Cambridge 02138

As the panelists in your roundtable discussion "Cities and Suburbs" cogently convey (January-February, page 54), more than a few suburbs now...

As the panelists in your roundtable discussion "Cities and Suburbs" cogently convey (January-February, page 54), more than a few suburbs now manifest the very attributes--crime, dismal aesthetics, social isolation, and economic dysfunctionality--that motivated the flight from the inner city. The return to major cities reflects people's decisions that they have become great places to live and work.

Today, in the new economy, people have ever more choice about where they live. While some perceive that advances of the Internet and e-commerce render place much less important, if not irrelevant, in fact there is a renaissance of place underway. As people can choose where they want to be, they will choose great places to live, work, learn, shop, and play.

In addition to the panel's priorities of mixed use, strong schools, appealing public spaces, safe streets, and affordable housing, the attributes of a desirable place must include effective, economical, and reliable multi-modal transit to, from, and within. With record patterns of mobility and economic discontinuity, most people are loath to be stuck in a place.

Stephen E. Roulac, M.B.A. '70

San Rafael, Calif.

 

I enjoyed the timely discussion of the struggle to re-enliven the places in which we live. However, the roundtable suffered from tunnel vision by leaving this important topic solely to urban planners and architects. An expert in economics or public policy could have remedied a serious omission in the dialogue. That is, the hidden subsidies that encourage people to commute alone in oversized cars from oversized homes on oversized lots in the suburbs. I would have welcomed a perspective on the flaws in our taxation system that encourage the destruction of natural and human resources, while aggravating the pollution and congestion that those with means are fleeing. The simplest example: gasoline priced so that it does not reflect the human toll in respiratory disease, the environmental calamity of paving over enormous tracts of land, or the tax burden of defending a Middle East oil supply.

A debate left solely to competing visions for the perfect urban design will remain where it started--in the minds of its beholders.

Douglas Wallace, M.P.A. '91

Mill Valley, Calif.

 

I was disappointed that the panel contained no current local elected officials. This is particularly important because one of the first observations of the panelists was that city/county metro regions are the engine of the American economy. The future strength of America lies in the strength of counties and cities working collaboratively to address the development challenges they face, and as such, their leaders should be an integral part of any meaningful dialogue on development issues.

To preserve our cities and counties, protect the environment, and assure that the benefits of our prosperity reach all segments of the community, significant obstacles must be overcome that have little to do with statutes, zoning, or codes. Each community has its own distinct set of challenges and obstacles, be they ethnic, historic, or economic, that often can be overcome only through extensive, and occasionally painful, dialogue. Strong leadership, emanating from America's city halls and county courthouses, is necessary to bridge these divides, and increase public awareness about the pressing development constraints that many of America's communities are facing. For all of the benefits that expert planners can provide, they are basically implementers rather than decision-makers, and lack the direct connection to constituents necessary to initiate these efforts.

Fortunately, counties and cities across the country are in fact working together to create sustainable communities that promote economic prosperity, environmental security, and social equity as equally vital components to assuring a better long-term quality of life.

Martin L. Harris '91

Co-director, Joint Center for Sustainable

Communities, National Association of Counties

Washington, D.C.

 

Your discussants were particularly "right on" in highlighting the unusual problems besetting older cities in the Northeast. My city, Hartford, is an extreme example of all the problems these cities suffer. Indeed, it is ironic that Connecticut, the richest state in the Union on a per-capita basis, is home to three of the 10 poorest cities in the country. Hartford, a tiny city of 16 square miles and barely 125,000 inhabitants, is the center of a metropolitan region of more than one million that is very affluent as a whole.

How is this possible? As pointed out in your article, it is caused by the fact that the region is made up of 33 towns, each fiercely proud of its independence, with its own schools, police departments, et cetera, and making no material contribution to the center city on which it depends. Breaking this vicious circle will require some form of metropolitan government, which will be difficult to achieve.

Richard L. Huber '58

Chairman, president, and CEO, Aetna Inc.

Hartford, Conn.

