Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

Singapore, Pro and Con

Yale’s venture in Singapore is altruistic and intellectually exciting, but I fear Yale is deluding itself in thinking that professors and students will be permitted academic freedom of expression. The reference in “Singapore Spinoff” (November/December 2010) to the government’s “use of criminal libel laws to silence its critic,” significantly understates the issue—publications as respected as the Wall Street Journal Asia, the International Herald Tribune, and Bloomberg News have all been forced to pay substantial libel settlements in Singapore, amid statements that they had no choice because Singaporean politicians always win libel cases in their home courts against outsiders.

Does Yale truly have persuasive evidence that Singapore permits professors and students to criticize the government—against such a backdrop? It appears far more likely that Yale is participating in the creation of an academic Potemkin village which will be used to give a pretense of free expression.

David Machlowitz ’77JD
Westfield, NJ


As a member of the Class of 1970, a significant portion of my “liberal” education at Yale was in the streets of New Haven, protesting an awful war and supporting President Kingman Brewster Jr. ’41, who had the moral courage to speak the uncomfortable truth about the inability of certain black activists to get a fair trial in New Haven. Frankly, I am shocked that Yale would even consider entering into an agreement where, according to your recent article, “public demonstrations are out, and criticism of the government outside the classroom is not advisable.” I can’t imagine Yale agreeing to rules that would have silenced both us and President Brewster.

G. Kimball Hart ’70, ’80MPPM
Middleburg, VA


It’s about time that Yale did something to break out of its cocoon in New Haven. If anybody read the recent article in The Economist pointing out a danger of the Ivy League universities becoming like General Motors unless they learn to adapt, they couldn’t ask the silly question of what is in it for Yale. From this corner of the world, Yale looks like an oversized prep school that is oblivious to what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Ted Kim ’84
Seoul, Korea


I have to conclude this idea makes about as much sense as shipping our manufacturing base to China. When America has finally given away the crème de la crème, the intellectual property within our finest universities, so that foreign nations can likely outcompete us with their superior population numbers, we’ll be shaking our heads wondering whose brilliant idea this spinoff was.

John Norwood ’93MEM, ’93MBA
West Des Moines, IA


As a Yale alumnus and a university administrator and professor interested in global issues, I applaud Yale’s decision to open a branch campus in Singapore, the dynamic city-state where NYU (where I work) operates two degree-granting campuses for law and film production. I think the article would have benefited from a more detailed discussion of the changing landscape of higher education in Asia. The map of “branch campuses in Asia” fails to include Temple University’s successful campus in Tokyo, Japan; Monash University in Malaysia; and others. The map also places Xi’an Jiatong Liverpool University incorrectly in Xi’an, instead of Suzhou. A correct and detailed understanding of other models, rather than a myopic focus on a few American universities alone, will prove beneficial to all.

Ulrich Baer ’95PhD 
New York, NY

Professor Baer is correct. We regret the error.—Eds.


I am one of the very many Yalies who have traveled to and through Singapore and done business there. Personal experience with what some scholars call Sinic culture—the U.S. press and politicians are pleased to label it “crony capitalism”—is a useful thing to gain. The first time a Yalie gets a “we must consult the committee” reply, in Korea or Japan or certainly China, will be far less frustrating this way. President Reagan famously thought President Nakasone’s “yes” meant “yes,” and he was angry when it turned into a “maybe,” and Nakasone was confused by the anger. Yale-NUS experience might have helped both men greatly.

Yale taught me, as an impressionable young undergraduate, that all ideas need challenge; [political science professor] Robert Dahl that even “democracy” did.

Jack Kessler ’71 
San Francisco, CA

For more Yale alumni opinions on the Singapore venture, see Commentary.—Eds.


Another fictional Yalie

Many thanks to Yale librarian Fred Shapiro for his intriguing article on fictitious Yalies (“You Can Quote Them,” November/December 2010). I look forward to his next installment. One more addition: in the 1947 Hollywood film Life with Father, directed by the inimitable Michael Curtiz, a young, demure, and very beautiful Elizabeth Taylor swoons over her “Yale man,” adroitly played by Jimmy Lydon. Lydon also starred in the first version of Tom Brown’s School Days at the English Rugby School, no doubt on his way to Cambridge or Yale.

Lanin A. Gyurko ’64
Tucson, AZ


Medicine and toys

I would like to point out a minor imprecision in the 1949 entry (“Your Cliff’s Notes on Yale School of Medicine,” November/December). The motor shown in an early heart-lung machine was not “made with an Erector Set,” which implies that it was put together from parts in the set. Actually, it was supplied in fully assembled form as a component of the more elaborate Erector Sets. Erector Sets were made in New Haven, by the way, by A. C. Gilbert 1909MD.

Ivan Berger ’61 
Fanwood, NJ


Does the president want to win?

Yale still seems greatly conflicted regarding a desire to win in sports versus its use of “admission slots reserved, under Ivy rules, for varsity sports” (Q&A: Rick Levin, September/October). Hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth following the recent football defeat by Harvard, for the fourth consecutive year. However, President Levin says that, although Yale is entitled to use at least 18 percent of its admissions slots for recruited athletes, it now uses only 13 percent for these applicants. He states, “We now admit significantly fewer recruited athletes than the Ivy League allows.”

Yale should make up its mind. Either use every available advantage, as I’m sure Harvard does, or stop whining. My vote is to use all fair means at hand, and then take it to the Crimson!

