Letters to the Editor

Letters: January/February 2019

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be e-mailed to yam@yale.edu; mailed to Letters Editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905; 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. Priority is given to letters of fewer than 300 words.

On behalf of 1stGenYale, thank you for your cover story (“First,” November/December) highlighting first-generation, underserved alumni and students trailblazing through Yale and the world beyond.

The wonderful photos and stories were captured at our inaugural conference, Blazing the Trail: Being the First, April 14, 2018, with 120 alumni from similar backgrounds but reflecting broad diversity returning to campus, many for the first time since graduation. This gathering was a first for making first-generation alumni visible, reflecting on past experiences, and building new relationships with Yale.

1stGenYale got started as a response to the 2015 Halloween incident, when it was apparent that many students felt a lack of belonging at Yale. It was created as a shared interest group of the Yale Alumni Association by alumni. In celebrating diversity of cultures, ethnicity, gender, race, and life experiences, we create programs that connect alumni from all schools to help students take advantage of all of Yale’s resources—including alumni.

Now over 1,000 strong, 1stGenYale alumni  are working on creating a regional alumni network for students when they visit cities for interviews and summer jobs; establishing alumni chapters in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Denver; developing a speakers’ bureau led by students; and supporting the Yale College FGLI Career Closet by donating needed interview clothing or making a financial contribution to buy new clothes.

Thank you, alumni and students, for building our new community. To join or to help us develop programs, e-mail us at 1stgenyale@gmail.com, join the 1stgenyale Facebook group, and check out our website, 1stgenyale.org.

Lise Pfeiffer Chapman ’81MBA
Short Hills, NJ


Ms. Chapman is chair of 1stGenYale.


Father Bob remembered

With interest and emotion, I read the reflections of Kerry Robinson about the passing and legacy of Rev. Robert L. Beloin (“A Chaplain’s Abundant Life,” November/December). Father Bob was a mentor, friend, and companion on the journey of faith for me and countless others. Upon his arrival as the Catholic chaplain at the start of my junior year in Yale College, one could not help but be drawn to his warm personality, faithful witness, intelligence, and humor. I am grateful for the many happy memories and experiences shared with Father Bob.

He always encouraged me to “follow the vibrancy,” and those sentiments have helped to guide my path through college, post-college life, and ultimately priestly formation, ordination, and ministry as a brother priest in the Archdiocese of Hartford since 2006. His friendship has always been a genuine blessing for our community, and a source of wisdom and support.

Father Bob truly had a great and positive impact upon the lives of so many. May he rest in peace.

John L. Lavorgna ’96
Waterbury, CT


More views on Kavanaugh

As three of the numerous Yale alumni who jumped into action to oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, we were dismayed to read in your “From the Editor” column (“Thoughts on Yale in the #MeToo Era,” November/December) that “classmates and friends of Kavanaugh’s defended him” with no mention of our efforts, which were widely covered in online, print, and broadcast media.

Three Yale women, Christina Baker Kline ’86; Rebecca Steinitz ’86, and Kate Manning ’79—who did not know Deborah Ramirez personally but found her account of her experience with Kavanaugh persuasive—wrote a letter on September 24 that was signed by 3,000 Yale women within 24 hours. A day later Colin Weil ’88 and Peter Rafle ’88 initiated a letter that was signed by more than 1,500 Yale men.

Our Facebook page, “Yale Alumni say No to Kavanaugh”—set up immediately following Kavanaugh’s Senate testimony on September 27 to publicize a protest in front of the Yale Club on October 2—was almost immediately followed by nearly 500 people. Our action attracted an estimated 100 people and significant media coverage.

And perhaps most importantly, virtually everyone who shared evidence rebutting Kavanaugh’s accounts of his behavior was a Yale College contemporary.

Thousands of Yale alumni are working tirelessly against the Trump administration and will not support a nominee for high office such as Brett Kavanaugh who lies under oath and faces credible claims against his integrity, despite her or his Yale connection.

Harold S. Levine ’78
Colin Weil ’88
Christina Baker Kline ’86
New York, NY


Thank you for pointing out the omission. We’ve amended the online edition.—Kathrin Day Lassila, Editor


It’s hard to believe that you did not receive at least one letter in support of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment, which you could have published as a counterpoint to the two you chose to print (Letters, November/December). However, if that be the case, I humbly offer this missive in support of our distinguished alumnus.