 

Each of the participants tips a hat to education, but none concentrates on what the effect might be of so improving the schools and making those establishments available to rich and poor alike that all parents would live wherever the better schools were. Parks, street safety, lack of pollution, rebuilt housing would have to follow, and might be a natural evolution; but what about using the first billions to attract the best teaching, with big salaries and first-rate facilities, to tell our youths that we value education and the teaching profession and they should, too? That magnet ought to be the first and would be the most effective and biggest draw.

Stephen W. Craig '54, J.D. '59

Arroyo Seco, N.M.

 

The dishonesty of the roundtable discussion becomes evident in the first sentence written by the editors; they express the fear that cities may be "condemned to be office ghettoes and entertainment zones used by suburban commuters," and suppress the fact that cities contain quite a different ghetto. All the participants in the roundtable, in an act of political correctness, seemed bent on glossing over the fact that many of our largest cities are not fully viable because they house dysfunctional subcultures, which have adverse consequences not only on quality of life but on urban tax rates. Although the numbers of persons in these dysfunctional subcultures are diminishing in some cities, the indices of dysfunctionality are often rising. Consequently, rebuilding our cities must be addressed first and foremost in the area of social policy; the brick-and-mortar phase can be an adjunct but not the major instrument.

The possible approaches are: (a) eliminate the dysfunctionality in these subcultures; (b) isolate them; (c) displace them from the urban center; and (d) separate and isolate the core dysfunctional group within the subculture from the remainder of the group on which they feed. An additional approach involves reducing the urban tax burden or amalgamating the tax base of cities with those of suburbs. It makes little sense to appear to present a fair and impartial survey and to omit the guts of the matter.

Monroe Burk, M.B.A. '40

Columbia, Md.

 

Your panel glossed over the main problem in revitalizing severely depressed cities like Philadelphia, which is that public policy is paralyzed by the requirement to do too much. Not only must the obsolete industrial zones be made suitable for reinvestment, but the reinvestment must primarily benefit the people who now live in these areas--and the rebuilding must be done without displacing anybody! Obviously, this is impossible, but anything feasible is viewed as politically incorrect. This view holds sway in most city halls in the declining cities, as well as in the federal government.

Public policy currently is incapable of separating the problem of helping the people trapped in declining industrial areas from the problem of reinvestment in those areas. Probably the best thing we could do for the people, especially in the short run, is to help most of them relocate to more viable parts of the region and the country. But this does not go over well with city, state, and federal legislators for these districts. Cities, acting under federal mandates, are even now spending millions for newly constructed public housing in these economically dead areas. Evidently, the politically correct view is that black and Latino people, unlike the other ethnic groups who inhabited these areas in the past, must remain where they are. This sounds pretty racist to me.

Reinvestment to bring areas like north central Philadelphia into the twenty-first century will require substantial replanning following mass demolition of huge, obsolete textile and other mills and most of the housing surrounding them. These residential blocks are not Greenwich Village and adaptable; the houses are charmless, late-nineteenth-century worker housing that nobody will ever choose to live in, lined up in endless rows along poorly planned streets and alleys. They were built for the specific needs of an advanced but obsolete economy. With only a few exceptions, there is no future for the current built environment in these areas, and in fact it is being abandoned at an accelerating rate. The ongoing failure to manage this process rationally contributes to every major urban problem.

John McFadden, J.D. '72

Philadelphia

 

I found "Cities and Suburbs" and "America's Open Door" (January-February, page 22), on immigration, of special interest. But it puzzles and troubles me that there seems to be general acceptance that our country is going to add 60 million to 70 million new residents in the next few decades and there's not much we can do about it. In fact, there is a lot we can do about it. We must persuade Congress to lower immigration to traditional levels and to adopt a population policy. If steps are not taken to reduce immigration and population, we will condemn Americans to lives of increasing sprawl, congestion, and economic injustice.

Calvin B. Baldwin Jr., M.P.A. '61

Garrett Park, Md.