Bradford M. Blanchard ’50
West Hartford, CT


What a sad day it is for Yale’s athletes, their teams, aspiring Yale athletes, and all alums who are committed to a return to excellence for Yale’s sports teams. President Levin’s comments regarding the devolution of Yale sports could not possibly have been more demoralizing.

Successful sports teams are essential to a vibrant campus, an engaged alumni body, and a supportive New Haven community. And success is more than beating the lower half of the Ivies. Why would any athlete who wants to compete and succeed on a regular basis choose Yale when she or he now knows of the anti-athletic bias of the university’s president? Since when has Yale willingly embraced mediocrity over excellence in any of its departments or programs?

Buck Smith ’75
Dallas, TX


I disagree with my friend Rick Levin—who, I think, will be regarded as one of the greatest presidents in Yale’s storied history—over his stated views toward athletics. President Levin’s interview explaining why Yale has by far the lowest percentage of recruited athletes in the Ivy League (176 out of an allowed 239) is troubling. Clearly, this move will put us at an extreme recruiting disadvantage in the future.

Given our outstanding academic status and overall fine reputation, there’s no reason why Yale can’t be the best at everything we try, especially athletics. It’s discouraging to me to know that having Yale represented by the best talent available is not one of Mr. Levin’s top priorities. Furthermore, I don’t understand why we’ve spent tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to create what is arguably the finest collegiate athletic complex in the world, if we’re not serious about having a world-class program. Why bother to spend this kind of money if all we’re interested in is average results in the Ivy League?

I hope that the president will reconsider what I view to be an extremely unfortunate decision.

Christopher Getman ’64
New Haven, CT


Yale seniors

We read with great joy the feature on Ben Nassau ’28, ’30LLB, Yale’s oldest living alum, dubbed “the senior Eli” (Light & Verity, July/August 2010). The three of us, all honorary members of the Class of 1928, gathered recently at the home of Nancy Redpath (a mere youngster at age 103) and raised a toast to Ben.

Universally recognized as “Yale’s second greatest class,” the Class of 1928 was the first to have a heated tent at The Game, the first to have its own class jazz band, and the first to invite wives to join them at their reunions. This unprecedented appreciation for the women of the class was expressed at their 25th reunion, when Verna Hobson (wife of Wilder Hobson ’28) led the class band, playing the tuba atop the class float heading out to the baseball game. The class warmly embraced coeducation.

The Class of 1928 was pioneering, innovative, and always young at heart, engendering many distinguished, long lives. We salute Ben Nassau and the spirit of 1928.

Nancy Redpath
Lincoln, MA

Nicholas Danforth ’64
Weston, MA

Sally Sanford ’75
Concord, MA


That old chestnut

Your story on the American chestnut (“An American Classic in Yale’s Forest,” November/December) gives us hope. Bringing back that tree is a noble quest. The first job, clearly, is to keep the deer out of the plot of land where the seedlings have been planted. And for full enjoyment of all that can go into such a quest, we should all reread the “Old Chestnut” sections, at least, of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel Prodigal Summer, where old Garnett Walker is doing his very best to bring back that tree. Kingsolver’s book came out in 2000, and efforts to develop a blight-resistant strain of the chestnut began long before. But hers is a vivid and moving account.

Lee Gaillard ’61
Saranac Lake, NY


The chestnut leaf pictured in the magazine does not look like an American chestnut (Castanea dentata), but, rather, like a Chinese chestnut (C. mollissima). American chestnut leaves are more elongated, with longer, pointed tips and have more teeth that are more clearly defined. But, to be sure, I would want to see and feel the underside of the leaf, which would be smooth on the American chestnut and hairy on the Chinese.

So why do I know this, and why do I care? Last summer I participated in an American Chestnut Foundation project to count the chestnut trees along the Appalachian Trail. The blight does not kill the roots of the trees, so they keep on sprouting and can mature enough to produce nuts, but they never reach the magnificent size of a hundred years ago before dying back. So we have counted any chestnut over three feet tall within fifteen feet of the trail. There are a lot of them. In the three miles south of Thornton Gap, where U.S. 211 crosses Shenandoah National Park, we counted 394 chestnut trees.

Richard Stromberg ’63
Front Royal, VA

Mr. Stromberg is right. The leaf pictured with the article is in fact a Chinese chestnut. We regret the error.—Eds.


Photo ID

Your article, “Doctor Who?” (November/December), reminded me of a wonderful doctor I met some years ago who took a Polaroid of each patient at the first visit and then stapled it to the front of that patient’s folder. That way he was reminded of who they were before they walked into his office, and it prevented any possible mistake of having the wrong folder. My doctor now takes a digital photo of every patient, so I am very happy the trick is catching on in even a small way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that practice were taught in med school? And then maybe even going a step further by encouraging the doctor to put his or her photo on business cards?

Linda Fisher ’72MFA
New York, NY


Streetcars, now

The Yale Alumni Magazine suggests that streetcars may return to the streets of New Haven (“Return Trip for Streetcars?” November/December).

Those who remember the old “breezers” that carried crowds out to the Yale Bowl in years past can relive those days at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, where several Connecticut Company trolleys run on a section of the former line between New Haven and Branford. These cars have been beautifully restored and are a treat to see and ride.

Robert Terhune ’53
Austin, TX



An article in the November/December issue (“Yalies in the Far North”) misspelled the name of a twentieth-century polar aviator, Bernt Balchen.

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