Cambridge 02138

Placebos, memorable McKinlock bell, paramedics

The Future of Fracking

Michael McElroy and Xi Lu's "Fracking's Future" (January-February, page 24) was excellent. It's rare to see such balance and information on that topic. Most writers provide opinion and recrimination, but little background on the techniques, economics, ecological concerns, and the near-term necessity for that "new" resource.

The authors made clear that we will need improved regulation as well as an investment climate that fosters full use of the technology and resource, while paving the way for the green technologies of 2050 and beyond.

 John L. Rafuse, K '81
Alexandria, Va.

The article is an excellent overview of the potential impact of cheap, abundant natural gas in the United States. The benefits include job creation in the petrochemical and steel industries, the potential for energy independence from oil imported from the Middle East, and currently, a greater reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States than in Europe.

However, I believe the authors' proposal to allow the export of natural gas to take advantage of the higher prices in the world markets is misguided. It is akin to outsourcing American jobs, which has led to higher unemployment over the past decade, and has the potential to reverse the switch from coal to natural gas in the generation of electricity, causing an increase in greenhouse-gas emissions. Driving up domestic prices though export demand would leave many New England homeowners unable to pay their heating bills during freezing winters. For the sake of American workers and homeowners, please let's not allow exports.

Ken Irvine, M.B.A. '66 
Cos Cob, Conn.


When the peril of climate change is daily borne in upon us all, it was unwelcome to find that a long article on fracking mentioned climate change in an early paragraph only to warn that inadvertent release of (small amounts of) methane (CH4) would be harmful "as a climate altering agent" but failed to mention that the burning of (large amounts of) CH4 (the normal and not at all accidental sequela of fracking) would produce CO2, the better known and still dangerous "climate altering agent."

Indeed the article suggests that burning methane for 100 years would be an "economic and strategic boon" as if the property of bringing on climate change by burning the natural gas had no negative climatic importance whatever.

It is my sense that mankind—especially in the U.S.A.—should be cutting the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gas to zero as quickly as possible and far more quickly than quite comfortable, out of recognition of the discomfort that climate change in its fullest effulgence will bring to our descendants. The authors may disagree, but it astounds me that they think the proposition so unimportant or so obviously wrong as not to mention it—even to dismiss it—in the first paragraph.

Peter Belmont, A.M. '61

Editor's note: The authors' final four paragraphs focus on the transition to wind- and solar-generated electricity, and emphasize that to get to "a low-carbon future," the price of natural gas "must be low enough to disenfranchise coal but not so low as to make it impossible for renewable sources to compete."


The article is perhaps journalistically timely, given the recent efforts to produce shale gas in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. But the authors failed to fully analyze two themes.

First, production of natural gas from hitherto dormant shale formations presents no threat to air or water quality different than that we have already experienced for over 100 years. "Fugitive" emissions of gases and fluids have been the concern and target of petroleum regulatory agencies, such as the Texas Railroad Commission and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, since the first quarter of the twentieth century. Petroleum drillers have always penetrated potable aquifers with their subsurface bits and drilling fluids, and the flow of natural gas has always required careful steps to contain the gas in surface equipment and pipelines. Petroleum production has long taken place in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Shale gas supplies hardly pose new "significant environmental risks" apart from the fact that greater quantities of gas may be produced in coming years.

Second, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's suggestion that the "dominant source of electricity" in the United States can come from a combination of wind and solar sources can only be a pipe dream for many years to come. Even then, according to the article, less than 40 percent of gas usage would be replaced by renewable energy sources. The country's growing energy appetite for both domestic use and possible LNG exports will require relatively more natural gas production, even if one assumes that wind power demands for large acreage grids can overcome increasing political pushback. The article rightly concludes that a "low-carbon future" can only be achieved, if at all, through tax credits, subsidies, and similar political initiatives. One might legitimately question whether this country's dominant leadership in energy production in the twentieth century and the consequent standard of living we enjoy would have been achieved had we relied upon political enactments in place of free-market flexibility. Carbon-free energy sounds laudable, but it is not likely to be realized without deep and serious disruption of our entire social-economic structure, a disruption which may well raise concerns that far exceed today's highly publicized focus on environmental quality.

