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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Letters

Cambridge 02138

Keep philanthropy private, don't abuse animals, neo-Latin arcana

September-October 2001

DOES HARVARD REALLY WANT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING?

sit-in participants peering out Mass. Hall window
"Living wage" proponents, sitting in at Massachusetts Hall last spring

Photograph by Jim Harrison

Your most recent report on the struggle for a living wage at Harvard ("Wage Wrangling," July-August, page 64), blithely repeats the administration's statement that it wants wages to be set by collective bargaining with unions. In fact, the administration has systematically undercut unionization on campus.

Most dramatically, after Harvard's security guards chose a new union, the administration began replacing unionized guards with non-unionized guards hired from a contracting firm. The result? After two years, Harvard has whittled about 125 unionized, living-wage guards down to only 18. Their replacements do the same work, but without collective bargaining--and without a living wage. Other outsourced workers on the Harvard campus are not unionized. And they fear for their jobs if they attempt to organize.

If the administration believed that wages should be set by collective bargaining, it would require that companies that provide workers at Harvard remain neutral when workers seek to organize. Until then, its claimed commitment to collective bargaining can only be a misleading excuse for its failure to pay a living wage to people who make our University work.

Matthew A. Feigin, M.P.P./J.D. '01
Cambridge

 

Editor's note: For more on wage and related issues, see page 70.

 

EXPLOITING POSTDOC LABOR

I can't let pass without comment the self-serving comment by associate dean for faculty affairs Mary Clark in "The 'Invisible University'" (May-June, page 67). She stated that "the government asks us to treat them [postdocs] as trainees. The federal government wants postdocs to be 'unfettered' so it does not allow us to treat these people as employees. This cuts them out of participation in employee benefits." This is an outrageous fairy tale spun by an administrator who apparently doesn't want to confront her institution's [and hence her own] culpability in the exploitation of postdoc labor.

Trainee status for postdocs must be actively pursued by the University, and is not imposed by the government. Most universities, especially the public universities, do classify postdocs as employees and provide them benefits. Many of the prestigious universities (who don't feel the need to be competitive on salary and benefits) do pursue trainee status for postdocs. This status must be granted by the IRS in a private-letter ruling, in response to a request by the university, and there is no hearing in which the so-called trainees can respond or be represented. Since the 1986 tax "reform" act, when all scholarships became taxable, the IRS has been happy to cooperate with the politically influential universities by deciding that postdocs do not receive salary primarily for performing duties substantially for the benefit of the employer. Of course, that postdocs are heavily recruited and advertised for underscores the fact that postdocs are performing duties for the benefit of the employer, but the IRS thus far chooses to ignore this.

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board has made decisions indicating that it may be willing to more appropriately recognize these positions as apprenticeships, and eligible for union representation. The greedily exploitative actions of the prestigious universities in this regard are only hastening the day when postdocs may have to resort to the drastic step of unionization to receive appropriate treatment.

Stephen Apfelroth '84, M.D.
New York City

 

A MISSED POINT RE: JOHN ADAMS

One of the most important things Americans should know about John Adams is something I didn't find in your review ("The Browser," July-August, page 16) of David McCullough's new book, John Adams. The bit of Adams lore I have in mind is that, if it hadn't been for him, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson might not have become such towering figures in American history.

One of the most influential members of the Continental Congress in 1775-76, Adams was mainly responsible for the selection of George Washington to command the Continental Army (then consisting mainly of New Englanders), and Thomas Jefferson to draft a Declaration of Independence. His powerful advocacy of what Jefferson drafted was instrumental in getting the Continental Congress to accept it.

The fact that it has taken this long for highly literate America to appreciate John Adams is cause for wonder about how many other noteworthy Americans have been denied the wide acclaim they richly deserve.

David J. Steinberg, M.A. '41
Alexandria, Va.

 

SALUTE TO RANDALL THOMPSON

I was delighted to see Elliot Forbes's fine appreciation of composer and educator Randall Thompson ("Vita," July-August, page 46), to whom I personally owe much. In the fall of 1951, both Judy Robison '52, whom I was to marry a year later, and I took his stimulating course, "The Age of Handel." As one of our various assignments, such as writing papers on aspects of Handel's life in London, we received permission to perform three of the composer's recorder sonatas for the class, this being the first time that I had an opportunity to play on a large harpsichord. It was this very same instrument, a 1907 Dolmetsch Chickering, that also introduced the late Ralph Kirkpatrick '31, G '33, to the harpsichord. Randall (I could call him that, but much later) was a superb teacher, and I think he was pleased that he was responsible to some extent for starting me off on a career that at that point I could not even have envisaged.

Igor Kipnis '52
West Redding, Conn.

 

PRIVATE PHILANTHROPY

Jane Sass Collins in her letter (July-August, page 5) commenting on "Philanthropy in a New Key" (May-June, page 39) says that philanthropic giving by the rich is an exercise in "ego gratification" and that "only the national government has the scope and resources to deal with poverty and other major social problems...." I wonder.

