Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

Elegy for a Yalie

Andrew Solomon’s lovely and elegiac essay (“To an Aesthete Dying Young,” July/August) is instructive and on the mark—not a surprise, given his masterful book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. His comment “Depression is a disease of loneliness, and the privacy of a depressed person is not a dignity, it is a prison” is incisive.

The symptoms Solomon describes his wonderfully charismatic classmate exhibiting just prior to his taking his own life are frequently seen in people in suicidal states. Far better to risk infringing upon a loved one’s privacy than to experience the devastating loss of life. Mr. Solomon not only celebrates his classmate’s life; he also performs a necessary public service by describing his friend’s state of mind leading up to the sad event.

Jennifer Curtis ’89
Woodinville, WA


I don’t know what caught my eye, but from the first sentence I was drawn into the power and depth of Solomon’s loving memoir of a bigger-than-life person. His evocation of Terry’s soul had me weeping by the middle of the article.

Knowing the insidious power of depression’s deceptive tendrils firsthand myself, and how something in oneself can steadfastly decline connection with what another part of the self is actually loving, I can only join the mourning for someone who brought light to the world even when that light couldn’t reach the recesses of his own heart. Thank you for printing such an elegant and moving article.

Robert C. V. Morris ’63
South Orange, NJ


Thank you, so much, for including Andrew Solomon’s “To an Aesthete Dying Young.” Depression comes in many forms, and I’ve seen up close how the outwardly happy can also be extremely sad. As someone who has many friends dealing with mental illness, I found that this piece hurt to read like nothing I’ve read before.

By the end of the piece, I was a sobbing mess, but incredibly glad that someone had written down the truth—that no one can know the answers to these questions, and that the confusion and pain of them is shared by many. Of course, it goes without saying that this kind of visceral reaction could only be drawn out by prose that is both delicate and straightforward, and Solomon is now on my list of must-read authors.

This is perhaps my favorite piece ever produced for the Yale Alumni Magazine—I thank you for including it, and I hope you include more pieces like it in the future. Although it would be nice if future editions could come with a small box of tissues.

J. Katie Rasmussen ’99
New York, NY


Name that book

Don’t you think your faculty summer reading list (“Your Summer Reading Assignment,” July/August) is a bit heavy on the Anglo-Saxon angle? Perhaps if we Americans knew more languages, we could find more variety in other parts of the world. I am not French, in spite of my name and, yes, I am a relatively happy person.

Jean-Pierre Jordan ’69
Bethel, CT


Thank you for the excellent article of Yale professors’ suggestions for summer reading. It came at the perfect time to slake my post–Stieg Larsson thirst for summer books. I have already populated my iPad with several of the suggestions.

However, I was taken aback by Professor Paul Bloom’s recommendation of Rebecca Goldstein’s 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction. Nowhere in the summary does it mention that the story is set in Cambridge and that the protagonist—and the author, no less—is romantically involved with a Harvard professor. Really, these are Yale alumni he’s addressing! Couldn’t there have at least been a warning that the banks of the Charles and the Lux-less Veritas would be thrust upon us in the first few pages? But it is a very engaging book, so perhaps I can look beyond the setting.

Andrew Smith ’91
Bellevue, WA


Clearly the book pictured on the cover of the July/August issue is in French, which means it can’t be one of the books recommended within. Aren’t you going to tell us what it is?

William J. Collinge ’74PhD
Gettysburg, PA

Mr. Collinge is correct: the book on our cover is in French. It is Les défricheurs d’éternité by Claude Michelet, a novel about a group of medieval Benedictine monks. We didn’t choose the book; it came pre-selected in the photograph we modified for our cover. But francophone alumni should feel free to add it to their reading lists.—Eds.