H. Carter Burdette, LL.B. '58
Fort Worth


The effects of the use of sand in fracking are ignored except for a mention of the use. The major source of the fine-grade crystalline silica sand used in the process is along the banks of the Mississippi in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Even though sand has been mined in these states previously, the requests for sand have increased exponentially. We have seen some dubious practices of local government officials with likely conflicts of interest in granting permits either for the mining or for the transportation infrastructure (like rail side yards) necessary for the industry. In addition, the sand companies are hiring county engineers and regulators, leaving communities unprepared to deal with the issues.

Environmental issues to be considered include air pollution from fine silica particles, ground- and surface-water impacts, effects on wetlands and fisheries, and even removal of forest cover to accommodate mining. Impacts include dewatering and possible contamination of water supplies.

We must also remember that this is happening far from the environmental effects and the profitable venue of the gas mines themselves.

Phyllis Kahn, M.P.A. '86
Minnesota state representative


McElroy and Lu neglect to mention the release of natural gas into the atmosphere through leaks in pipelines. A recent article in The Boston Globe reported more than 3,300 leaks in Boston alone. About 9 billion cubic feet of natural gas was unaccounted for in Massachusetts's gas-distribution system in 2010; this includes leaks, thefts, and purging of pipelines for maintenance. As the authors mention, methane released in the atmosphere is, molecule per molecule, a much more potent, though shorter-lived, contributor to global warming than CO2.

Michael Biales, A.M. '72
Acton, Mass.

When you live on top of the Marcellus Shale as a retiree in a home which is a major part of your nest egg, as my wife and I do, you study fracking from a different perspective than if you lived in Cambridge 02138, as authors Michael McElroy and Xi Lu (“Fracking’s Future,” January-February, page 24) apparently do.

My three years of study have made clear that my state’s regulations and environmental-impact statement are woefully inadequate to protect the health, safety, and economic foundation of us Upstate New York residents. By attempting to participate in this process as authorized by state law, I have found that the regulatory process is dominated by the very industry that is to be regulated and governed by politicians who live in parts of the state where, by Governor Cuomo’s fiat, fracking will not be allowed.

The value of my home is at serious risk when fracking comes to my area. History shows that residential property values drop significantly in the proximity of fracking, and sales become difficult. Although I will not allow my property to be leased, under New York law it can still be fracked against my will by any corporation which induces owners of 60 percent of the land (not by 60 percent of adjacent residents) to enter into fracking leases. The leases themselves abrogate the terms of most or all of the secondary mortgages that most homeowners count on to finance their residences, and those who do lease will be liable for damages to their neighbors when fracking-related accidents and damage occur. (These facts are not typically disclosed by the “land men” who negotiate the leases one owner at a time.) At least one large national homeowner’s insurance carrier has already anounced that its policies do not cover injuries or damages from fracking.

When these realities are combined with documentation by independent researchers of the extreme effects on global warming caused by methane release during the production, processing, and transporting of shale gas, and the burden placed on local taxpayers to pay for infrastructure destruction, intensified demands on public services, and the negative public-health effects of air, noise, and light pollution which always accompanies fracking, there is nothing good to be realized from fracking at the local level unless you own enough leasable land to earn a large signing bonus and move away. Local commjuities and taxpayers in New York cannot force advance, offsetting contributions from would-be frackers or recoup their costs, because their taxing powers are either inadequate or nonexistent.

The hundreds of years of the history of natural-resource extraction in small, rural communities like those overlying most of the Marcellus Shale demonstrate that they are always worse off economically after the boom-bust extraction cycle than similar communities which never experience extraction. Moreover, the boom-bust cycle for Marcellus Shale gas in nearby Pennsylvania is proving quite short—a matter of a few years, rather than the decades or 100-year cycles touted by industry flacks or industry-supported politicians.

Finally, the energy giants which dominate the fracking industry are seeking permits to export shale gas. This will raise the domestic price of natural gas dramatically when it is made available on the world market, where Japan and China are paying four to five times the U.S. price. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy, the profits will go to the shareholders and top executives of the energy companies—already notorious for being subsidized and avoiding U.S. taxes—rather than back to communities, regions, or states which pay so dearly as the sites of production. So much for “energy independence” via shale gas or a boost to the U.S. economy.

In short, fracking is not part of the solution; it is looming ever larger as a part of the problem. The only real solution is to curtail further expansion of fracking and move expeditiously to renewable energy sources.

Joseph M. Wilson, M.P.A. ’89
Ithaca, N.Y. 