 

Your roundtable provided a clear illustration of the kind of thinking that has created the problems of American human settlements. The cities-vs.-suburbs debate, or introducing suburban qualities into cities, misses the point entirely; the problem is that each is poorly designed and in poor relationship to the other.

The primary problem with our settlements is disconnection. People feel, on a daily basis, disconnected from one another. In cities, it is overwhelming anonymity that creates the hardening of the soul; in suburbs, it is the lack of culture that facilitates existential angst.

People feel disconnected from the natural environment. In cities, all the concrete and noise stress the body and mind. In the suburbs, manicured hedges and lawns create an artificial, and therefore poor, substitute for a connection to nature.

People feel disconnected from their own health. Cities and suburbs both have poor air quality, chlorinated and fluoridated water supplies, congestion, pestilence, crime, drugs, violence, apathy, runaway profiteering at the environment's expense, chronic fatigue, obesity, and immune-system problems.

People are too far removed from the sources of their own food and water, and from the soil itself, to feel the joy of being alive. Power aerobics is no replacement for walking in wildness, for growing corn, or for drinking the rain. Our communities are designed to revolve around the auto, an inherently degenerative resource.

All the renewed investment in urbanism--the cleansing--will fail again in another 25 years because we haven't learned how to design sustainable settlements. As long as goods from rural America-- namely, the food--must be transported to the cities, and as long as the waste from the consumption of energy goes literally up in smoke, out to sea, or into our soils, we will always be at risk of disaster. Until the planners and architects can design pollution-free settlements where people live, work, grow food, use energy, share culture, educate one another, regenerate natural resources, and participate in decision-making, this country will remain a culture of consumerism and waste, and cities and suburbs will never be desirable places to live.

Michael Kramer, M.Ed. '90

Hilo, Hawaii

 

An omission I need to point out is that I am the only roundtable participant whose Harvard class was not given. As the only African-American on the panel, I am sorry that my degree was not mentioned. Issues of diversity and the lack thereof at Harvard are a continuing challenge. When there is an opportunity to illuminate the fact that I not only attended the Graduate School of Design but continue my affiliation as an adjunct professor, I think it is important to do so. At the very least it might encourage others to consider applying to the Design School.

M. David Lee, M. Arch. U.D. '71

Partner, Stull and Lee, Inc., Boston, and adjunct professor, Harvard Graduate School of Design

 

Editor's note: The omission resulted from an error by the editor, compounded by the designation of Mr. Lee's degree as an M.A.U. in the alumni directory. We regret the mistake.

 

COACH MARIUS

I was greatly saddened by the news of Richard Marius's passing (January-February, page 6), for it is a very animated Marius that marks my memory of Senior Week '98 at Harvard College.

Afternoon sunlight would stream into Wadsworth House as Richard Marius shouted with great command, "More Ciceronian! That line will grab the audience, you have to let it really ring out!"

From his April announcement of our winning the esteemed title of "Commencement orator," to that long-awaited June morning of Commencement Day, Marius met with David Brunton '97 ('98) (undergraduate English orator), William Griffin, J.D. '98 (graduate English orator), and me (Latin orator) to perfect our speeches--memorization, presentation, and, most of all, theatrical performance. We knew Richard Marius not as a scholar, lecturer, author, biographer, editor. To the three of us he was truly a mentor. Never will I forget his encouragement just minutes before I was to take the stage. Panicked, I feared I wouldn't, I couldn't, remember any of my lines; one does not simply ad-lib in classical Latin. "Don't worry, they'll all be there. And if not, I'll be here to prompt you. You're going to be great, Lisa." His words were immediately calming and reassuring. His many years of training Commencement orators shone in his radiant eyes. I was no different from all those who had proceeded me.

The roaring applause and ovations of that June morning were no proof of Dave's or Will's or my own individual talents as a speaker, but the true evidence of Marius's legacy as a fantastic and motivating coach. During the past two decades it was always his tireless training and endless encouragement that guaranteed the powerful deliveries and highly dynamic performances of Commencement orations.

