Letters to the Editor

Letters: January/February 2021

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be emailed 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.

Celebrating women

I read your magazine cover to cover. I was just absolutely drawn into all the interviews with women at Yale (“Celebrating 150 Years of Yale Women,” November/December). The writing was excellent, and the choice of whom to present was great. I also liked the interlacing of older Yale attendees with recent ones. I didn’t stop, honestly, until the whole magazine was read. Bravo!
Grace Feldman ’63MusM
New Haven, CT

I was impressed and proud to read of all the “extraordinary” Yale women. Women who have graduated from Yale have indeed made extraordinary contributions to the world, in all areas of work and study and innovation, and it is about time they were celebrated.

The article moved me to think about all the women I knew while I was at Yale, as well as to reflect on what Yale actually did for me as a woman in my life as a whole. In a strange way, it first taught me the humble fact that I was ordinary. Like many, in high school I felt extraordinary, and was often told so, which directly led to my admission to Yale. I arrived and immediately realized that I did not stand out, and that I needed to work even harder. That is a lesson that has sustained me throughout my life.

In today’s world of college admissions, and attendance, I’m not sure how I would feel on arrival at Yale, or if I would even be admitted! I strive to keep my children grounded in life and would like to see Yale also celebrate the ordinary Yale women, like myself and my friends, who are out here in the world. Women who work outside their homes, and women who work inside their homes; women who have chosen to spend time with children, and women who have chosen not to have children; women who are doctors in small towns, and women who are lawyers in large cities; women who write books, and women who make their book clubs more inspiring.

Although I will always be proud that I attended Yale, in the community where I have lived and worked for the past 25 years, very few know I am an alumna. I prove my worth by how I act, how I treat others, and how I contribute to conversations and the world. What Yale gave me was the grace to listen and learn from others. I, and my extremely wise women friends from Yale, are all completely ordinary by the standards set in your articles, and I celebrate those women every day, along with all women who make the world a better place.
Katherine Edwards ’88
Annapolis, MD

Someone I was fortunate to know was listed in memoriam in the November/December issue, an issue focused on 150 years of extraordinary Yale women. This was poignantly appropriate, as Anne Fleming ’02 was truly an extraordinary woman herself.

Professor Fleming was my contracts professor at Georgetown University Law Center last year. She passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 40 in August. A brilliant scholar who focused her work on giving a voice to the most vulnerable in our society, Professor Fleming stood out for her kindness and deep care for her students.  

We need more brilliant young women professors like Anne Fleming. She is gone much too soon.
Elizabeth Henry ’14
Washington, DC

My school has always considered women as intellectual coequals, from the get-go. For you to brazenly pretend that Yale too has long embraced coeducation is an affront to academic rigor and women’s progressive efforts. Of course, there were some women working and studying there in New Haven 150 years ago, but please do not pretend that Yale has a long history of recognizing the full genius and talents of women matriculating as freshmen. Yale College did not allow women to matriculate until 1969. Period. You should be ashamed.
Arthur Bacon
Seattle, WA

At the beginning of the 50WomenAtYale150 celebration, we devoted most of an issue (“The Women Who Changed Yale College,” September/October 2019) to stories about the first women undergraduates in 1969 and their triumphs and struggles.—Eds.

A history of discrimination

The Yale administration denies the Department of Justice accusation that Yale discriminates against Asian American and white applicants in its admission process (“Government Alleges Admissions Discrimination,” page 16). Yet discrimination against some applicants, or application advantages given to others, has been apparent from Yale’s earliest days. From the onset, females were excluded. For years, it was a common belief that there was a Jewish quota. Alumni sons (and now daughters, no doubt) were always favored (my brother and I were thus blessed), and every class had significant numbers of sons (and now daughters) from families of great wealth or political fame. To deny that discrimination permeates the process is to deny lux et veritas.
James W. Hanway ’50
Fort Myers, FL

Diversity and the endowment

David Swensen, the investment chief of Yale’s endowment, has announced that firms engaged to manage the endowment funds will henceforth be measured on the diversity of their workforces (Campus Clips, page 16). Firms that make insufficient progress in this area risk being discharged.

The university’s alumni, whose contributions are the primary source of the endowment, have a right to expect that the funds will be invested in a manner that maximizes the returns, consistent with appropriate standards of prudence. If a particular alumnus wishes to devote his or her resources to causes that will increase diversity of particular companies or industries, that is his or her affair; but such goals are not the business of the endowment’s managers.

Moreover, basic economics teaches that a market participant who considers factors that are irrelevant to the transaction normally obtains a less-than-optimal outcome; considering the racial or gender makeup of a firm charged with maximizing investment performance would seem to pose precisely this risk.

Apparently mindful of this principle, and of his obligation to maximize the financial performance of the endowment, Mr. Swensen, according to a Wall Street Journal report, “hopes investment firms staffed by people with the broadest set of backgrounds will outperform those that are overwhelmingly white and male.” The alumni will look forward to Mr. Swensen’s periodic reporting on the percentage returns secured by the endowment’s more and less diverse managers, so that all will see if Mr. Swensen’s hope has been realized.
Kenneth A. Margolis ’77
Chappaqua, NY

The Ottomans and Italy

Alan Mikhail’s excellent book God’s Shadow (“Forgotten Superpower,” November/December) brings to view the power of the Ottoman Empire in the late 1400s and early 1500s. The Ottoman military aimed at Italy but was stalled first in Malta in 1565 by the Knights of Malta, then defeated decisively in 1571 by a much smaller force in the Battle of Lepanto, which led to the Feast of the Rosary.
Ed Helmrich ’83
Larchmont, NY

Making the most

I found your article on Brian Wallach’s battle with ALS (“Service to Others. On Borrowed Time,” September/October) inspiring, as most should. Surely I have admiration for the attitude Wallach displays and the efforts he has made broadly to fight a truly awful disease.

