Letters to the Editor

Refugees, race, Calhoun, and more

Readers respond.

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.

Thanks for the article on Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in the current alumni magazine (“Putting Out the Welcome Mat for Refugees,” March/April). I chair a group in Branford, Connecticut, that is welcoming a refugee family arriving very soon. IRIS is an extraordinary organization, providing information, structure, and leadership for groups like mine, and ultimately decreasing the misery, outrage, and terrorism-engendering environment of refugee camps with every family welcomed to this country.

My group, the Refugee Welcoming Committee, was formed when several members of the First Congregational Church in Branford decided to actually do something about our outrage over the idiotic vituperation emanating from several of our presidential hopefuls. The timing coincided with IRIS’s welcome of the refugee family spurned by Indiana, the publicity from which led us to IRIS. We now have a committee of over 30 people to deal with the complexities of helping a refugee family to settle in our community. Committee members come from three churches in Branford, as well as the community in general. Spontaneous (unsolicited) financial donations provided us with about two-thirds of the amount IRIS recommends to be spent on settlement, and the balance has been provided by a grant from our church endowment.

As I write this, we have a family coming soon. Tomorrow is moving day, on which an army of young volunteers will move donated household furnishings into a rent-discounted condo. We will welcome our family with services for education, health care, transportation, acculturation, and the many facets of daily life.

This is the America I know and love, in sharp contrast to the xenophobic, racist attitudes so sadly apparent in our dysfunctional nomination process.

William D. Hall ’69
Branford, CT


The cost of Yale-NUS

Your article on the new campus of Yale-NUS College in Singapore (“Adaptation,” March/April) tells the reader that there are three residential colleges, that the college itself has 500 students, that 60 percent of them are Singaporeans, and that its campus occupies 15 acres. It also notes that “the new campus was funded, like the college’s operations, by the Singaporean government.” Curiously, however, it never gives us a number for the construction costs of the splendid facilities pictured.

The magazine essentially parrots in this article Woodbridge Hall’s line that Yale-NUS is “fully funded” by Singapore without ever having actually reported what that really means. Does, for example, Singapore pay the salaries and benefits of the Yale personnel in New Haven who work full-time on Yale-NUS matters? Does it reimburse Yale for President Peter Salovey’s time when he is away from New Haven and busy with Yale-NUS meetings and other activities on the other side of the Pacific?

Michael Montesano ’83
Tokyo, Japan


Yale-NUS spokeswoman Valerie Yeo tells us that the new campus cost approximately 240 million US dollars. In response to Mr. Montesano’s other questions, she writes: “Reimbursements for Yale faculty who visit the college to teach courses and give guest lectures, as well as other general administrative costs, including the Yale-NUS office in New Haven, are covered by the college.”—Eds.

Athletic accomplishments

It is with tremendous pride that I want to note for the record some of the accomplishments of Yale sports these days. First, at the outset, let us all congratulate athletics director Tom Beckett, whose stewardship of our athletics department has led to jaw-dropping results, and all in the face of prior administration “headwinds” with respect to the place of the student-athlete at Yale.

Here is but a sampling of what Yale has achieved of late:

  • the men’s squash team won the national championship in February;
  • football coach Tony Reno and his staff received the FCS ranking of first for their class of recruits this winter;
  • the men’s heavyweight crew was ranked first in the nation in April;
  • James Randon ’17, a junior on the track team, broke the Yale record for the mile run, 3:58.85;
  • the women’s swim team went undefeated in Ivy competition this winter;
  • men’s basketball reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962, and then knocked off nationally ranked Baylor before a valiant loss to perennial heavyweight Duke;
  • men’s hockey won the NCAA Championship a few years ago, and this year was ranked eleventh before losing in the NCAA Tournament;
  • men’s lacrosse was ranked first in the country in March and was undefeated. (As a former Yale laxman, I find it impossible to adequately express the admiration I have for what Coach Shay and his charges have accomplished.)

Yale’s athletic accomplishments are broad and deep. It is wonderful to behold.

Peter S. Kaufman ’75
New York, NY


You can read more about some of these achievements in our winter sports highlights (page 61) and our feature on the men’s basketball team (page 42).—Eds.

Give sailing its due

I would guess that the compilation of Yale’s national championship teams (“Those Championship Seasons,” March/April) was a less-than-subtle test to see if older alumni read anything other than the class notes. It worked.

In the item, Yale sailing is credited with 8 national championships, beginning in 2004. The correct number is between 14 and 18, depending on how you count events contested when college sailing was an East Coast sport. The website of the Intercollegiate Sailing Association lists Yale teams winning national championships in 1937, 1947 (two events), 1948, 1949, 1950, 1963, 1968, 1975, and 1976. The athletics department may have limited its search to championships after the sailing team switched from club sport to varsity status, but Yale’s club team won those earlier championships against competition from a mix of club and varsity programs. Support for this interpretation would be that the 1948–50 teams and the 1975–76 team have been feted at recent annual sailing dinners.