In proper Ciceronian rhetoric, which would quickly elicit Marius's beaming smile, I now cry out, Voce vocaria Marii in silentium redacta, quantum Profectio ex Universitate languescet! ("How much will University Commencement languish in the silencing of Marius's vicarious voice!") His voice, his smile, his presence will certainly be missed.

In pace Ricardus Marius requiescat.

Lisa Marie Mignone '98

Charlottesville, Va.

 

LAW SCHOOL FACULTY OPINION

Brock brower states ("The Law School and the Law," January-February, page 42): "But Griswold waited until long after his deanship to back civil-rights legislation."

The charge against Erwin N. Griswold, dean of the school from 1946 to 1967, is untrue. We need look no further than Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Dean Griswold testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce in favor of the public accommodations bill (Title II's predecessor) on July 24, 1963. His testimony is published. Dean Griswold was at that time a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Thanks to him, I was working that summer at the Commission.

Conrad K. Harper, J.D. '65

New York City

 

I find it distressing that the Law School faculty evinces so little leadership at a time when our nation and our world cry out for the clear enunciation of fundamental principles. The world has embraced capitalism, but, in many parts of it, the vital importance of the accompanying principles of honesty, integrity, and fair play, which underlie all aspects of our law and our legal system, is not recognized. And, in America, those vital principles have been severely undermined by the farcical spectacles of the O.J. Simpson trial and the impeachment proceedings.

Instead of participating as hired guns in those charades, our faculty should have unanimously thundered at the disgraceful manner in which presidents, judges, lawyers, jurors, and so many others manipulated the legal system. The cynicism that has been engendered by these disasters is the greatest threat we confront, and our faculty must not be silent in the face of it.

Paul T. Shoemaker '75, J.D. '78

Bronxville, N.Y.

 

Regarding Professor Charles Fried's letter about a faculty vote on whether the school should move to Allston (January-February, page 12), any proposal opposed by a 31-to-1 vote of the Law School faculty is worthy of serious consideration.

Perhaps the faculty would reconsider if promised that they could keep their prestigious Cambridge mailing addresses.

Douglas Karp, J.D. '80

New York City

 

WOMEN AT HARVARD

What a joy to see at last in the pages of Harvard Magazine the cover article for which I have waited 40 years, "Harvard's Womanless History," by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (November-December 1999, page 50)! My anger over our exclusion from Lamont Library rose as fresh today as in 1958. We women were admitted routinely to the men's dormitory rooms, but not to their undergraduate library; a woman's place was made abundantly clear.

I take issue with Ulrich on only one point. Surely there are donors who would rejoice to see the history of Harvard's misogyny in its glossy brochures. Until then, Harvard can rest assured that our donations will go elsewhere.

Susan Dembitz '62

Oakland, Calif.

 

I attended radcliffe from 1957 to 1960, but left after three years for medical school at Tufts. I have been a practicing psychiatrist and active feminist. My feminist ideas were strengthened by my years at Radcliffe, where women were regularly reminded that at Harvard they were as welcome as cockroaches at a tea party. I haven't given money to Radcliffe for years; instead I give to Bryn Mawr College (my daughter's alma mater), where feminism is more a reality and less a polite fiction.

Deborah Stern Gilman '61, M.D.

Phoenix

 

THE LAW OF CYBERSPACE

Freshmen students in American government at Harvard would surely be surprised to be told by the Berkman professor for entrepreneurial legal studies at the Harvard Law School, Lawrence Lessig, that "Our founders feared a newly empowered federal government; the Constitution is written against that fear" ("Code Is Law," January-February, page 37), when they must have been taught (correctly) that exactly the opposite is the case. Our "founders" feared the centrifugal influence of state and local forces and wrote a Constitution with the strongest federal powers that they thought they could get away with.

Elizabeth Wirth Marvick '46

Los Angeles

 

Lessig's article is one of those that appear in Harvard Magazine from time to time that deal with the deepest and most fundamental issues confronting human society. The issue is, of course, liberty. Lessig points out that all software has an embedded code that ultimately promotes specific values. Codes--software programs--are products of human minds operating within conscious and intentional or unconscious value frameworks.