Little big man

Perhaps the most meaningful addendum that can be made to the article on Kevin Czinger (Where They Are Now, July/August) is really a correction. He did not play linebacker. He played middle guard, a position more likely to be called nose tackle in today’s parlance of the game. And the significance of this cannot be lost on anyone who knows Mr. Czinger’s size, or can deduce it from the picture in the article, and also knows something about the position and the immovable behemoths that now play it at the college and professional level.

Albert Haynesworth of the Redskins and the Steelers’ Casey Hampton are Pro Bowl middle guards in the NFL, and their combined weight is close to 700 pounds. The position is played best by a powerful and huge man who consistently requires a double team, who clogs up the middle of the offense, and who keeps offensive linemen from getting to the linebackers behind him. Coach Carm Cozza’s seeming hyperboles almost do not do justice to the way in which Mr. Czinger managed to become an All-American at this position, at under or around 200 pounds and of normal stature.

I had the pleasure of watching him play on my numerous return trips to New Haven shortly after my graduation. He was unblockable, and only by a combination of fiery determination and explosive athleticism that was almost as absurd and as impossible to imagine as the fact that he even played that position. It is something akin to a five-foot-nine-inch man being the best center in college basketball. It was beyond special. I do not know much about the efficacy or feasibility of electric cars, but if Mr. Czinger is behind the effort, I would say they have a real chance.

Gerald W. Weaver II ’77
Bethesda, MD


Oxford’s foster children

Readers of “Yale’s Foster Children” (Old Yale, July/August) may be intrigued by the attached photograph of my 83-year-old English “foster” sister, Venice Baker Barry, skydiving in June to raise funds for macular degeneration research. Venice, then the 14-year-old daughter of the Oxford zoology professor John Baker, came to Yale with the Oxford evacuees and lived with our household for several years. My father was Walter Miles, a professor of physiological psychology, and my mother, Catharine Cox Miles, was a clinical professor of psychology, both at the medical school. Venice Barry, her family, and I and my family have remained quite close in the intervening years.

You may also recall that in gratitude Oxford arranged for the Yale children of host families to spend a summer at Oxford in 1950. Many took advantage. My husband joined me, using the GI Bill, for that wonderful summer studying, pub crawling, and sightseeing. It is a glorious memory.

Anna Miles Jones
North Branford, CT


An important sidebar to Judith Schiff’s article is that parents of British children, who were provided foster homes in mostly the eastern United States, had the generosity to reciprocate. Those appreciative parents established a fund that provided passage to and from England for a summer session at one of several select universities. As I recall, this opportunity was extended to ten different seniors from various colleges in 1950. As one of the fortunate and grateful participants, I will always have a special feeling of warmth and kinship that exists between our two countries.

Wade Koeninger ’50E
Ukiah, CA


How green is a pig roast?

I found the article and photo on Yale’s annual pig roast (“Pig Deal,” July/August) both repellent and disingenuous. In the photo, students lift the corpse of a sentient being out of an oven; the text then tells us that this is somehow “responsible eating.” In fact, in addition to supporting an industry that is based on completely avoidable pain and death, eating meat also has numerous bad effects on the environment, as is well documented. By reprinting this ridiculous claim and printing the photo of the pig’s charred body, the Yale Alumni Magazine plays into meat-industry rhetoric and takes sides in a political debate—choosing a side whose only argument for killing is: “It tastes good.”

It’s telling that the magazine describes the Yale students as having “prepared two pigs, 22 pecan pies, and 60 pounds of beans,” as if a living, sentient being is tantamount to a mere nut or bean. At the very least, the magazine ought to cover the views of vegans and vegetarians at Yale. While the pig roast may, sadly, be growing, it’s likely that Yale’s numbers of vegans and vegetarians are growing much faster.