Andrew Carnegie was more than a very rich man. He was also a thoughtful one. Everyone is familiar with his gift of public libraries to most small towns in America--libraries which gave millions of young Americans of modest means their first leg up toward an education and the middle class. Yet I doubt many of the present generation have even heard of his most profound contribution to American thinking: his all-but-forgotten Gospel of Wealth, which synthesized his thinking on the accumulation and distribution of wealth long before the progressive income tax and the takeover by government of virtually every major social program in the country.

Traditional economic thought recognizes three factors of production: land, labor, and capital. Alfred Marshall, the great English economist whom many consider the father of neoclassical economics, once asserted that there was an unrecognized fourth, and perhaps most essential, factor: entrepreneurship, without which none of the other three would produce much beyond subsistence.

Carnegie, ahead even of Marshall in recognizing the essential contribution of the entrepreneur to economic progress and social well-being, went further in recognizing the reciprocal duty of the gifted businessman to return to society the blessings with which it had endowed him through providing the orderly social matrix that enabled him to exercise his gift. He envisioned a society in which "the laws of accumulation will be left free; the laws of distribution free. Individualism will continue, but the millionaire will be but trustee for the poor; intrusted for a season with a great part of the increased wealth of the community, but administering it for the community far better than it could, or would have done for itself. The best minds will thus have reached a stage ...in which it is clearly seen that there is no mode of disposing of surplus wealth creditable to thoughtful and earnest men into whose hands it flows save by using it year by year for the general good. This day already dawns....The man who dies, leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which it was his to administer during life, will pass away 'unwept, unhonored, and unsung'....Of these the public verdict will then be: 'The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.'"

Even in his day, many considered Carnegie too idealistic. And while a few wealthy individuals, to their great credit, have established foundations in the Carnegie mold providing scholarships for the talented who lack sufficient funds for their education, or great foundations to undertake medical or other important scholarly research--or even to reduce in part the debt of the United Nations--the day has not yet dawned when society has "come to view the rich man who dies rich as having died in disgrace." Still, Carnegie's thought brings us an important step closer to what a contemporary utopia might look like.

But first of all, we need a political harness to make Carnegie's notions of leaving the talented few to contribute to the common good more than an idealistic dream. Perhaps President Bush could tailor his new approach to social welfare by funneling public money through private hands to include incentives to those of great wealth to funnel more of their own funds (perhaps by providing space on the Mall for statues to Great Private Benefactors as the French have done in their Tuileries Gardens, or handing out more medals on colored ribbons as per Napoleon to those who die poor) after having left their heirs enough to start up their own careers.

I think this proposal would go further to alleviating poverty and distress by leaving talented entrepreneurs of great wealth the opportunity to use their own fertile imaginations to identify and fund needed projects, than taxing away their wealth at death and then throwing the accumulated wealth of extraordinarily gifted individuals away in various ill-considered public-works projects dreamed up by far less talented politicians seeking to ensure their own reelection or posthumous reputations through pork projects in their constituencies.

David Timmons, M.P.A. '62, Ph.D. '67
Salt Lake City

 

Sass Collins's letter regarding philanthropies and their shortcomings admirably encapsulates the persistent and all-too-familiar I-can-spend-your-money-better-than-you-can bullshit of the sanctimonious small-timer.

Alas, there are always Sass Collinses who are quick to second-guess a donor's motivation, but slow to examine their own. I am not doing this the way you want me to? Then make your own pile and do what you want with it--but when you try to tell me what I should give to and how, your eyes take on a greenish cast, and your voice thickens with greed.

Burt Kozloff '69
Greenwich, Conn.

 

DON'T MANIPULATE ANIMALS

Like Naomi Pierce, Hessel professor of biology, I also sidestepped my first dissecting assignment ("A Life with Lycaenids," July-August, page 42). But I did not flee cockroaches in college out of emotive squeamishness; I refused insects in grade school because of a deep moral conviction against manipulating--let alone killing--other creatures for education or science. It is telling that Harvard Magazine often prints science articles without showing the slightest understanding that exploiting other animals is now ethically suspect to a growing population. As if the words were not enough, this most recent article is filled with pictures of dead butterflies pinned up like decorative wallpaper framing the scientist's smiling portraits. The author glibly closes: "what the roaches lost the butterflies have decidedly gained." We are all the losers when we imagine that the world around us is our lab, and all life expendable for personal and/or scientific gain.

L. Kemmerer
Hoquiam, Wash.

 

Editor's note: "Animal Research," the cover article in the January-February 1999 issue, reported in depth on one aspect of the competing rights of humans and animals.

 

LATINITIES

While I make no comment on the politics or condescending tone that Corinne S. Crawford '01 takes in her Latin Salutatory toward the Business School students (discipulos negotii), as quoted in "Operae Merces Digna" (July-August, page 59), I was somewhat confused by the translation of part of the text. In my day et speremus would have been translated as "and let us hope," as opposed to the "I hope" of your translation. That would keep the speremus in agreement with and symmetric with the other verb of the compound sentence, plaudamus, both of which are present subjunctive. (Also, et makes it a compound sentence, not a new sentence.)

