Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

The Costs of Winning

I cherish the hockey I played on ponds and at Yale, lament that it’s played in Phoenix and Tampa, and marvel at Yale’s recent success. I also wonder what it takes to sustain current commitments to the NCAA Division I schedule (“Ice Age,”May/June).

The speed and skill of this year’s team were extraordinary. A teammate and I, a year after graduation, were once at dinner with two Joffrey ballerinas. After an awkward silence, I commented, “We both played hockey; it’s a lot like ballet. We did leaps and figure eights.” Puzzled, one of the ballerinas turned to the other and said, “Is that the game where they put the little black thing into the net?” They’d been in Lincoln Center too long—and hadn’t seen this year’s team.

Still, I question what it takes to sustain “the program,” as it is now called. Three coaches comb the continent all year with promises of admission a year ahead of time. Players enter at age 20 after two years of subsidized play. Need-blind admissions amount to a continued subsidy. The schedule occupies almost the whole academic year.

Weren’t the Ivies set up to sustain amateur sport? Perhaps Yale could take the lead in forming teams for the National Pond Hockey Championships. Maybe the New York Rangers would invest in a farm club at Ingalls Rink. The players could take courses down the hill.

Dan Warren ’70 
Brunswick, ME


Though not a hockey enthusiast, I was interested in the time line of hockey at Yale; particularly the 1920s, when Alfred W. Bastress ’35PhD (my cousin) pursued his doctorate in chemistry at Yale. I always knew he had an interest in the game and that he played at Penn State during his undergraduate years. I suspect that he also played for Yale.

But his skates had an even greater impact when he moved to the far north as the first PhD to teach chemistry at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks in the 1930s, where he also coached the hockey team. So it would seem that the influence of Yale hockey reached farther than perhaps is commonly known.

Robert B. Watson ’58
Audubon, PA


Yale has emerged as a legitimate collegiate hockey power. In her Editor’s Letter (“Correcting the Record: Sports and Batman,” May/June), Kathrin Day Lassila crows that “the men’s hockey team has excelled in a world where most schools—unlike Yale—recruit and reward outstanding student-athletes with scholarships. For a team to be ranked number one in a major national sport without that monetary advantage is a startling triumph of effort over economics.” The claim that Yale is disadvantaged because it does not offer athletic scholarships is disingenuous, however. The fact is that Yale is very generous with financial aid, and any recruited athlete who needs financial assistance—which is to say, the vast majority of them—gets it. It’s not called an athletic scholarship, but it amounts to the same thing.

Another area where Yale hockey is not disadvantaged is in the type of hockey players whom it recruits. The main article refers to these players as “20- to 24-year-old students.” Note that most Yale undergraduates are 18 to 22 years old, not 20 to 24 years old. It has become customary for hockey powers to recruit young men who have been given a couple of extra years to become bigger, stronger, and more experienced playing competitive hockey. Yale hockey players are not simply ordinary undergraduates who happen to play hockey well; they are a separate breed. Admittedly, the other colleges against whom Yale competes recruit the same way, so credit must be given for Yale’s success; but let us not fool ourselves into thinking that Yale is at a recruiting disadvantage.

C. Peter Herman ’68
Toronto, ON


Medicine and Race

Congratulations on running Ron Howell’s article on the premature deaths of male African American Yalies (“Before Their Time,” May/June). There has long been speculation and quiet discussion about this phenomenon, and it was great to see the discussion become public. Most likely this is a multi-cause phenomenon. One cause that needs more discussion is the fact that medicine is taught and practiced for the most part in this country as if every patient were white. Different groups respond differently to procedures, medications, and particularly to advice from non–group-member physicians. I suspect part of the reason for the striking trend described by Ron has to do with the fact that these newly minted high-status Yale graduates were getting medical care that had not kept up with the increasing diversity in the American elite. Even African American MDs who went to predominantly white medical schools cannot be assumed to have known, for example, that hypertension in black men may need different treatment than hypertension in white men.

Howard B. Dean MD ’71
Burlington, VT


My classmate Ron Howell’s insightful and disturbing article carries lessons for current African American Yalies on what comes with life after Yale. As an African American in the Class of 1970, I have experienced the loss of close friends and confidants with whom I shared a singular bond. They have included Glenn DeChabert ’70, who was my daughter’s godfather and my closest friend. I was able to visit with Jeff Palmer ’70 shortly before he died. During that brief visit I was struck by how often over the last 40 years Jeff and I had leaned on each other. Jeff was tremendously successful in a varied corporate career. Over the years, as we both met and surmounted corporate challenges, Jeff was one of the few people with whom I could really consult and confide with respect to how I managed my career. I knew that he would face what I faced. Together we did not dwell much on the stress associated with that climb, but it was there. Perhaps knowing we had each other is one way to deal with the blessing of expectations and opportunity that came with being in the Class of 1970.

Tap Taplin ’70, ’73JD
Potomac, MD


As author and lead investigator of the “good stress” book—The Longevity Project—that Ron Howell refers to in discussing African American premature mortality, first let me point out that I am a member of the Yale Class of 1972 and so evidently shared time at Yale with Ron. The Longevity Project studied 1,500 very bright individuals, in many ways comparable to Yalies (though mostly white). While no one really knows why even well-educated African Americans face high premature mortality rates, the eight decades of data in the Longevity Project isolated two features that may prove especially relevant. The long-lived men tended to advance steadily in their careers, being rewarded for their persistence. And, the long-lived men and women generally interacted with lots of people each week, as they helped each other stay on healthy life pathways in myriad ways. To the extent that social exclusion occurs—limiting ties to the broader healthy social circles—we can expect health risks to rise.