Among the greatest enjoyments of my own life was arranging an every-week luncheon for those available to be with my best friend as he lived his final three years. Spending time with 10 or 15 friends was pure joy to him.

While under final-day hospice, he showed the son of a friend how to throw a curve ball. Could many of us live as he and Wallach have under such a future?
Charles Bourland ’55
Savannah, GA

Medical monument

Re “Yale vs COVID” (July/August): perhaps Yale might commission a heroic bronze statue to honor the doctors, nurses, and health workers bravely risking their lives to battle the coronavirus epidemic.
Franklin C. Cacciutto ’62MD
Westbury, NY

More about those letters

A letter in the September/October edition of the magazine begins “Another article on ‘racism’? Surely there is another subject worth covering.” I would answer “Another ignorant letter?”—worse yet from someone with whom I must admit a common association with Yale. Thus began a lengthy conversation with myself about my reaction (shock, outrage, dismay, disgust) and my response. For that I will turn to the brilliance of Ibram X. Kendi: “Assimilationist ideas are racist ideas. Assimilationists can position any racial group as the superior standard that another racial group should be measuring themselves against, the benchmark they should be trying to reach. Assimilationists typically position White people as the superior standard.”

Would that these words might make a difference.
Judy Kessen Crawford ’76
Millersville, MD

I find it very disturbing to read some of the alumni letters in the November/December issue. Multiple alumni were critical of the magazine for printing letters from some other alumni in the September/October issue. They felt these authors lacked knowledge and empathy in regard to racism, and thus this magazine shouldn’t have published their letters.

So, they implore this publication, intended for all Yale alumni, to share letters from some, but not from others. In effect, they call for it to prevent all fellow alumni from having a voice, removing the privilege from those with a differing, unpopular viewpoint.

Pretty ironic! While these critics laudably strive for needed change in this country, they apparently never fully learned what this nation is all about. America is about diversity, but not just in its people—also in its citizens’ opinions, protected by the First Amendment.

This country’s strength is in no voice being silenced. To call for this magazine to filter out letters from one perspective as opposed to another goes against the American way, and to criticize its editors for not doing so is unfounded. I commend the magazine for publishing varying opinions without bias, as it has an obligation to represent all alumni.

Valued change comes from listening to all sides on an issue, then developing a path to get there in the best manner. This approach should foster working together, not drifting apart. To disregard input from some, blocking their thoughts from consideration, fuels the fire of divisiveness.
Tom Midney ’82
Bloomfield, CT

A plan to cool the planet

The March/April 2020 issue of your magazine had a hot and valuable debate in the Letters column, on global warming. I would wish that the minority view that we are entering a period of global cooling is correct, but I find the majority view that we are moving into a dangerously hot period more compelling. Of course, climate is complex and unpredictable. But I do believe we earthlings should develop practical and safe ways to cool the Earth.

From a Google review of work on geoengineering, it appears there are two main schools of thought on how to achieve cooling. There is the mirror school, in which either giant mirrors or many smaller navigable reflective satellites are deployed in space, and the gas school, involving the release into the atmosphere of reflective gases, mimicking in a sense gas released by volcanic eruptions.

I see serious problems with both schemes. The physical mirrors will be extremely heavy and cumbersome. This could render them impractical in the shorter term. The reflective gas idea creates risks in that the process is irreversible and subject to unknown side effects such as reactions with other gases and cosmic radiation in the atmosphere.

I believe there is a third approach that avoids these problems: the placing in high Earth orbit of some millions of large, ultra-thin-skinned balloons. For the weight to be viable for ready launch into orbit, the thickness of the skin of the balloons would have to be about a micron or less. If such fabrics can be developed, a single rocket should be able to launch a number of balloons. Once in orbit, the balloons would deploy by the release of a small quantity of helium gas. The sun-facing surfaces of the balloons would reflect back into space energy emanating from the sun. This concept should greatly reduce the weight of the reflectors, while avoiding the risks inherent in the release of gases. The process would be reversible, in that the life of the balloons should be short, and they would need to be regularly replenished.
Willem B. Cronje ’65
Cape Town, South Africa

McCarthy's reelection

Although the Yale Alumni Magazine bears no responsibility for errors of recollection in the letters section, Senator Joseph McCarthy (“The Demagogue,” September/October) was reelected in 1952, not 1954, as a letter writer stated in your November/December issue. The latter date would have been only a month before the majority of his colleagues censured him.
Stephen Whitfield ’66MA
Lexington, MA


Because of a transcription error, we misquoted former Yale economics professor Joseph Stiglitz in our profile of Janet Yellen ’71PhD (“Celebrating 150 Years of Yale Women,” November/December). Stiglitz said that as a student at Yale, Yellen fit in with the department’s “ethos of concern about macrostability,” not microstability.

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