Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

Sexism and Speech

 “No means yes; yes means anal”—that kind of says it all right there (“Confusion and Silence,” July/August). This was not a lecture or seminar. This was not a privately expressed opinion. This was a deliberate act of sexual harassment in a public area on campus that went unpunished and was therefore implicitly condoned by any Yale administrators, Yale faculty members, Yale students, Yale alumni, and any other human beings that do not stand together to let this group of individuals know loudly and clearly that this message is offensive and sexually abusive. Yale needs to show leadership in the area of basic respect for human rights. If this happened in the workplace, there would be no question of the consequences. Why should academic environments take no action and thereby encourage acts such as these?
Julie Wong ’86
San Francisco, CA


I was sickened by the 2008 photograph of male students holding a “We Love Yale Sluts” sign in front of the Yale Women’s Center. The university’s reasons for going coed did not include ensuring a steady and readily available supply of women for horny men. Welcoming females was a long-overdue step to diversify the student population, to recognize the intellectual capital that women can bring to a great university, and to create a healthier social environment for all. The men in the photograph, and the fraternity that put them up to this moronic act, apparently just don’t get it. That’s not only surprising; it’s frightening. Perhaps Yale should reevaluate its admissions standards for male students.


An alien landed from Mars and reviewing schools for Title IX compliance would find it easier to believe Yale discriminates against men than against women. Yale students can major in women’s studies, but not in men’s studies. Yale has a Women’s Center, but no Men’s Center. This fall, Yale College is offering a dozen courses specifically about women, but none specifically about men. And so on.

I don’t doubt that Yale can do a better job of dealing with sexual assault and harassment, but come on. If present day Yale is a “hostile environment for women,” then the number of coed institutions worldwide that aren’t “hostile environments for women” is probably in the single digits.


The illustrations for “Confusion and Silence” are missing the one word that could obviate the others, namely, “attitude.” If the college’s attitude condemned harassment in word and deed, the environment would not be hostile. But when we look at the recent string of world leaders who cannot keep their trousers zipped, it should not be surprising that college, the self-professed producers of these leaders, has a role in reinforcing a hostile attitude. It is clear that many men fear acknowledging the power that women hold over them and seek to destroy that power, but how sad it is that so many of these otherwise well-educated males still find it acceptable to denigrate half of the human race.


I found “What Can We Say?” (July/August) hilarious. Only at Yale University would the imbecilic actions of fraternity boys be considered an issue of free speech. The issue to be addressed is the admittance of idiots to Yale College. If the boys in question are reflective of the general quality and character of Yale College students, then Yale has a big problem. I would love to see an article detailing an investigation into how and why the boys of Zeta Psi and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternities were admitted to Yale. Were they all legacy students? Did they exhibit at their interviews psychological problems or intellectual deficiencies that were ignored? Could they have been directed to apply to Harvard University instead? Even more interesting would be the results of an investigation into where these boys were subsequently employed, and whether they included on their résumés the fact that they learned misogynistic, boorish behaviors were acceptable as long as they were performed under the guise of free speech.


I have always been amazed at the artful and disingenuous way in which Woodbridge Hall has danced around the knotty problem of free speech. Thanks to your article, I now understand this is an evergreen issue, dating back to at least 1722. Talk about a story having legs! Of course, the orthodoxy cultivated and encouraged at Yale in my time was that of the left, largely bleating about the Vietnam War and President Nixon’s conduct thereof. It was an impolite and coarse time.

Before I attended Yale and got a Yale education, I had been raised to believe that good ideas trump the bad and that the college existed to allow the good and bad ideas the freedom to compete. Yale taught me that I was naïve and wrong. Actually, the left lacked the confidence to expose their views to contrarian threat. They stacked the deck, hampering free expression of any point of view save their own humorless perspective.

Yale’s failure was never truer than in the shameful treatment of General William Westmoreland when he was invited to speak at Yale by the Political Union in 1972. I am surprised you didn’t mention this sad episode in your piece. This dignified man was not allowed to speak, effectively silenced by an unruly and intolerant body of Yale students to whom liberal conformity trumped free speech. Westmoreland was invested with more than his own pride and dignity, but also with that of those who served under him in an unpopular war. Whatever his personal shortcomings might have been, he deserved to be heard and Yale deserved the chance to listen. Sadly, neither got the chance.