Julie Hilden ’92JD
Los Angeles, CA



In the summer of 1978, the first letter I received from Yale after my acceptance told me that I would be living in Timothy Dwight College where a history of art professor by the name of Robert Farris Thompson would be the incoming master (“Professor of Mambo,” July/August). Within a month, having played the bongos with Master T (as he was already known) at my freshman dinner, I found that I was having a Yale experience quite unlike that of my friends in Silliman and on the Old Campus, an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

One of the joys of reading Cathy Shufro’s piece came from the knowledge that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of women and men in Timothy Dwight and throughout Yale who feel the same way about Master T. Congratulations on capturing the essence of a Yale legend.

Bill Donahoe ’82, ’86MBA
San Rafael, CA


Honorary but not honored

I was intrigued by the column on the honorary MA in the July/August issue (“The ‘Private’ Yale Degree,” From the Editor) and that it was awarded, among others, to full professors who did not have a higher Yale degree. It vividly reminded me that when in my senior year I was the “bursary boy” for the political scientist Cecil Driver, he told me that when he arrived at his office for the first time, he found placed against the outside door several rolls of toilet paper and his honorary MA degree.

Peter Stansky ’53 
Stanford, CA


Costs of cutting carbon

The article by Professor Hagit Affek (“What We Know About the Climate,” July/August) tries to address growing skepticism about the “urgent” need for steps to “reduce our carbon footprint.” I believe her piece has the opposite effect. Her bottom line is that temperatures have increased just 1.5 degrees since 1850, a little less than a degree per century, and she believes that most of this tiny change has been caused by man.

She then makes an unexplained leap of environmental true-believer faith, to “we must start acting now to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases.” Where is the cost-benefit analysis to justify this conclusion? Proponents of carbon reduction policies like cap-and-trade legislation generally concede that these efforts will reduce temperatures 100 years hence by just a fraction of a degree. Where are the numbers that prove so completely to Professor Affek that a fraction-of-a-degree mitigation of her tiny man-made temperature increase is worth spending hundreds of billions or perhaps trillions of dollars today?

Brian J. Fenton ’75
Atlanta, GA


Professor Affek has given a good overview of climate change. She is quite correct in saying, “we cannot wait until we have complete certainty about every detail.” For one thing, we never have complete certainty about anything in science. The predictability of the orbits of the major planets is an exception, not the rule. What makes climate change particularly scary is that we do not know where things might go or how fast they may get there.

What we do know with virtual certainty is that exponential growth is not sustainable. The science is middle-school math: the compound interest formulas. Nothing can keep doubling for very many times.

Foster Morrison ’65GRD
Gaithersburg, MD



On the same page of the July/August issue (Milestones), I read of the retirement of one of my Yale mentors and the death of another. The coincidence moves me to write in their praise—and in gratitude for my Yale training.

Martin Price, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English, who died in April, taught a graduate course on Politics and the Novel in the mid-1970s. Before Charles “Chip” Long, who has just retired as deputy provost and university marshal, became an administrator, he was an English professor. He taught the course in the eighteenth-century novel where I did my first work as a teacher, as his teaching assistant.

I have been teaching (and writing about) fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for over 30 years. I learned about reading and teaching from both of these “sterling” professors: their legacy informs all my work.

Deborah J. Knuth Klenck ’80PhD
Hamilton, NY


A nice piece of …

I was entertained by the spread about the T-shirts sporting about the campus (“The Year in T-Shirts,” July/August). In reference to the Yale College Democrats shirt that was featured, I can say that I have had a “nice piece of elephant.” It was USDA-certified and prime. However, I have never had a nice piece of jackass. Such zealots might want to discontinue this model.

Mark Gerald Weissinger ’78MDiv
Duluth, GA


Prayers and priorities

Would Reinhold Niebuhr approve of his daughter’s suggestion that Alcoholics Anonymous “dumbed down” his Serenity Prayer (You Can Quote Them, July/August)? Could it be that through experience, AA found their version more effective in aiding the recovery of alcoholics? Maybe Elizabeth Sifton heard the great Christian theologian express such a pejorative thought. If so, I am surprised. If not, I suggest that her father would not applaud her choice of words to describe the application of his graceful prayer in the treatment of those unfortunate souls who suffer from that destructive disease.