In the sixties, Marshall McLuhan traced very convincingly the changes that occurred in Western society in transitioning from an oral to a print culture. The oral tradition invited the ascendancy of a right-hemisphere-dominant leader: that is, a person who thought and spoke imagistically, a storyteller, the troubadour, the prophet. With the advent of print culture, a left-hemisphere-dominant leader emerged, one who thought linearly and logically. The ascendancy of this mentality was essential for the development of science, industrialization, and technology. A computer program is the logical end point of print culture. It embodies a binary process of progressive sequentiality.

What McLuhan was attempting to illuminate in his phrase, "the medium is the message," is that the format--or in Lessig's terms, the "code" or "architecture"--shapes the way we think about the world and ultimately structures our experience.

With regard to cyberspace, the issue of liberty is ultimately the question of intentionally and unintentionally imposing on whole cultures a uniform way of thinking and organizing experience that serves the interest of the ultimate big-brother regulator, or "code" setter. The biggest threat to liberty in cyberspace is the mind-shaping, personality-forming, and value-promoting effect of collective conformity to software codes or architecture delivered in a trance-inducing medium. There is a deep, hidden fascism in cyberspace that may be producing a new version of Plato's prisoners of the cave.

George Eastman, Ed.D. '63

Cambridge

 

RESTRICT IMMIGRATION

Nathan glazer's review of Professor George Borjas's book Heaven's Door (January-February, page 22) points out that "immigration...makes life more difficult for black workers in particular." He understates the case.

Since the Civil War (and before that in non-slave states), racist America has restricted blacks to the margin of our economy, the surplus labor pool. Labor recruiters roamed Europe and, upon occasion, Asia. Whole counties in Slovakia were emptied to supply workers for the steel plants and coal mines of Pennsylvania; Poles and Lithuanians supplied the labor force for Buffalo, Cleveland, and Chicago; Jews came from Eastern Europe to the garment and fur industries of New York. All the while American blacks were kept on the margin.

This is history. It is also current events. Immigrants pour across our border for the entry-level jobs. The mass of blacks remain confined to urban ghettos, victims of the educational and welfare establishments, with the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment.

In World Wars I and II, America was forced to turn to black workers for its war industries. How quickly those deemed "uneducable" were educated. How quickly those deemed incapable of steady, disciplined work turned out the sinews of war.

Let immigration be restricted until racist America is forced to integrate our black citizens into the economy, an integration more than three centuries overdue.

Basil Pollitt '40

Brooklyn

 

HOMICIDE GRAPH ERRS

While i enjoyed "Parish+Precinct= Peaceful Streets" (January-February, page 14) on the reasons behind Boston's decline in homicide over the last few years and the work of Jenny Berrien and sociology professor Christopher Winship, the graph that accompanies the article is wrongly labeled. What it shows is actually the percent change in the absolute number of homicides in eight American cities, not a change in their homicide rates. The difference is crucial. As presented, the graph misleads one into thinking that Phoenix and Las Vegas, for instance, have had a huge upturn in their homicide rates since 1990, when the inflated numbers are largely due to a growing population. While it is true that both cities also have seen an increase in their homicide rate during this period, those figures are about half of what the graph indicates.

Similarly, the numbers for all of the cities showing decreases are wrong, the most egregious example being Washington, D.C., where success in achieving a 16- percent reduction in the number of murders from 1990 to 1996 was helped by a declining population, even while the murder rate decreased a scant 6 percent.

Lee McIntyre

Boston

 

Editor's note: "McIntyre is right," says Professor Winship. "The paper by Jenny Berrien and me that the magazine took the statistics from is in error. Your graph should be labeled simply 'Changes in Homicides.' We plan to correct our paper and present the percentage change in homicide rates, a better statistic, as McIntyre points out, since it controls for changes in population size."