So I have to assume that either (a) in the spirit of Virgil the editors of Harvard Magazine took poetic license in translation, or (b) Latin, like everything else, has evolved more in the last 30 years than in the past 2,000. I'll assume the answer is (a). However, my Latin may be as rusty as my M.B.A!

Leonard J. DeRoma, M.B.A. 'LXXVII
New York City

 

Editor's note: The editors were aware of the freedom of the translation, but reprinted it as it had appeared in the Commencement program. So the answer is (c), the editors are slavish copiers. Professor of Greek and Latin Richard F. Thomas, who counsels the Latin salutatorians, says, "Mr. DeRoma is quite right, of course, if somewhat pedantic. This translation is intended to be self-standing in its oral version, and Corinne made it quite free in a number of places. The meaning 'They, I hope, have' is in any case not distinct in meaning from 'Let us hope that they have.' Both express uncertainty and possibility because of the nature of the verb, 'to hope.'"

 

I enjoyed "The B.A. Diploma from A to Z" (July-August, page 69) about J.F. Coakley's book on the Harvard diploma. I fondly remember the Latin diploma riots of 1961. (Despite some later forays on behalf of civil rights and of peace, it remains the only time I have ever been tear-gassed.) However, I always assumed that we received the "A.B." degree because once upon a time it was Artium Baccalaureus. But if in fact the degree was Baccalaureus in Artibus before it became "Bachelor of Arts," then by what arcane reasoning are we not all more properly recipients of a "B.A."? (Although three diplomas later --two in Latin, one in English, all more attractive in design than Harvard's 1963 certificate--I'm not really sure I care.)

William S. J. Moorhead '63
Iowa City, Iowa

 

As a Latin scholar with two years of high-school Latin, I must point out that while these degrees are quite the same, one is in Latin, the other in English: either of which should be used appropriately with the language of the diploma. A Latinized degree notes the area of study/discipline first and the level of degree follows, eg. A.B. English tradition lists first the level of studies and is followed by area of study. A medical degree is traditionally Latinized in the United States, lest we have D.M.s instead of M.D.s.

Nelson E. Bailey, D.M.D. '63
Selinsgrove, Pa.

 

Editor's note: This magazine has put the question of why Harvard awards "A.B." degrees to a number of scholars, one of whom feels confident that it is an archival and historical question, not a linguistic one, and that the problem will be solved only by a historical search to see what the usage of European universities was, especially Cambridge, and what the people who first adopted this terminology said and intended when they first used the forms. That research is underway, and its results, if any, will be disclosed in these pages in the fullness of time.

 

As a participant in the Latin diploma riots of 1961, I think the "toga-clad rabble-rouser" you mention deserves a somewhat fuller description.

He was Philip Alston Stone '62, a son of Oxford, Mississippi, and a true godson of William Faulkner. His novel, No Place to Run, was published by Viking Press our freshman year. The fifth-reunion class report noted that, "At Harvard, Phil's celebrity as a novelist, his wit, and his enormous comic talent quickly brought him renown as a raconteur....His finest performance was the night of April 26, 1961, when, on the steps of Widener, he delivered the Latin oration denouncing the hated English diplomas. Attired in two Quincy House curtains and a wreath of oak leaves, he spoke the language of Cicero in the accents of Earl Long. Few who were there that night will ever forget the great pause in 'Linguam anglicam amamus, sed...' Phil revelled in the crowd's delighted roars."

Hardly five years later, while teaching classics and working on his writing in Helena, Alabama, Phil died of an arterial blood clot. This member of the rabble he once roused still salutes him.

John Sando '62
Bethesda, Md.

SPEAK UP, PLEASE
Harvard Magazine welcomes letters on its contents. Please write to "Letters," Harvard Magazine, 7 Ware Street, Cambridge 02138, or send comments by facsimile to 617-495-0324, or by e-mail to [email protected], or use our Internet site, www.harvard-magazine.com. Letters may be edited to fit the available space.
IN WHICH THE EDITORS FALL ON THEIR SWORDS
Readers Margaret Hodges, of Verona, Pennsylvania, and Christopher Henley, Ph.D. '84, of Ithaca, New York, pointed out that the editors countenanced someone "pouring," not "poring," over a book on page 23 of the July-August issue; Jayesh Rathod '97, of New York City, observed that they rendered the name of India's great leader, Mohandas K. Gandhi, as "Ghandi" on page 53; and Anthony Lewis '48, Nf '57, noted that the name of Gideon Lester, part of the new triumvirate of leaders at the American Repertory Theatre, was given on page 69 as "Lester Gideon."
0901212,

Odysseus struggled to resist the Sirens. Adam Smith warned of dangerous passions for profusion. And we have all