Letters to the Editor

Meeting the neighbors

Readers talk back about Chinese grandparents, climate change, and more.

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be mailed to Letters Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905; e-mailed to yam@yale.edu; or faxed to (203) 432-0651. Due to the volume of correspondence, we are unable to respond to or publish all mail received. Letters accepted for publication are subject to editing.

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As a regular commuter on Prospect Street for many years, I’ve enjoyed very much seeing the Chinese grandparents out strolling, mostly with their grandchildren (“The Expat Grandparents,” January/February). They’ve created a wonderful community there that adds a lot to the diversity and character of the north-campus neighborhood. The cover picture could not have been more appealing.

Tom Appelquist
Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics
New Haven, CT


“The Expat Grandparents” was a wonderful article. And the cover shot could not have captured your themes more perfectly. Congratulations!

Deborah Davis
Professor of Sociology
New Haven, CT

We tip our hats to writer Cathy Shufro and to photographer Christopher Capozziello for the cover photo.—Eds.


Climate and public opinion

I was appalled by your article on Tony Leiserowitz (“What Do Americans Think About Global Warming?” January/February). This man is an example of why climatologists have been discredited and dismissed by the non-ideological scientific community. The very presence of ideologically driven pseudoscientists who seek to “sell” the ideology by linguistic trickery, propaganda, and demagoguery demeans the science and those who espouse it. If a science is correct in its analysis, the data and the data alone should speak for it.

The advice to use “global warming” instead of “climate change,” because it sells better, is a case in point. The renaming was necessary because it is a historical fact that climate changes naturally, has always done so, and presumably always will. It is also factual that global warming statistically ceased 20 years ago, discrediting the “hockey stick” climatist warming model projections and the truth of the term.

The preference of a lie because it sells better has been the ill-serving climatist modus operandi. An article blatantly sympathetic with and uncritical of the climatist movement is a biased editorial faux pas, and a violation of your magazine’s Statement of Purpose.

McClellan Blair ’60
Indiana, PA


What to call the colleges

I strongly agree with Kathrin Day Lassila’s column (“When Everything’s in a Name,” January/February) in one respect: the upcoming naming of the two new residential colleges is a vitally important moment for the university and for the students who will live with these names forever.

However, I strongly disagree with Ms. Lassila’s assertion that there is a groundswell of alumni and on-campus support for naming the colleges (or at least one of them) for persons or a person who is a member of a group merely because he or she was “first” to be a part of the Yale community. The alumni I know groan at the prospect. As usual, the loudest voices in this debate probably belong to those with special interests. Among the list of candidates Ms. Lassila names, the only one who achieved anything of public note is Noah Webster; the others are obscure private persons. The people who have become namesakes of Yale colleges in the past, by contrast, achieved noteworthy things, in the national or university arenas.

Yale history, thankfully, provides the trustees with a world of opportunity to honor accomplished alumni and faculty, including those who have led our nation and our university at the highest levels. To ignore the most salient options because the names belong to dead white men would constitute invidious discrimination at its most ironic. It would be a shame if the trustees were to capitulate to political correctness at this pivotal moment.

Philip S. Weber ’78
New York, NY


It was astonishing to read in the editor’s column that Jonathan Edwards, among others for whom the residential colleges are named, “never worked at Yale.” In fact, he held the position of tutor of the college—one of only two at the time—for slightly more than two years (1724–26). It was a difficult period. The college was without a rector during much of it, and the excessive burdens of Edwards’s office broke his health. It was typical of Edwards, for whom sacrificial service was the highest form of love, to give of himself without regard for his own well-being.

At the outset of his magisterial biography, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, George Marsden ’65PhD states, “Edwards was extraordinary. By many estimates, he was the most acute early American philosopher and the most brilliant of all American theologians.” He was more than eminent, he was preeminent in his field. Let us hope that those charged with naming the two new residential colleges allow the Edwards precedent to guide their deliberations.

David Adams ’61, ’65BD, ’79PhD
Etna, NH

Many thanks to Mr. Adams for this correction and background.—Eds.


The Woodward Report revisited

Challenging the Unchallengeable—Sort Of” (January/February) sees the Woodward Report as attempting to rehabilitate “the university’s tarnished image after several years of mistakes regarding free speech.” It also laments the collapse of the “Brewster plan” when it came into its “first contact with reality.” As the article describes it, this “hard-line” plan envisioned a series of responses to “disruptive student-led direct action”: the offer to meet with students; “immediate suspension” upon student rejection of the offer; a call to campus police.

