Letters to the Editor

Letters: September/October 2022

We welcome readers’ letters, which should be emailed to yam@yale.edu or mailed to Letters Editor, PO Box 1905, New Haven, CT 06509-1905. 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.

Seven signs of hope

I am not sure when I became so nostalgic. Perhaps it was during COVID, when my hair turned white. We live in a world where a recent president seems to have attempted to overthrow an election, where half of the country is burning hot while the other half is flooding, and a supposed superpower is attempting to gobble up its much smaller neighbor. But your article “Commencement ’22: Newly Minted Graduates Tell Their Stories” (July/August) was perhaps the partial antidote we needed to these many ills. I do not know if you picked people at random, but among the seven were:

• A Yale football player majoring in biomedical engineering, but who also likes to draw and sculpt;
• An English major who fell in love at Yale with the power and promise of writing;
• A PhD studying the history of the politics of architecture in India;
• An ethics major who feels deeply nostalgic walking up Hillhouse Avenue;
• A psychology major trying to understand
the nature and origin of humor;
• An architecture/environmental management double-masters graduate hoping to
make buildings more sustainable;
• A nurse practitioner returning to Texas because there are so many uninsured there that need help.

This group seems to me to be a microcosm of what Yale has become: diverse, optimistic, dedicated, and open-hearted. They will need all those qualities and many more to solve the problems that the generations ahead of them have allowed to fester, but I feel better knowing that Yale is unleashing these seven (and thousands more like them) out into the world to try to make it a better place. The words of one of your subjects seem to sum up their promise: “You can learn who you want to be by watching others being good humans in the world.” That is a lesson that hopefully none of us ever gets too old to take to heart.
Ross Cann ’85
Newport, RI

A word of thanks

Just a word of thanks for your work and that of your associates in bringing us Yale!
I was a divinity student from 1955 to 1959 and received BD and MDiv degrees. Yale was, for me, a highlight of my life.

Since that time, I have served 60 years in the ministry, which has been fabulous. Among other things, I was a delegate several times to the great summer assembly in New Haven; president of Yale’s oldest alumni club (Cincinnati); and a participant in other Yale matters. Great leaders of Yale, such as Bart Giamatti and John Pepper, became warm friends, not to forget the current Divinity School dean, Greg Sterling, who is a terrific leader!

I am writing to thank you and your associates for the splendid magazine. I read every issue.

Yale prepared me for an exciting and useful life! My thanks to Yale, and to all who make her what she is!
Rev. Robert W. Croskery ’59MDiv
Des Moines, IA

On Sharon Oster

I had the privilege to enjoy the brilliant Sharon Oster’s teaching as an undergraduate in the late 1970s and at the School of Management in the 1980s (Milestones, this issue). It was in the latter case that Sharon led our class in a conversation about comparative advantage in economics, using as an example her advanced cooking skills versus those of her husband, Yale economics professor Ray Fair. She added, however, that their mutual commitment to gender equality meant they divided dinner preparation duties evenly. I was in a cheeky mood that day and dared to pipe up: “How does it feel to eat lousy food half the time?” Sharon barely paused and replied, smiling: “He’s getting better.”
Matthew Broder ’81, ’87MBA
Hamden, CT

Artificial turf at Yale

Should Yale reconsider its synthetic turf fields? When temperatures rise above 80 degrees, synthetic turf fields get extremely hot, running about 60 degrees hotter than the ambient air. While the globe is experiencing the heat effects of climate change, there are many hot days in New Haven.

Connecticut is experiencing a very hot summer. In this heat, Yale’s synthetic turf fields will measure anywhere from 160 to 170 degrees. If people or athletes use these fields, they will get burned and can suffer serious heat strokes.

Yale’s fields are made of acres of plastic grass, and then infilled with shredded tires called crumb rubber. One does not have to be a chemistry major to understand that the toxic chemicals in the fields become more volatile in the heat, and thus expose people and athletes who use the fields to toxic chemicals at an even greater rate.

The nonprofit group Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), of which I am president, has been warning Yale, both privately and publicly, for over a decade on the risks that synthetic turf fields could pose. We have asked Yale to stop replacing their beautiful grass fields with acres of plastic grass with toxic crumb rubber infill. As well, some members of EHHI, and members of the faculty at Yale’s School of the Environment, met with Yale’s director of athletics, Victoria Chun, to lay out the reasons why Yale should stop installing synthetic turf fields and why Yale should leave whatever grass fields remained.

Before the synthetic turf was installed in the Yale Bowl, and after a meeting with Victoria Chun where the issues of synthetic turf were explained, the plastic field was installed in the historic Yale Bowl anyway.