Howard S. Friedman ’72
Riverside, CA

Our regrets to Mr. Friedman for inadvertently omitting his class year from the article.—Eds.


Excellent article, Brother Howell. While at Yale, I was able to take a freshman seminar entitled Health, Culture, and Society. It was an amazing course that examined the health disparities that exist in America today. Of course, there are countless studies that show that health disparities exist among different races, but most conclude that it’s due to socioeconomic reasons. There now have been a few studies where socioeconomic factors were controlled for and these health disparities still existed.

We’re beginning to realize that race matters when it comes to treatment. We are genetically different in many ways, and some medicine that works great for Caucasian people barely works for African Americans. Unfortunately, large pharmaceutical companies have mainly been enrolling Caucasians during clinical trials, but there is a shift away from this and most data is now presented with race in mind. I just learned about a drug for Hepatitis C that works great for people whose genetic code reads CC in one place and almost has no effect for people who have a TT. Turns out that most African Americans have the TT gene.

I think attention is being brought to this issue, and we should see change medically in the near future that will minimize health disparities at least amongst the same socioeconomic levels. The other disparities will unfortunately take a bit longer to tackle.

DaShawn Hickman ’09
Columbia, SC


A Reader Dissents

As an avid and appreciative reader of the magazine for over two decades, I have never before been dumbfounded by the magazine’s decision to publish a particular piece. Thomas Smith’s review of Walter Olson’s Schools for Misrule (“The Liberal Paper Chase,” May/June) is a shocking departure from your usual standards of journalism.

Purporting to critique Olson, Smith blithely parrots Olson’s theory that more-robust environmental regulation and human rights enforcement are “bad ideas,” and seeks only to question “whether law schools are responsible for the abuses Olson identifies or merely reflect their professional and political environment.” In a nation where billionaires install politicians of their choosing, fund lucrative think tanks, wine and dine judges and other decision makers, and endow chairs at public universities while exercising veto power over the appointments, Smith has the audacity to complain about liberal colleagues whose “scholarship, … advocacy, and how they paid for the new Mercedes are all tightly wrapped together.”

Although, to Mr. Smith, conservative polemics have “made the idea of benevolent judge-reformers seem hopelessly naïve,” the only naïveté would be believing that judges who share his views on coddling the rich and powerful would have any interest in using our Constitution and laws as they are intended: for instance, to enforce the laws protecting our environment from the predations of large corporations, to protect the powerless from illegal abuses of power, and to hold the abusers accountable.

My quarrel, ultimately, however, is with neither Mr. Olson nor Mr. Smith, whose work would be unremarkable appearing in any one of the usual right-wing publications. From the Yale Alumni Magazine, however, I expect some hint of recognition that propaganda is propaganda.

Peter Adolf ’89
Huntersville, NC


A Chance Missed in Singapore?

What a wonderful opportunity Yale has missed to do something big for the people of Singapore and Southeast Asia (“Singapore College Deal Is Made Official,” May/June). Obtaining the name recognition and academic expertise of top-tier American universities has become a widespread strategy of universities in Asia. From the beginning of the Yale-NUS discussions, there have been concerns raised about human and civil rights restrictions in Singapore affecting the academic and personal freedoms of prospective students and faculty at Yale-NUS. Each time, Yale’s administration has had a “Yeah, but” answer, as in “Yeah, but we got them to agree not to enforce that law in our classrooms.”

How much better it would have been to develop a bill of rights and a declaration of human rights providing absolute protections for those students and faculty both on and off campus, and better still to have done so in concert with the other prestigious American universities developing similar partnerships elsewhere in Asia. If it were successful, a whole generation of young Asians could have experienced freedom on their own soils. If it were unsuccessful, the lack of readiness for real Western liberal education of the host schools would have been evident.

Leslie E. Reese ’66
Amarillo, TX


President Levin is quoted as saying “academic discourse” on the NUS campus is “open and unconstrained,” and that he expects “openness of conversation in the classrooms and on the campus” of the new Yale-NUS college when it opens in 2013. I have written elsewhere about Yale’s maddening insistence on separating the physical campus of Yale-NUS, where presumably there is or will be free speech, from the actual Singaporean city-state, which allows no such thing. But each time I see Levin repeat this most guileless remark, I worry more for the integrity of the project. The implied distinction between campus and off-campus should be as much a part of Yale’s discourse as the matter of the Yale student or teacher’s free speech on Cross Campus or the New Haven Green; which is to say, not at all.

Eric Weinberger ’89
Cambridge, MA


Chemotherapy Pioneer

Thank you and Judith Ann Schiff so very much for setting the record straight about my father’s participation in the development of chemotherapy (“Pioneers in Chemotherapy,”May/June). This was a story often told around the dinner table at home. Some ten years ago I took offense at a statement in the annual appeal of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that Dr. Sidney Farber was the first to obtain remission using drug treatment (chemotherapy). My claim in my letter to them, that my father was the first, was summarily dismissed. If only I had been armed with your article back then.

David R. Lindskog ’58
Old Greenwich, CT  


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