The History of Myrtle

The tradition of senior week in North Myrtle Beach(“Break Time,” July/August) was certainly alive and well in 1995. My group and a few others rented houses on Pawleys Island, for what we imagined was a slightly more couth experience, but we caught up with the crowd in North Myrtle for dancing most nights. It was fabulous.


I am a member of the class of ’90. There were a huge number of classmates down there for that week, along with a lot of kids from a number of southern schools. The trip was particularly memorable for me as I met my future wife there (a UVA senior). We married a year and a half later and now have four kids. Back then, we danced and drank (five-cent beers after midnight) at Crazy Zack’s. Whenever I meet someone new from Yale and they find out how I met my wife, it certainly produces a laugh.


I am pretty sure that my roommates and I started the annual trip to North Myrtle Beach. Eight of us lived in McClellan MB42, and we were “inspired” by a friend from UVA who spoke in glowing terms about Myrtle. He suggested we stay at the Rockin K Motel (which we did) and party at Crazy Zack’s at night. Fifty dollars per night for four people was the rate at the Rockin K. Zack’s charged a nickel for beers before 5 p.m. and after midnight. About 20 other students joined our adventure.


I laughed when I saw the picture of North Myrtle Beach—it’s great that it’s become a tradition. I am almost certain that the tradition began in 1988. The social center was then a club called Crazy Zack’s that stayed open until 6 a.m. I had some good senior friends in 1988 and went on the trip, and then went again my senior year of 1989. I definitely do not remember ever hearing that previous classes had ventured down to Myrtle.

Jensen, Cass, and several others took the trip together in 1988.—Eds.


Your photo of Yalies enjoying the pleasures of Myrtle Beach brought a big smile to my face. While I can’t definitively take credit for the trend, my classmates and I may have gotten it going.

I am Yale Class of 1980; I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. My parents had a beach house in the Cherry Grove section of North Myrtle Beach, and my high school friends would often spend time there. By the time of my senior year of high school, we had started staying in the more raucous Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach, renting an old house near the bar scene.

When I went to Yale in 1976, I made a habit of taking friends and roomies down to South Carolina to visit, including a few memorable trips to North Myrtle Beach to join some of my high school friends. During spring break our senior year, a group of ten Davenport seniors rented the same house in Ocean Drive—the “Skyview”—that had become the favorite of my former high school buddies. We had a great time. I still cherish a black-and-white photo taken of our group inside the house.

On our return, I’m sure we all had good things to say about the trip to our fellow classmates and underclassmen. Whether that was the seed, we can’t say. Of course, that was spring break, not senior week, so some genius definitely improved on the idea.

We asked Yale College alumni to help us trace the genesis of Myrtle, and many responded, with gusto worthy of Zack’s. But the origins of the sacred tradition are still somewhat mysterious. Did Bass’s pilgrimage start it all, or was that an early dead end? Should Jensen and Co. take credit for making Myrtle the default destination (as one Class of ’89 member called it), or was their trip one among many? If you can help settle the question—or just have a good story—write us atyam@yale.edu.—Eds.


Why US Mothers Die

I read with interest the article on the work of Harlan Krumholz on improving health-care outcomes in the United States (“The Heart of the Matter,” July/August). Around the country, the most frequent cause for hospitalization is conditions related to maternity care and newborns. No other country spends nearly what we do on maternity and newborn care, yet once again we did worse, dropping from 41st to 50th, in maternal mortality ranking and also did worse in infant mortality. Hospital maternity care is plagued with expensive technologies and management requirements that do no good and do cause harm for healthy women carrying healthy babies: the ubiquitous electronic fetal monitor, for instance, has been shown in study after study to be a prime example. These devices should not be allowed for healthy women in institutions that practice evidence-based medicine.

As is pointed out in the article, the public is ill equipped to insist on quality care—it is up to those of us who provide that care to do so. For maternity care, it is not a matter of finding “the cure” for poor outcomes; 49 countries know how to do it better.


Pls Expln Abbrevs

In each issue, would you please include a reference box of school and degree acronyms and what they mean? Some are truly baffling.

You mean you don’t know the difference between an MD and an MEnvD? A CDR and a CMIDW? We can’t publish a box in every issue, but we have put a guide to degree abbreviations—the same one we all have tacked up over our desks—on our website. Visit yalealumnimagazine.com/abbreviations.html for the complete Yale degree cheat sheet.—Eds.