Brewster’s genius lay in his willingness to abandon any so-called plan. Finding himself caught up in an ever-evolving situation, he adapted to it. In 1968, he had counseled “punishing the strikers” at Columbia. By 1970, during the May Day “episode” (your word), Brewster found a way to address student concerns while also protecting the university community from serious harm.

In Sam Chauncey’s words, he consented to “winging it.” It was an existential response to an existential situation, and the Yale of today is stronger—not weaker—because of it.

For a more nuanced account of this period of campus unrest, readers can consult John Taft’s Mayday at Yale or John Hersey’s Letter to the Alumni.

David Wyatt ’70
Charlottesville, VA


Ferguson rally “despicable”

It was with a great deal of alarm that I read an item about the December 1 rally led by the Black Students Alliance at Yale (Chat, January/February). The item described the rally as a protest to a grand jury recommendation against an indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. Brown’s actions leading up to the incident were criminal—theft, assault on an unarmed man, repeated threats and blows upon a police officer who had no other choice than to respond with deadly force—and a rally protesting his shooting is absolutely opposed to the meaning of civil rights. I refer to the obligation to conduct oneself lawfully, peacefully, without depriving others of their civil rights and being accorded the same. African American youths are not the only citizens whose civil rights must be respected.

The Yale rally, and any demonstration supporting violence in any form, is by definition in support of illegal and criminal behavior which disrupts the peace and is designed to intimidate police officers anywhere from carrying out their professional mandates to protect the public and themselves. These are despicable bullying and threatening tactics which, if successful, would eventually eliminate the expectations of the public to be protected from people like Brown. Yet, a town was sent up in flames at tremendous loss to property and danger to human lives, and absolutely no one was indicted for it. If the participants of this rally approve of that wanton reaction as well as Brown’s reckless behavior, they should be aware that their ideas of a just and lawful society are badly warped and will result in more alienation from the unique benefits of American life.

Anna M. Boulden ’62MusM
Charleston, SC


Sterile Sterling?

The recent renovation of Sterling Memorial Library (“Sterling Restored,” November/December) continues a disappointing architectural trend toward conservatism and museumification of the Yale campus. This trend seems to have accelerated in recent years with the bowdlerized former Cross Campus Library, now the wanly neohistorical Bass Library; the pallid renovations of several residential colleges along the lines of high-end chain hotels; and the impending two new residential colleges whose design palely mimics the 1930s “originals,” themselves retardataire when constructed 80 years ago.

The newly sterile Sterling, with its plush armchairs and empty hallways, is as comfortable and as vacuously inoffensive as any country club sitting room. Seemingly banished is the frenzied intellectual activity of the past, as well as the formerly dramatic, urbane connection to the subterranean companion library. Yale’s new public image as a restored imitation is an embarrassing architectural image for a university that stands at the pinnacle of esthetic and intellectual innovation in its academic departments, particularly architecture. Yale can and should set a much, much higher bar for its architectural renovations.

Brent D. Ryan ’91
Cambridge, MA


A chaplain and the Middle East

We regret the resignation of the Reverend Bruce Shipman, formerly Episcopal chaplain at Yale, and its implication for the place of religion in the university (“Episcopal Chaplain Quits amid Controversy,” November/December). Shipman was forced to resign in the wake of controversy triggered by his letter to the editor of the New York Times. Shipman had written, “As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.”

The view he expressed—that Israeli policies are alienating persons who in the past have enthusiastically supported Israel—is increasingly voiced by American Jews themselves. In his widely read book Embracing Israel/Palestine, Rabbi Michael Lerner examines the perception that many governments at the United Nations express views reflecting an anti-Semitic bias. He concludes that while there is indeed evidence that such bias exists, it is “the anger that Israeli behavior in the past 60-plus years has generated that creates this contemporary bias and leads many nations to take stands against Israel that are out of proportion to Israel’s crimes.” By what logic should clergy such as Shipman be censured for articulating what Rabbi Lerner and others are themselves saying?