 

SHEEP DO NOT GO ASTRAY

Last spring my then fiancée, Patricia Brunette '65, and I were riding an excursion train in central California and saw the scene depicted in the enclosed photo. Our conductor commented that some California sheepherders were using donkeys instead of sheep dogs to watch the flocks. Donkeys eat the same food as the sheep (avoiding the cost of dog food) and are big enough to discourage predators. I remember commenting at the time, "I wonder if that's a Harvard donkey, feeling a bit annoyed at being surrounded by Yalies." (On the other hand, the sheep may have been griping about what a jackass their new supervisor was.) Along comes the January-February issue with the "College Pump" item about the Yale fight song "Good Night Harvard" and its 1913 sheet music cover with Harvard represented by a none-too-happy-looking Equus asinus. What an amazing convergence!

Robert L. Davis

San Gabriel, Calif.

 

ON "TELEPORTATION"

"Fictions of science" (January-February, page 19), reporting the work of associate professor Brendan Dooley, makes some valid points about the reality of science as a human activity. The first two paragraphs go astray, however, in suggesting that there is something untruthful in the use of words like "teleportation" to describe certain recent experiments in quantum optics and atomic physics.

Two facts about quantum physics need to be understood. First, all elementary particles of a given type (electrons, photons, etc.) are exactly alike. They have no individual identity; they can be characterized only by their state (the quantum counterpart of their relative positions, angle and speed of rotation, etc.). In fact, at root a particle is a pattern in an underlying field, and moving the particle is synonymous with moving this pattern. Second, a generic state cannot be "cloned"; if it is exactly reproduced somewhere else, the original copy will be destroyed. Thus, only the more modest result of "teleportation" can be achieved.

E-mail moves a message from your computer screen to your friend's screen miles away. True, the phosphorescent coating on your monitor does not move, but what is important is the message, the pattern, not the phosphor. If the entire universe were nothing but an infinite computer screen filling all space, then there would be phosphor everywhere and always, and it would be meaningless to speak of moving some of it from one place to another. All that could move is the pattern in the medium, and perfect transportation of such patterns is what the contemporary experiments achieve. The pattern is the physical reality. (What other word would one use if "transported" is an exaggeration?)

Nobody has yet teleported a living cell, much less a human being. If that could be done, would the transported person be alive and conscious? Our present understanding of the relationship between consciousness and matter is not adequate to answer that question.

Stephen Fulling '67

College Station, Tex.

 

Brendan Dooley replies: Fulling puts it much better than I could, and his comment ought to be used as a footnote whenever "teleportation" or "transportation" experiments are discussed. Unfortunately, the nonscientific public is doomed to draw false conclusions about what is going on in science fact when the vocabulary has previously been popularized in science fiction, hence the references in the press to Star Trek fantasies. What would be a better vocabulary? We do, as some philosophers say, live in a prison house of language; likewise, language is trapped by the meanings we give to certain terms. What means x in science may mean y in the marketplace. For now, the best solution is to have more informative exchanges between working scientists and their publics--and, as in this case, bulkier footnotes.

 

HELL'S AARDVARKS

Just when you think the galaxy of Harvard worlds has been mapped and known, another is discovered, this time the hidden but highly civilized and democratic culture at Harvard Yearbook Publications ("Hell's Aardvarks at 50," January-February, page 82). Craig Lambert gave us a fine piece of writing and a valuable view of undergraduate life at its best.

Thomas Connor, G '71

 

You might also like

Slow and Steady

A Harvard Law School graduate completes marathons in all 50 states.  

Claudine Gay in First Post-Presidency Appearance

At Morning Prayers, speaks of resilience and the unknown

The Dark History Behind Chocolate

A Harvard course on the politics and culture of food

Most popular

Claudine Gay in First Post-Presidency Appearance

At Morning Prayers, speaks of resilience and the unknown

Who Built the Pyramids?

Not slaves. Archaeologist Mark Lehner, digging deeper, discovers a city of privileged workers.

Harvard College Reinstitutes Mandatory Testing

Applicants for the class of 2029 must submit scores.

More to explore

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Capturing the American South

Photographs at the Addison Gallery of American Art 

The Happy Warrior Redux

Hubert Humphrey’s liberalism reconsidered