Is it now time for Yale to rethink its use of these toxic plastic fields? There is no safer surface to play on than real grass.
Nancy Alderman ’94, ’97MES
North Haven, CT

Ann-Marie Gugliere, executive deputy athletic director and chief operating officer of athletics, responds: “In 2017, due to concerns raised by Ms. Alderman and others, the university requested a thorough review of questions regarding the health and safety impacts of artificial turf fields. On the basis of that review, university leadership approved the request from the athletics department to move forward with installing artificial turf at the Yale Bowl. In addition, all subsequent artificial turf projects received all the necessary university and regulatory approvals.

Why Yale?

Several days ago, I received an email solicitation from my 60th reunion gift cochairs. The subject line read “Why Yale?” It prompted this response.

When I became a proud graduate of Yale College, the appropriate rejoinder to that question would have been “Why not Yale?” But I am no longer proud to be a Yale grad and would never encourage anyone to attend Yale today. So my answer is “Indeed, why Yale?”

What’s changed? Of course, I have, but so has Yale. I can hardly recognize the Yale I then knew and admired. What was once exemplary higher education has become run-of-the-mill higher indoctrination. You can get equally good indoctrination at many so-called universities for a fraction of the cost, so indeed, why Yale?

“Yale’s degree still matters,” you counter. Sadly, you are correct. Far too many are unaware of the fraud Yale perpetrates on a daily basis because the mainstream media fails to inform them, for example, that Yale Law students oppose free speech—and worse, are in favor of selective censorship.

As a philosophy major, I absorbed the habit of critical thinking. Meeting under Yale’s banner or contributing even a dime would be a betrayal of my values, many of which were honed at Yale. What a pity that the undergraduates of today are systematically being robbed of the opportunity to develop the intellectual and moral virtues that Yale afforded my generation.

I held the line in my own college teaching career for over 40 years. After retirement, I taught The American Curmudgeons, an Honors College seminar, for 15 spring semesters. I quit when it wasn’t fun any longer. My students had become so indoctrinated by their other professors that calling names (racist, sexist, and worse) served as an adequate substitute for discussion and argument. Of course, they were fiercely devoted to tolerance.

Why Yale? Indeed, why any university?
Jim Stiver ’62
West Columbia, SC

Don't forget George & Harry's

In your article “Sic Transit Pizza” (May/June), about the conversion of the former Naples Pizza to classroom space, you write, “for many alumni from 1950 to 2019, conversations at Naples were an essential part of a Yale education.” In reality, Naples Pizza would not get its start until 1971.

Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, those supposed conversations at Naples Pizza were actually taking place at George & Harry’s, an irreplaceable Yale institution which held forth at the Wall Street location until it would become Naples Pizza in 1971. There was also another terrific George & Harry’s location on Temple Street near Grove Street. Both had great food, generous drinks, and a Yale atmosphere that to this day still remains unrivaled. While we all lament the loss of Naples, countless alumni back in the day felt just as much of a loss with the demise of George & Harry’s.
Marc G. McHugh ’73
Venice, FL

We didn’t forget George & Harry’s; we had them in mind as the host of some of those conversations. We left them out only for want of space.—Eds.

Beecher's anti-Catholicism

I read with great disappointment your profile of the Beecher family (“Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” May/June). While their antislavery activities should rightly be celebrated, at least some of the behavior of the family’s patriarch, Lyman Beecher, should not. Lyman was one of the most infamous anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists of the first half of the nineteenth century, and ignoring this part of his public life, as the article does, is analogous to celebrating Henry Ford for his innovations but omitting discussion of his anti-Semitic conspiracism. I can only hope that future references to Lyman Beecher in your magazine will make clear the more notorious aspects of his personality.
Craig Ortsey ’95MA
Fort Wayne, IN

Bright ideas

Thank you for the fascinating article detailing improvements on the inventions of Thomas Edison, specifically in sound reproduction (“My Mother Was a Phonograph,” May/June). It struck a familiar chord from my own family.

My grandfather, Nathan Wise (1875–1930), emigrated from Lithuania in 1888 to join family members in Brooklyn. He became a successful painter and inventor in New York, and his idol was Thomas Edison. (He gave himself the middle name Thomas in tribute.) In fact, he developed numerous patents, including an incandescent bulb that gave off white light. (Edison’s was yellow.) My grandmother suggested he name his bulb-manufacturing factory the Whitelite Electric Company. (I have their last six bulbs.)

He also held the patent on an early automatic telephone-dialing device, and I have the prototype that he built. He is buried beside his wife and parents at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens, a Jewish cemetery dating from 1909.
Nathan M. Wise ’72
Old Saybrook, CT

Corrections

Because of a production error, our review of Paul Kennedy’s book Victory at Sea (Reviews, July/August) included the wrong price and publisher. The book is published by Yale University Press, and it sells for $37.50.






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