.


It is ironic that the Judeo-Christian world has been so intolerant of the censorship imposed by the Muslim world on the image of Muhammad. The Old Testament is full of censorship. The face of God could not be looked upon, nor his name (Yahweh) written or spoken—hence the millennia-old text-message-type abbreviation, YHWH.

Ham is cursed (Genesis 9:20-28) for “viewing” his father Noah's nakedness, and the 3,000-plus-year history of racism begins. One of the central pillars of the Protestant Reformation was the taboo against images. So the critics shouldn't get too huffy in their smug rejection of Muslim taboos that prompted Yale Press's censorship. Nor should they fail to see the fascinating and horrifying stalemate created between different aspects of First Amendment rights here: freedom of speech vs. freedom of religion.

Paul D. Keane ’80MDiv
White River Junction, VT




A bunch of Boola Boola

Last week I was wondering where the “Boola Boola” song really came from. Then I discovered Fred Shapiro's article (You Can Quote Them, September/October).

So it's confirmed: “Boola Boola” was adapted from a Tin Pan Alley tune, and penned by student Allan Hirsh in October 1900, probably in cahoots with a few classmates and possibly with a mysterious shadow promoter -- but it definitely started out as a football fight song at Yale.

I got curious out of annoyance -- watching college football on TV. It seems the University of Oklahoma marching band blares out that little melody every time the Sooners (a semi-pro team) get a damn first down -- like they OWN IT. I had an irksome hunch that the Sooners were later.

Scott Addison ’72
St. Louis, MO


The Sooners are the best-known appropriators of “Boola Boola,” but it appears that other colleges also borrowed the song. Reader Ned Conklin ’63 pointed us to a 1909 item from the University of Chicago magazine that suggests that both Chicago and the University of California used the tune before creating their own fight songs. -- Eds.


I enjoyed reading Fred Shapiro's article about the authorship of “Boola Boola.” Albert Marckwald was my wife's uncle, and she always said that Uncle Bert got the words, if not the tune, from a song he used to hear the immigrant employees sing at the hotel where his family stayed in the Hamptons. My impression is that these employees were from the Caribbean. Perhaps Cole and Johnson, the original composers, were likewise inspired by what might have been a folk song.

William W. Crawford ’38
Bedford, MA




The first submarine

I had to laugh when I saw the picture of the Turtle (Last Look, September/October). It took me back to my senior year in high school, when I was busily applying to colleges and scheduling admissions interviews. Shortly before my interview at Yale, a friend told me that a frequently asked question was, “What is the last book you read?” I decided to prepare by selecting a brief, obscure volume titled David Bushnell and His American Turtle and reading it closely. Sure enough, during the interview, the question arose. I responded enthusiastically and authoritatively about the origins of the submarine in colonial America. I displayed a flair for both history and engineering that I have seldom if ever shown since.

A couple of months later I received the big envelope from Yale. Ever since, I have owed a debt of gratitude to David Bushnell, Class of 1775.

Tom Cunningham ’74
Honolulu, HI





Our feature “On the Advisability and Feasibility of Women at Yale” (September/October) said field hockey was the first varsity women's sport at Yale. It was indeed the first varsity women's sport played at Yale. However, tennis was the first women's sport officially elevated to varsity status, in the spring of ’71, after its season was over. The first varsity field hockey game took place in the fall of ’71. The tennis team played its first varsity match in the spring of ’72.

In the introduction to our interview with Rev. Geoffrey Black ’72MAR (Where They Are Now, September/October), we reported that Black was “the first African American to be elected general minister and president of the 1.1 million-member United Church of Christ.” Although Black is the first African American to be elected to a full term as president by the UCC's General Synod, Rev. Joseph Evans ’42MDiv was the denomination's first African American president. In 1976, Evans was selected by the Executive Council of the General Synod to finish the term of Rev. Robert Moss, who had died in office.

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