An excellent article, but I do take issue with the error in the second paragraph. Water vapor, not carbon dioxide, is the most abundant greenhouse gas. A comparison of the infrared absorption spectra of water and carbon dioxide is instructive; the vibrational transitions of the water molecule (stretching of the O-H bonds) are far more intensely absorbent than the transitions of the carbon dioxide molecule (asymmetric stretching of the linear O=C=O bonds). So at the molecular level, water is a much more powerful infrared absorber, and at the planetary level there is much more water vapor in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. The latter is best described as a trace gas. And finally the real role of water vapor, by absorbing and emitting infrared radiation, is to serve as a temperature buffer, keeping the planet not too cold or too hot, but just right.

If discussions of global warming included the above facts, then the dialogue could be more rational and productive. Natural gas, with all its warts, gives us a few decades of clean fossil energy, perhaps long enough for the science and the technology of solar capture to evolve as our dominant energy source. When the alternative is the construction by India and China of three 1,000-megawatt coal plants a week for the next few decades, natural gas is a no-brainer. But as is too often the case, ideology trumps science. As the authors state, “the problems are neither technical nor economic, but essentially political.” 

William Thompson ’64
Edwards, Colo.


On the whole I found the article to be a balanced presentation of the advantages and potential problems of high-volume horizontal fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”). But there were two serious omissions. First, the authors did not adequately present the magnitude of the dangers heading our way by the end of this century, unless we rapidly reduce our burning of fossil fuels to levels close to zero worldwide. We must resist the temptation to obtain and use inexpensive fracking-generated methane. What seems inexpensive today will cost us dearly in the relatively near future.

  The second omission is any mention of the promising path to rapid deployment of renewable energy that was pioneered by Germany and successfully employed by more than 80 other jurisdictions throughout the world, including nearby Ontario Province. This strategy is usually called “feed-in tariffs” (FITs). FITs resemble standard power-purchase agreements, except that they are targeted to renewable-sourced electricity and are calculated based on the true costs needed to set up the renewable infrastructure, obtain financing, and make a small profit. The electric utility, which makes the payments, agrees to purchase all the electricity fed into the grid by the renewable resource (hence the term “feed-in”). The actual tariffs (prices paid per kilowatt hour of electricity produced) vary depending on the technology employed and the scale of that technology. Small-scale FITs permit individuals, co-ops, and municipalities—in addition to large corporations—to profit from renewable energy. FITs guarantee payments for long-term contracts, frequently 20 years, and this year-over-year stability permits renewable-energy projects to obtain favorable financing. Such stability is highly attractive to businesses, with the result that jurisdictions that have vigorously employed FITs have benefited from large-scale new investments and job growth. Electrical rate-payers also benefit, because increasing use of renewable energy decreases the need for expensive peaking power. The proven success of the FIT strategy for rapidly introducing renewable energy while simultaneously building new businesses and creating new jobs means that there is absolutely no excuse for continuing with fracking, which (as described in the article by McElroy and Lu) stimulates global warming and poisons the environment.

Joel A. Huberman ’63


I am deeply disappointed in the article “Fracking’s Future” in your last issue. The context in which it is written remains within the old industrial paradigm that has demonstrably failed us. We are on the brink of climate catastrophe, and the authors blithely speak in terms of tweaking our current energy use, with no mention of the dire situation we face. We need to approach one, at most two, tons of CO2 emissions per year by 2050. Currently, Americans average 20 tons. One can talk about the relative improvement of our energy situation with the shift from coal to methane, but we need to radically shift everything about the way we use energy, not simply trade one fossil fuel for another.

Rather than a rational business plan, yet another variation on BAU, fracking is one of a whole series of deeper disturbances of a system in disequilibrium (Arctic and deepwater drilling and wholesale conversion of southern forests into “biomass” for power companies in Europe are examples), a sign of a society desperately seeking to maintain the status quo, even if it means destroying its host. The authors write as economists, not ecologists, forgetting that the human economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the earth economy. It is thus extreme irony that the senior author holds a brief as professor of environmental studies. 

The authors make short shrift of the dangers involved in fracking. The water table has already been compromised in numerous places, causing human illness and animal death, not to mention wider and more “subtle” local ecosystem damage. Peer-reviewed studies are now out indicating that fracking compounds (incredibly, still proprietary information, despite the Clean Water Act) have caused numerous instances of bovine death in Pennsylvania, the least-regulated state in the Marcellus basin. Drilling miles beneath the earth brings to the surface substances that are much safer underground, including radioactive material and other heavy metals. Why do the authors omit the need to repair the disastrous loophole in the Clean Water Act that Dick Cheney rammed through to benefit Halliburton and their drilling cronies? And the enormous water use (and fouling) required for fracking is perhaps the biggest issue of all in a world where water wars have already appeared. 