An argument for the cosmic importance of all 18 championships would be that President Kingman Brewster Jr. ’41 took time off from a pressing agenda (the challenges of making coeducation work, campus opposition to the war in Vietnam, alumni backlash against Inslee Clark’s democratization of the admissions process, and an impending crisis over what was widely seen as racially biased justice) to tell freshman sailors in the fall of 1969 that we had a mission to avenge his loss in the 1938 McMillan Cup (a mostly New England affair) to a Harvard team led by the Kennedy brothers, Joe and Jack.

I have to leave room for the rowers, who will certainly submit their own correction.

Dwight Gertz ’73
Lincoln, MA


Indeed, we included only the championships won since sailing became a varsity sport at Yale. The information we received from the athletics department did include six dinghy championships won by club teams at Yale. We have yet to hear from the rowers.—Eds.


Protestant Irish patriots

As a Catholic American of Irish descent, I read with great pleasure your article on William E. Robinson (“Yale’s First Student from Ireland,” March/April). The article was very informative, but I was surprised that you found it unusual for a Protestant to be an Irish patriot.

There were many Irish Protestants who strove mightily to end the mistreatment of Irish Catholics. Among them were Jonathan Swift, Wolfe Tone, and Robert Emmet from the eighteenth century; Charles Stewart Parnell from the nineteenth century; and William Butler Yeats, his brother the painter Jack Butler Yeats, and Lady Gregory from the twentieth century.

There were also many Protestants of Irish descent who defended the rights of Catholics in the United States. Among the early leaders of the American-Irish Historical Society that was founded in the 1890s was Theodore Roosevelt, whose mother was of Irish descent.

Edmund J. Campion ’76PhD
Knoxville, TN

Aren’t we all “of color”?

Thanks for the coverage of the conflicts, controversies, and discussions on campus last fall (“Race, Speech, and Values,” January/February). The phrase “of color” appears 11 times in your articles. In recent months the phrase has been appearing more frequently in various media. We are all of color, as white, pink, and tan are colors. White is defined as an achromatic color, as is black.

In previous years, “nonwhite” was used for non-caucasian people; what was wrong with “nonwhite”? Was it considered offensive?

Ivan Berger ’59E
Buffalo, NY


There is no universal agreement about  what language is best to refer to people who identify as or are perceived as something other than caucasian, but the term “people of color” is the most widely used on campus, and that was reflected in our use of the term.—Eds.



Although it is always a great thing for a relatively new profession to be mentioned in an article, reinforcing the incorrect name of a profession is usually discouraged. Reading “The Digital Evolution of Teaching at Yale,” I was very disappointed to read that in the alumni magazine representing the university which has the second oldest physician assistant (PA) school in the nation, the editors of this tech-centric article didn’t even plug “Yale PA program” into a search engine. If you had, you would discover that we are not physician’s assistants but rather physician assistants. (No apostrophe, please: we do not serve a physician but instead our patients.) And if Google is too tiresome to use, consider picking up Merriam-Webster, where our profession is also listed correctly.

Jacob Hauptman ’07PA, ’07MMS
Portland, OR

Decals to stop SOM bird strikes?

I recently read that, on average, three birds fly into the windows at the School of Management at Yale (Campus Clips, March/April). This is not surprising. What is surprising is that no one seems to want to invest the little time and money it takes to prevent this: the use of window decals will discourage birds from mistaking transparency for open air. There are several kinds, including transparent decals that store ultraviolet light and glow at sundown —a time when birds mistake transparency for passage. Also there are silhouetted birds in flight, which any bird recognizes is impossible in real life and will avoid the space the image is on. We do not need to lose songbirds or any birds because of human thoughtlessness.

Phyllis Rosenblatt ’65MFA
New York, NY


More thoughts about Calhoun

I do not normally submit letters to publications, but the efforts to rename Calhoun College (Letters, March/April) are continually on my mind.

History is something we are inextricably stuck with—as individuals, as citizens, as human beings. It is much bigger than either you or I or even any group of us.
For you or me to rail against history for any particular reason is probably nothing more than an exercise in self-promotion, self-righteousness, justifying ourselves, and even misguiding ourselves. For you or me to mess with history is probably as dangerous as messing with Mother Nature.

History is our teacher. We are not history’s teacher. The opportunity for us to “teach” history existed yesterday. Part of today’s opportunity is to make history by dealing with it.

Because it is there in all its immensity, we might do well to think of history as Veritas. You and I will most assuredly be remembered for how we deal with history. Those of us foolish enough to deny even the smallest part of history are really denying Veritas and, in the process, ourselves.