As to the first letter, submitted by a recently graduated member of the class of ’16, one has to marvel at what she deems “credible sexual assault allegations.” Is she referring to the allegations of Dr. Ford, which not one single individual has corroborated? Or is she referring to the allegations of the individual who supposedly attended ten parties, witnessing gang rapes at each, before deciding it was unwise to continue attending, but never felt the need to report the same to anyone? Or is it the third person who said she witnessed sexual misconduct by Justice Kavanaugh while she was at Yale, then said she didn’t, then said she wasn’t sure? None of the foregoing even remotely approaches what any person would characterize as credible.

Our youthful alumnus’s concerns for the rights of women and the need to support survivors of sexual assault are well founded and should be applauded. But let us acknowledge that there is no basis in fact for making Justice Kavanaugh the villain here. Oppose him for his conservatism if you will, but please don’t vilify him for a heinous crime of which we have no proof.

What we have here is political gamesmanship at its worst, and both Kavanaugh and Ford are the victims. The opposition senators have rather adroitly gotten far too many of us to make a mistake in logic, confusing questioning the truth of the accusation with questioning the validity of the crime complained of. Yale grads should know better.

Frank J. Paprota Jr. ’75
Cream Ridge, NJ


Another degree to rescind?

Five years ago, 60 Yale alumni petitioned the Yale Corporation to rescind its 1996 honorary doctorate to Stephan Schmidheiny. Yale’s response was that throughout its history, no such honor had ever been revoked.

This long-standing practice is no more. After Bill Cosby’s conviction for drugging and raping a woman, Yale revoked his honorary degree (“Honorary Degree for Bill Cosby is Rescinded,” July/August). Clearly correct, this decision compels us to reconsider the Schmidheiny case.

In 2013, Schmidheiny was found guilty, for the second time, by an Italian appeals court, and sentenced to 18 years in prison for “creating an environmental disaster” causing the deaths of over 2,000 people in Italy. His Eternit Corporation caused this tragedy among employees and neighbors of its asbestos factories. His conviction was overturned in 2014 on technical statute-of-limitations grounds. He is currently being retried for manslaughter in Turin.

As shown at trial, Schmidheiny was well aware of the dangers of asbestos. In 1976, he organized two conferences to train his managers to downplay the dangers to workers and the media. A conference document records his damning conclusion: “It is important not to panic. These three days were essential to technical managers, who were shocked. This must not happen to the workers.”

Schmidheiny’s Yale honor is in one sense more repulsive than Cosby’s. We believe it was to preempt prosecution for his environmental crimes that Schmidheiny sold and closed his asbestos businesses around the world and made large gifts, to Yale and others, for conservation causes. Yale honored him specifically for “his corporate role to promote stewardship of the global environment.”

This honor must not stand.

Daniel Berman ’64
Davis, CA
Martin Cherniack ’70
Clinton, CT


A crew career cut short

Your wonderful article on Yale in World War I (“Yale and the Great War,” November/December) was misleading in one way: some sports survived the wartime hiatus. My father, Harold Stein ’22, ’32PhD, arrived on campus in 1917 and joined the freshmen crew as a five-foot-three-inch cox. He paraded in uniform on the Old Campus, returning the next year to turn in his uniform and go out for crew again. The coach in the motor launch asked what Father was doing back there. “Why, I’m a cox, sir,” he replied. “No, you’re not,” said the coach, and so ended Father’s athletic career, he having risen considerably towards his ultimate five-eleven frame.

The Spanish flu that crippled the Yale campus in ’18 also reached and killed my grandfather back in New York City. Upon Father’s graduation and ascendance into graduate school, he defied much of the anti-Semitism visited on grad students of his ethnicity with his natural sociability, aided by the bootleg whisky his mother’s chauffeur brought up from the city.

He was denied the English department faculty post he had earned, by all accounts, but gained a beautiful Bryn Mawr grad from the Yale library and went on to a noble career in the government and academia, helping to launch interest in public administration as a worthy topic of study. His professorship, alas, was at Princeton.

John H. Stein ’64
Newberg, OR


Eating crow after The Tie

In the article about the 1968 Yale–Harvard game (“The Tie That Binds,” November/December), the author fails to mention that Yale was ranked No. 18 in the nation that year. What a team! I was at The Tie in ’68. I remember how much fun it was for the first 59 minutes to ridicule the Harvard crowd in the stands, and how stunning to see it all crumble in the final 42 seconds. It’s a good thing I had a few adult beverages during the game to wash down all the crow I had to eat. Anyway, the last memory of that day is my friends and I entertaining passengers on the T with a few Yale fight songs as we headed back to my apartment in Somerville.

Jim Staffaroni ’68
Standish, ME

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