Within the broader fossil-fuel context, why does this magazine ignore one of the largest issues on the Harvard campus today, the challenge from the student body for the Corporation to divest from oil and gas companies? Wouldn’t this at least make an appropriate sidebar to the article? Without addressing these larger issues, the article belongs in an economics journal rather than one dedicated to more general human interest. And the highest human interest at this crucial moment is survival of a biosphere hospitable to our own. 

Robert McGahey ’68, Ed.M. ’70
Burnsville, N.C.

Placebo Probes

Cara Feinberg's article about Ted Kaptchuk ("The Placebo Phenomenon," January-February, page 36) mentions a 2010 study of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) that "yielded his most famous findings to date." Unfortunately, there are at least three major flaws in the study that cast serious doubt on those findings.

One flaw was pointed out in three separate comments, including one by me, on the PLOS ONE web page at the time of publication: patients were given ingestible capsules filled with cellulose fiber as a "placebo" for IBS. A brief search of PubMed or medical-advice websites reveals that cellulose fiber (along with other types of fiber) is a commonly used and clinically tested prospective therapeutic for IBS. One publication, for example, describes a type of cellulose fiber as one of the "commonly prescribed medications in UK general practice for IBS." I have found other publications describing this inappropriate choice of a placebo, but it is puzzling that a team of scientists that includes gastroenterologists based at Harvard Medical School would choose a common therapy as a placebo.

The second flaw compounds the first: patients in the treatment group were instructed to take two cellulose pills twice a day, which they presumably did with a liquid of their choice; the control group was instructed to do nothing. Thus the "control" group was not really a control at all. Drinking a liquid of their choice would have been closer to a real control, and study-provided water for both groups would have been even better—but why not avoid introducing variables into the gut environment altogether in both groups? Why not use a noningestible placebo, like the fake inhaler or the fake acupuncture needles Kaptchuk and colleagues employed in other studies?

The third flaw is that they failed to measure any physiological variables of the gut or the gut microbial community (microbiome). If they had, they might have discovered prior to publication that their "placebo" had objectively measurable effects. Despite prior studies showing that the species composition of the microbiome is altered in IBS, they failed to investigate the possibility that the placebo might measurably alter the microbiome. If this had occurred, would the take-home message be that the gut microbes also "believed" in the power of the placebo, or would we more reasonably infer that ingestion of a therapeutic agent might have caused the change?

Until the experiment is done properly I think we should consider the question addressed by this study to be open, and we should believe the many far more rigorous studies showing that IBS is a disorder in the gut, not in sufferers' minds—and that treatment of it should focus on the former and not the latter.

Preston Estep, Ph.D. '01
Weston, Mass.

Ted Kaptchuk responds: The placebo in the study was not cellulose fiber but microcrystalline cellulose that has no such effect on the gut. There is no reason to believe that a gulp of water contributes to relief of IBS symptoms. To my knowledge, there are no recognized physiological markers for IBS. To be fair, indeed, this study is not our team's most rigorous but it did happen to receive the most media attention because it challenged the widespread belief that placebo responses happen only when patients think they are taking medication. While this study needs further replication, a subsequent more sophisticated study by our team, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (2012), has already begun the search for potential non-conscious placebo pathways that could be responsible for our finding in this IBS study.


Ringing Memory's Bell

Thanks to Primus V for bringing back fond memories of the academic year 1968-1969 ("Ipso Facto!" The College Pump, November-December 2012, page 60.) That year, my Leverett House sophomore roommates Courtney Chinn, Stan Werlin, Steve Zakula, and I were in McKinlock C-23, which put the Pennoyer bell between and only five to six feet below our windows facing the courtyard. Despite our busy schedules, we somehow found the time and the means to attach a cord to the hook of sorts at the top of the bell wheel (not pictured) connected to the stock supporting the bell, and to ring old Pennoyer when the spirit moved us. We were careful not to let the line to the wheel drop to a height reachable by non-C-23 McKinlock residents passing by on their way to D-entry and the dining hall, as we felt that any boost to our morale such as having our own fine bell to ring at our whim was our due in light of our cramped and rather dowdy quarters. 