In calling Shipman to account, Yale chaplain Sharon Kugler stated that his action showed “total disregard for the spirit of what the Yale chaplaincy and [Yale Religious Ministry] has worked so long and hard to create with the many communities it serves. At the heart of so much of the work of the Yale Chaplaincy is a highly valued kind of collegiality and I am mystified as to why that was so grossly overlooked by your decision to write to [the New York Times].” What is the value of collegiality, however, if injustices associated with religious movements or organizations cannot be named and examined?

Well beyond the details of the wrenching situation in the Middle East and the increasingly anguished reaction of the American Jewish community to it, Shipman’s forced resignation, we believe, does violence to treasured principles of academic and religious freedom, oft reiterated by the university itself. The obligation of persons of faith to “speak truth to power” needs to be respected and encouraged.

Larry Minear ’58, ’62BD
Orleans, MA

Richard Harter ’58
Cambridge, MA


Reverend Bruce Shipman’s letter to the New York Times sparked a good deal of discussion. I believe Shipman is a very decent individual who simply writes from an uninformed and rather idealistic perspective. Of far more concern to me is the letter from my classmate Joel Freedman (Letters, January/February). While he has every right to criticize Israel’s policies, neither he nor Shipman has the right to give gratuitous advice to the government of Israel from their safe havens in Connecticut. Yes, we are witnessing increasing anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic acts in Europe and elsewhere. Yes, Israel is finding itself increasingly alienated on the world stage. But this is nothing new for the Jews or the nation of Israel. The solution is not to commit national suicide by appeasing the sensibilities of those who are upset with Israel’s actions, but to do what is necessary to render safety to Israel’s citizens regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.

I do not know, nor can anyone know, if peace will ultimately come to this region of the world. For this to happen, the hatred that is spewed by both Palestinians and Israelis must be minimized, and that seems unlikely when Palestinian children are taught hatred from their earliest years and Palestinian attacks on Israel generate a reciprocal hatred from elements of the Israeli population. I do know that the way to that peace is not simply to “change direction” to assuage the “exasperation” of the European nations.

Bob L. Harris ’55
West Hartford, CT


Where’s the pay equity study?

In your interview with President Salovey (“Sexual Misconduct and Fairness,” January/February), you asked him about a pay equity study at the medical school that was finished nine months ago but has not been released. In his response, he made no mention of the study, but referred to a task force that will “identify the appropriate issues and make meaningful recommendations.”

Did you inadvertently omit the president’s reaction to the failure of the administration to release the results of the pay equity survey? Or has he, following in the footsteps of so many senior Yale administrators, pushed the pay equity issue under the rug by appointing and/or deferring to yet another committee or task force?

Why are the results of the pay equity study being kept under wraps? Where is the transparency that is essential if the president is to retain the confidence of women faculty and alumnae?

Ann M. Körner ’74PhD
Hamden, CT

The Yale Alumni Magazine asked Robert Alpern, dean of the School of Medicine, for a response. He replied:

“Each year we do this pay equity study at the medical school. It is used to screen for individual compensations that may be lower than predicted. In the past we have discussed this with the department chairs annually, but it is our plan this year to also discuss it with the faculty. To have accurate data, we use the previous year’s variables and compensation. Thus, the data for last year’s analysis is almost two years old. We are presently working on this year’s analysis, which would be for fiscal year 2014. Our plan is to present this analysis to the faculty when it is complete.”

1 comment

  • Steven Horwitz
    Steven Horwitz, 2:05am March 17 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    McClellan Blair (Climate and Public Opinion) provides in his letter (March/April 2015) a rhetorically rich but factually barren attack on climate science, something about which, I suspect, he has absolutely no expertise. I presume the letters editor believes that a strongly expressed view deserves space if only to represent the other side of the climate debate. That is a false equivalence. There is—aside from ideological and corporate sponsored propaganda— no “debate” about climate change, and specifically the impact of human activity on the environment. I suggest that Mr. Blair spend an afternoon with Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt, which traces the arguments and personalities whose rhetoric he shares. The same individuals began as tools of the tobacco industry, moved on to acid rain, secondhand smoke, pesticides and ultimately to climate change, refining the same deceptive arguments to slow regulation. I doubt that even Mr. Blair would choose to live in a world where the same empty charges and strategies he tosses at climate change scientists had prevailed when it came to tobacco, acid rain, secondhand smoke and pesticides. Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.
    Steven Horwitz
    Medieval Studies ‘70

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