Not Anti-Jewish

Anti-Semitism is surely increasing around the world. However, the action of Yale’s Institute for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS) in ending the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-semitism (YIISA) does not, for me, “leave the impression that the anti-Jewish forces of the world achieved a significant victory,” as the Anti-Defamation League stated (“Anti-Semitism Research Center Is Closed,”July/August). If Yale, with its considerable Jewish presence in faculty and students, finds that YIISA did not in five years produce any published research, that’s good enough for me.


The First Union Death?

As a longtime resident of Alexandria, Virginia, I take exception to the description of Major Theodore Winthrop as “the first Union officer killed in battle in the Civil War” (Old Yale,July/August). Winthrop was killed in action on June 10, 1861. On May 24 of that year, Colonel Ephraim E. Ellsworth of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves—a former law clerk to Abraham Lincoln and close friend of the family—crossed the Potomac in command of his unit to occupy Alexandria. “Spying a Confederate flag atop the Marshall House hotel, Ellsworth climbed to the roof and tore it down. While descending the stairs, he was shot to death by the proprietor, James T. Jackson.” This account, very familiar in Alexandria, is by Edward G. Longacre, in the Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Longacre characterizes Ellsworth as “the Union’s first casualty,” adding that “Lincoln openly mourned his loss, and his body lay in state at the White House” before being returned to New York for burial.

Perhaps the magazine relies on a distinction between Winthrop’s death in a battle and Ellsworth’s death from the gunshot of a Rebel partisan. But reliance on that sort of distinction, particularly without mentioning it, may not be quite the stuff to support the dramatic claim for Winthrop’s primacy.


Propaganda and Diversity

Peter Adolf’s letter in the July/August issue, which labeled as propaganda the review you published of Walter Olson’s Schools for Misrule (“The Liberal Paper Chase,” May/June 2011), raised in my mind the question of whether or not Mr. Adolf’s sense of irony encompasses his own propaganda.

If Mr. Adolf had been Class of 1949 instead of 1989, I wonder how he would have handled being on campus with William F. Buckley ’50, the conservative editor of the Yale Daily News, and later of National Review.

Surely a great university should welcome a diversity of opinion. For one, I will take inspiration where I find it. Eric Hobsbawn, a lifelong Marxist, is a favorite historian of mine. Yet I am a firm believer in free markets.


9/11 Art

I loved seeing Judith Shea’s awesome sculptures on the Last Look page of your magazine (July/August 2011). The stark expressions of the Brooks Brothers mannequins that inspired her almost seem to breathe in the devastation of the Twin Towers before them. Stunning. The angle of the photography enhanced her work. It’s a wonderful reflection of Yale’s taste in art—just one more reason why my late husband chose Yale over Princeton.

Couldn’t be prouder.


The Stress of Racism

I want to thank Ron Howell ’70 for his poignant and perceptive article about the mortality of African American graduates who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s (“Before Their Time,” May/June 2011). The unique racially based stress that afflicts many of our generation arose long before we applied to Yale. Our parents cautioned us from childhood that in order to overcome racism, we would have to perform at a level twice as high as our white counterparts. I thought of those words one day long after Yale when a superior informed me that a project I was developing was quite good, but “not undeniable.”

Of course, it is only in the world of sports that such a standard may be attained. Subjectivity influences outcomes almost everywhere else. African Americans of our generation learned after Yale that quality performance is only a ticket for admission to the game. Once inside you must have the good fortune to be around people who allow you to succeed. That permission is not always granted.


Many “Firsts” in Science

I read with interest David R. Lindskog’s letter in the July/August issue about the first use of chemotherapy (“Old Yale,” May/June 2011). This discovery is dealt with in more detail in Siddhartha Mukherjee’s recent Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies.

I wonder if your report and the subsequent letter may do a disservice to a discovery by the late Derrick J. de Solla Price in the Department of History. Price reported that most fundamental discoveries are made multiple times, although frequently only one person gets the credit. Analysis shows that usually three independent researchers must discover a thing to bring it to wide public attention. The theory of evolution was formulated by several groups in addition to Darwin, and at least three more-or-less contemporaneous groups published the special theory of relativity. Mendel’s laws of heredity lay unappreciated until three groups rediscovered them around the turn of the century.

This letter is not to detract from Goodman, Gilman, and Lindskog’s discovery, but to point out that the path to important research findings is usually much more complex than thought.


The comment period has expired.