Of course, at the time we were intrigued by the name Pennoyer on the frame, but none of us was a history major and with everything else going on in our pre-Yahoo/Google world, who had time to make the long trek to Widener for a little research? 

After these many years, we are pleased to learn of the provenance of the Pennoyer bell, especially as we become aware of the improvements in store for old McKinlock, even if they come long after our departure. Thank you, Primus V, and well done!

Ed Lukawski '71, M.D. '75
San Francisco


Feelings about Fashion

I feel similarly about both Art and Fashion—both with capital letters ("Vogue Meets Veritas," January-February, page 28). There are probably some essential principles of beauty, perhaps vaguely visible through the longest-lasting or most frequently recurring elements of style. But mostly, it seems that what we currently aesthetically love and celebrate comes and goes in trends created by a complex interaction of bottom-up preferences, elite self-aggrandizement, and commercial manipulation. I'm glad both Art and Fashion exist—beauty, no matter how shallow or fleeting, is enjoyable. But I'm sorry that so many people, so much money, and such hyperventilated attention gets caught up in its ultimately meaningless swirls. 

Steven E. Miller, M.P.A. '89
Executive Director, Healthy Weight Initiative, Harvard School of Public Health


Legislated Housing Problems

As reported in Ashley Pettus's "Immobile Labor" (January-February, page 9), Daniel Shoag and Peter Ganong blame housing regulations for the end in 1980 of a century of declining income disparities between richer and poorer states. Regulation—that boogeyman of the right—is supposedly the reason low-skilled workers stopped moving to richer states for better jobs. There is a more obvious explanation: the Reagan administration's war on the poor. Reagan cut the federal budget for subsidized housing by 80 percent. By the end of the Reagan era, lower-income workers had a hard time finding affordable housing, even in areas they knew. Homelessness had become the epidemic we still live with, and mostly ignore, today. If workers can no longer afford to live in the rich states where the jobs are, let us put the blame where it belongs.

Jane Collins '71
Medford, Mass.


The Two-Percent Solution

I'm not an economist, but I've been following the financial mess in Washington with interest and despair. Now I see Fair Harvard is in the same pickle ("Sober Finances," January-February, page 47). Obviously Harvard's problem, like Washington's, is a shortfall in revenues; it certainly cannot be an excess of spending. So why not apply the same fix—namely, increase the tuition on those students who come from the top 2 percent of America's wealthiest families. Surely they would be willing to pay their fair share.

Jim Luetje '60
Summerfield, Fla.


Celebrating Social Entrepreneurs

I was so pleased to read "New Social Entrepreneurs" in the January-February Harvard Magazine (New England Regional Section, page 12F, and online at

During my year at the Graduate School of Education, I was fortunate to interact with many students interested in social change as I was. It was refreshing to see a feature regarding graduates who want to improve the world. It was good to see others who were not from GSE who are in the world to improve it. Thank you for sharing this with the Harvard community.

Pamela Brummett Roberts, Ed.M. '01
Framingham, Mass.


Urban Innovation

Regarding "A Community Innovation Lab" (January-February, page 55), I have been active in the Uphams Corner community since 1976. I attended a very impressive presentation by Kennedy School and Graduate School of Design students: the recommendations (on the upgrading of the Dorchester North Burying Ground and the disintegrating building adjacent to the entrance) were extensive and quite detailed; the suggestions were excellent. Keep up the good work, Harvard!

Harold Jay Cohen '63
Newton Centre, Mass.


Native American Pandemics

I enjoyed Daniel Richter's review, "Brutish Beginnings" (January-February, page 18).

But it fails to mention the single most important and catastrophic sequence that changed the entire Colonist/Native American interface in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: the introduction and dissemination of Old World infectious disease pandemics in the Native American populations. Beginning with the smallpox epidemic of 1529, sequential epidemics of smallpox, chicken pox, diphtheria, typhus, influenza, measles, malaria, and yellow fever spread widely in the Americas. Academics estimate that 95 percent of the entire Native American population died in the first 130 years after European contact; 90 percent of the Inca Empire died in the epidemics; and the population of Mexico declined from 25.2 million in 1518 to 700,000 in 1623.

 The European explorers did not discover healthy, vigorous Native American populations and cultures. They found disoriented, fragmented survivors of collapsed civilizations. Imagine North America 50 years after all-out nuclear warfare. 

One could postulate that, had the Native American populations not been decimated by epidemics, the European intrusions into Central and North America might have been repulsed. If that had happened, our current world would look very different.