Madison Brown ’56
Parkersburg, WV


I was appalled by the editorial in the Wall Street Journal on November 10 with respect to my alma mater doing the politically correct thing at the expense of the principles that Yale was founded upon. This is not the Yale I admire and respect.

The Yale that I admire and respect is best exemplified by Senator Bob Taft in the early 1950s, at the height of the McCarthy-generated anticommunist fears. He was in New Haven to attend a meeting of the Yale Corporation and was asked by a reporter if he would support hiring a communist to teach at Yale. (Today, no one would answer such a loaded question.) Senator Taft replied that if it didn’t interfere with his teaching, he would support such employment. As no one could accuse Senator Taft of being soft on communism, that ended the interview immediately.

I implore President Salovey to be our Bob Taft for 2016 and to stand up for freedom of speech and confront the minority who are ignoring the basic principles behind our constitution and the founding of Yale. Doing otherwise will succumb to the “tyranny of the minority” and harm Yale immeasurably.

Michael L. Friedman ’55
New York, NY


When I was at Yale, Calhoun was considered the most desirable of the residential colleges. I never knew why, nor did I care, since I was totally satisfied in Pierson (even though it was named for a graduate of Harvard). I never heard a word about John Calhoun’s history.

Those were different times: we were known as the “Silent Generation.” Times have obviously changed, and Calhoun’s record as a slave owner and promoter of slavery and white supremacy has become a major issue on campus.

First, a historical note: a college was named after Calhoun because he was the first alumnus to be elected to a national executive position in Yale’s first two centuries. A 1914 biography of Calhoun extolled his public achievements but never mentioned his slaveholdings or promotion of slavery. He was never a benefactor of Yale. So naming a Yale college for him was based on ignorance or an outright ignoring of his racist views.

In today’s world, a residential college bearing his name is an insult to a great university and should be changed.

But how and to what? Yale should take a page from Lincoln Center in Manhattan and put the naming rights up for auction. Entertainment mogul David Geffen donated $100 million to have Alice Tully Hall renamed after him.

I’m sure that there’s a Yale graduate out there who would donate a hefty sum to have Calhoun renamed for him or her. And speaking of “her,” why isn’t there a residential college named for a woman?

Richard Valeriani ’53
Sherman, CT

The Yale Corporation, Yale’s board of trustees, specified that residential colleges would not be named after a living donor. As for naming a college after a woman, see page 40.—Eds.


I hope that Yale’s recent earnest efforts at cultural sensitivity will be extended to some hitherto neglected areas.

Trans-species insensitivity appears to be a widespread problem in the Ivy League. Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, and Princeton use animals as symbols or mascots, in patronizing and culturally appropriative ways. Bulldogs probably do not intend their vocalizations to be interpreted as “bow wow wow,” and lions never paint themselves blue. The main interests of bears, lions, and tigers have traditionally been food, sleep, and sex; universities, beyond their kitchens, have little to interest these creatures.

These animal mascots are most frequently apparent at athletic contests, at which humans also frequently manifest insensitivity towards members of their own species. The loud playing and singing of “fight” songs, with vigorous melodies, and the yelling of aggressive cheers, are clearly forms of microaggression against opposing teams and their supporters. The Ivy League could set a national example by banning such behavior. Instead, frequent polite applause for both teams might be encouraged, as well as occasional singing, by all spectators, of the alma maters of both schools, or of gentle secular songs, such as “Kumbaya.”

Until such changes are made, it should be recognized that the spectators at Ivy League athletic contests view—often, no doubt, unconsciously—their team’s athletes as vicarious or sublimated macroaggressive expressers of their personal feelings and desires. While this may meet some deep societal need, perhaps the teams should be identified to reflect this reality. For example, the Yale football team might be identified, rather than as Bulldogs, as YMFMAS, or Yamfomas, i.e., Yale Male Football Macro-Aggression Sublimates.

Francis Oates ’64, ’67LLB
St. Louis, MO


I understand Yale has an Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage on the West Campus. How can we reconcile that with removing the name of Calhoun from the college? We all know we can’t change history, so what is our rationale in trying to eliminate a name that we have honored for almost a hundred years?

Wilder Baker ’53
Darien, CT


Dance like nobody’s watching

As a freshman, one of my favorite places (“A Place of One’s Own at Yale,” September/October) was Commons—not during meal times, but just before.
As a bursary-job busboy, one of my jobs was putting water pitchers on each table. I’d put a favorite classical record on the turntable connected to the overhead speakers and, almost alone in that baronial hall, sort of dance my way through my task.

Ivan Berger ’61
Fanwood, NJ



In the From the Editor column (“Musical Interlude,” March/April), we identified the donor of two violins to the Collection of Musical Instruments as Andrew Petryn ’43. He was an alumnus of the School of Art and should have been identified as ’43BFA.

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