John D. W. Guice ’52
Laurel, MS



One article in your July/August 2010 issue describes Yale being in bed with empty-calorie Pepsi (“Critics Question Pepsi Partnership”). I must be naïve. Two pages later, the university, in a previously undisclosed arrangement, is described as having an unpublicized multi-year deal with Chase Bank, receiving $7 million in exchange for providing contact information of alumni and employees (Campus Clips). I really am naïve.

Come on, Yale, you can do better.

Owen Birnbaum ’47JD 
Boca Raton, FL


Outside collaborators

In your last issue, you printed a letter from Stephen H. Arnold ’60MFA expressing surprise that I collaborated with a non-Yale lighting designer to stage Scriabin’s Prometheus (Scene on Campus, May/June). Arnold rightly points out that the Yale School of Drama boasts rich talent in lighting and scenic design. However, when I contacted a School of Drama faculty member regarding potential collaboration in early 2009, he informed me that School of Drama students are not permitted to take on “outside” projects. As one of the foremost drama schools in the nation, the Yale School of Drama is perhaps justifiably protective of their talent and resources, but their pursuit of excellence has led to insularity. As a matter of policy, Yale School of Drama students are denied the portfolio-expanding experiences that cross-disciplinary collaborations within Yale could provide.

Anna Gawboy ’10PhD
Columbus, OH


A coed tradition

I read with interest the article about gender-neutral housing on campus at Yale (“Coed Suites Now an Option for Seniors,” May/June). As a matter of historical interest, it’s worth noting that there actually have been coed suites on campus before. In the mid-1980s, Calhoun had a policy that permitted them. As I recall, special permission was required. The suites had to be roughly evenly split between men and women, and romantic couples weren’t allowed to live in the same suite. The policy was not limited to seniors.

At the time there were very few coed suites, and no one really paid much attention to the issue. I will be interested to learn how a campus-wide system operates more than 20 years later.

Paul Rothstein ’87
Falls Church, VA


There must have been a misprint following Richard D. Olsen’s letter of mock praise for Yale’s allowing coed housing. After his name was the class indicator ’71. Surely it must be ’17. I have been amused by the hullabaloo as reported in theYale Daily News. As Malcolm Pearson ’78 reported in his letter, many of us in the 1970s didn’t bother asking if there was a rule against coed rooms. We just did it. Dave, Robin, and I beat Mr. Pearson’s group by four years, sharing a suite in Branford during the 1972–73 term. The room draw was run by students. We had no romantic or sexual entanglements, at least not with each other. We all had productive and happy senior years.

Randy Perry ’73
Vienna, VA


Politics and alumni mags

letter from Eric M. Jensen ’63 caught my attention in the July/August issue (regarding “The Virginia Experiment,” May/June). I could not disagree more that the Yale Alumni Magazine is not the place in which to discuss the situation in our government, provided the coverage is fair and balanced. Needless to say, people do not define “fair and balanced” identically. What I mean by fair and balanced is that the reporting is reasonably objective, tries to present as many facts on both sides of the argument as possible, and doesn’t take a position on either the right or the left. I believe that the magazine succeeded in this regard.

Heaven knows there is a lack of constructive and productive political dialogue in our country today. And I believe this is one reason why politics has become so ideological and, at the same time, has ceased to serve the public interest. I am also very concerned that my fellow alum appears desirous to shut down the dialogue altogether, particularly if it doesn’t match his point of view.

Has anyone woken up lately to realize that our country is in deep trouble? As Jonathan Hertz ’74 mentioned in another letter, “In many ways, our Congress seems broken.” This is reflective of a broader situation in which the vast majority of Americans are disempowered, voiceless, and victimized by a system that cares little for them, in my opinion.

Linda Marianiello ’80
Santa Fe, NM

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