Spencer Borden IV '63, M.D. '68
Montpelier, Vt.


Guns and Public Health

I read the recent article, "Gun Violence: A Public Health Issue" [published January 9 online; see]  with dismay. It is an example of the hyperbole and misdirection which have contributed to the current polarized state of our government. In the article, constitutional rights become health issues, and democracy must now subordinate the will of the majority to the intense feelings of the minority. Violence is learned behavior, but guns rather than behavior must be controlled.

I wait in vain for Harvard Magazine to offer a balanced article on issues which concern the electorate. Veritas is difficult to discern.

Craig S. Carson, M.B.A. '75
Plainfield, Ind.

Editor's note: The article was a news account of a Harvard School of Public Health forum that included professor of health policy David Hemenway, who directs the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. His research on firearms was covered in depth in "Death by the Barrel" (September-October 2004, page 52).  For a Harvard news office account of the forum, with a link to a video recording, see


Gun violence—could it be we have a common-sense problem? The mass murders do not occur in banks or police stations but in “gun-free zones” such as schools and theaters. Felons snicker when we talk of more gun control, more background checks and waiting periods, because they buy them in the underground, not gun shows. Are the politicians the only ones worthy of personal protection (i.e., Secret Service, concealed carry 24/7)? Nuclear Armageddon has not been avoided by unilateral disarmament but by the threat of overwhelming retaliation and in the present context that is called concealed carry. 

Peter McKinney ’56


Julia Child's Bathtub Years

The Valentine image of Julia Child and Paul Child in a sudsy bathtub ("Bon Anniversaire," Treasure, January-February, page 76) in fact dates to 1956, not 1952-53. The date was entered incorrectly in the Harvard Library's Visual Information Access system, the Radcliffe Institute reports, and has now been set to rights.


Who Reads What

I was struck by the Charles Hotel ad on page 59 of your January-February issue. Under the headline "{Where Two Worlds Meet}," a man and a woman (strangely standing, side-by-side) are reading magazines: he Harvard Business Review, she Weddings.

 I don't know what the "Two Worlds" are supposed to be, but I'm pretty sure one of them is the distant past—the world of the Mad Men at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

 Too bad no one had the wit to have him sneaking a peek at her magazine, and her sneaking a peek at his.

Dan Kelly '75
Hopkins, Minnesota

We were disturbed to see the advertisement for the Charles Hotel depicting a man reading Harvard Business Review and a woman reading Weddings, with the text “Where two worlds meet” (January-February, page 59). We feel this is an inappropriate representation of the interests of women, who make up 50 percent of Harvard’s undergraduate population and 37 percent of the Business School (US News and World Report). A glance at our tenth anniversary report reveals women who are engineers, lawyers, doctors, government workers, professors, and real-estate developers; and that is just the As. Of course, many of these women are also married, but the narrow portrayal of the woman’s “world” represented by the wedding magazine does not suit us or many of our classmates. We hope the magazine will be more conscientious about the advertisements it allows in the future.

Jamie Rosenberg ’00, M.D.
New York City

Nisha Agarwal ’00, J.D. ’06

Heidi Bergos, director of sales and marketing at The Charles Hotel, responds: We appreciate the feedback and want to take the opportunity to share the creative thought process that went into the ad design and placement.
The wedding ad was inspired by this photo of a couple in Harvard Square on their wedding day— We thought it was quirky, humorous, intelligent, and immediately sat down to brainstorm how we could incorporate it into our ad campaign. The message of "Where Two Worlds Meet" was added because we view marriage as the blending of two worlds. Two people from different backgrounds with different life experiences and different interests.

 Our intention was for the female model to be styled in a sharp suit. She works as a top-level executive and was recently engaged. She is extremely successful in her career, but also excited to be planning a wedding with her love. The male model was styled more casually. He works at a local startup and reads the Harvard Business Review so that he can stay on top of the ever-changing startup environment. We crafted several ads that depict the meeting of two worlds. Another version of the wedding ad will run in this issue of Harvard Magazine. We promise that this ad will not be placed again.

 We apologize for running an ad that could be viewed as sexist and dated. Please know that it was truly not our intention.


Speak Up, Please

Harvard Magazine welcomes letters on its contents. Please write to "Letters," Harvard Magazine, 7 Ware Street, Cambridge 02138, send comments by e-mail to [email protected], or fax us at 617-495-0324. Letters may be edited to fit the available space.

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