Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Letters

Cambridge 02138

On-line gender equity, email investigations, Dean John Monro

July-August 2013

Joblessness and Immigration

It is noteworthy that in “The Urban Jobs Crisis,” by James M. Quane, William Julius Wilson, and Jackelyn Hwang (May-June, page 42), there is no mention of the impact of the many millions of legal and illegal immigrants who have come to the United States in recent decades. For many years, most of our legal and illegal immigrants have not been well educated, and they typically end up competing for low-level jobs with our less-educated citizens and earlier immigrants. Consequently, our immigration has directly contributed to higher unemployment and downward pressure on wages for the urban poor. Thus it would be logical to include restricting the immigration of the poor and little-educated in the list of ways to help the urban poor already here, but I fear that it is not politically correct to make such a proposal in today’s academic community.

Peter A. Schulkin, Ph.D. ’70
Cambria, Calif.


The authors respond: In our essay, we consider pathways out of poverty for low-income blacks and Latinos. In this regard, we do mention the rise in immigration, particularly among low-skilled Latinos, between 1990 and 2000 and their concentration in farming occupations and the expanding service sector. It is likely that immigrant groups in labor markets in certain parts of the country do compete with U.S. citizens, especially those with a high-school education or less, for jobs at the lower end of the wage distribution. However, the established research does not resolve the question about whether these jobs would be filled if immigrant workers were barred from seeking them. Indeed, focusing on whether these jobs should go to immigrants or natives whose skills preclude them from seeking employment in more stable, better-paying sectors of the economy obfuscates deeper structural issues that keep the working poor from achieving economic self-sufficiency. Other forces that we discuss in our essay—some global and others closer to home—bear much more responsibility for undermining the economic progress of middle- and low-income workers.

 

While unemployment is highest among those who are undereducated, [education] is not the key to ending unemployment. It partly determines who is unemployed, not whether or not there is unemployment. Education is very important. Like health and safety it should be available to all regardless of race or economic condition. Nevertheless, the cure for unemployment lies elsewhere. Full employment comes if the population’s propensity to save equals its propensity to invest (as explained in Keynesian economics.) If not, government action is needed.

Public-work projects go directly to making jobs. (However, they involve politicians choosing which sectors of the economy to aid. They also add to the deficit, but this can be reversed by higher taxes during times of relative prosperity.)

Another (and better) method is to increase and accelerate Social Security benefits paid for by subsidies out of general funds, because jobs become available for others when seniors retire. Since this does add to deficits as public works and tax decreases do it can also be implemented during better economic times when unemployment is only four percent. Similarly, we can give a 100 percent tax credit for contributions to IRAs up to $10,000, withdrawable only on retirement, of course. Another efficient way of encouraging early retirement is having the treasury pay for Medicare for all retired people eligible for Social Security. Many would retire who otherwise would fear the reduced income would leave them unable to pay medical bills that might never be. The reason I think that this is efficient is that relatively few will have very great medical expenses during that period (currently three years) but very many would be reasonably apprehensive of such expenses.

(There is no guarantee that anyone’s tax reductions for corporations will go to job increases, since there is much unused plant capacity during a recession. The reason for that is that consumers aren’t buying.)

Donald Marcus, LL.B. ’58
Pittsfield, Mass.

Same-Sex Marriage

A recent letter (May-June, page 8) in response to Michael J. Klarman’s article on the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage (“How Same-Sex Marriage Came to Be,” March-April, page 30) states that “strong evidence indicates that” children “stand to be harmed” by same-sex marriage. This is a complete falsehood.

In March 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization greatly concerned with the welfare of children, issued a policy statement on same-sex marriage, including an examination of the evidence on the effects of same-sex marriage on children. The authors write: “There is extensive research documenting that there is no causal relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and children’s emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral development. Many studies attest to the normal development of children of same-gender couples when the child is wanted, the parents have a commitment to shared parenting, and the parents have strong social and economic supports.”

They then go on to fully support same- sex marriage, writing that “if a child has twoand capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond by way of civil marriage, it is in the best interests of their child(ren) that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so.”

The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Sociological Association have also reached similar conclusions on the effects of same-sex marriage on children and have issued similar policy statements in favor of same-sex marriage.

Opposition to same-sex marriage largely comes from religious beliefs or a basic dislike of gay and lesbian people. Because these reasons don’t work well in the public-policy debate on this issue, opponents cite concerns for children—but there is no evidence to support harm to children. As a physician, I try to base my treatment of patients on facts and studies. The same approach should be applied to public policy.

Stephen Sussman, M.D. ’88
Haiku, Hawaii


I’m writing to say that I’m dismayed at your inclusion of the letters from Scott FitzGibbon, J.D. ’70, and George Goverman ’65, J.D. ’70, in the May-June 2013 issue

I realize that same-sex marriage is not a “settled” issue in our society yet, and that you’ve attempted to include “points of view” in the current debate by printing these two letters, but both are preposterous: FitzGibbon makes a spurious claim that same-sex marriage harms children (and cites no research proving so—because there is none) and Goverman asks whether, now that those supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians have “won,” we could give marriage and “logic” and “democracy”—the “country’s traditions”—“back” to heterosexuals (presumably because he doesn’t actually feel that gays and lesbians are his co-equal citizens in this country).

If either of these men had written letters like these to you in response to James Hanken’s article on Louis Agassiz in the same issue, arguing that Agassiz was correct in believing interracial marriage harms children and/or that the repeal of antimiscegenation laws was antidemocratic and “defied logic,” you wouldn’t have published them, since those sorts of statements are racist and offensive, and also defy common decency in our society now. I wish you would extend the same courtesy to discussion of same-sex marriage in the pages of Harvard Magazine—even in the Letters section.

On a happier note, Joshua W. Meyers (Columbia ’97) and I were married at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, on Saturday, April 20, 2013, by Rev. Jonathan C. Page ’02, thanks to the enlightenment of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the eight (soon to be nine) other states (and the District of Columbia) that have made it into the future alongside us.

Jeremy Faro ’96
Cambridge


In his letter concerning Michael Klarman’s article on the same-sex marriage movement, Scott FitzGibbon claims that “strong evidence indicates that [children] stand to be harmed” when gay people wed. This is utterly false, as copious social scientific studies have shown. Children of gay and lesbian couples fair no worse, and some times even better, than those in families led by heterosexual couples. The amicus brief from the American Psychological Association opposing the Defense Of Marriage Act in Windsor v. United States provides a good overview of this research. The intellectual dishonesty of antigay activists is sometimes breathtaking.

Ted Gideonse ’96
San Diego

edX and Gender Equity

The very informative “HarvardX at One” (May-June, page 48) does an excellent job of noting the primary opportunities and challenges involved with the race to offer MOOCs, and provides welcome information on funding structures. But it misses one issue that is a serious challenge for edX and the other major providers of MOOCs: the involvement of female instructors. edX’s mission statement says that one of its goals is “to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience.”

 Leaving aside the questionable grammar of that statement, the facts refute it. Of the 25 courses that EdX currently lists on its website, none are taught solely by female faculty: 17 are taught solely by male faculty, and eight by mixed-gender groups. In HarvardX courses, the disparity is even more glaring: of the 11 instructors listed, only one is female. With a faculty that is more than 25 percent female, one would think that more than one woman would have an interest in participating.

With this gender imbalance, edX, like other MOOC providers, is missing a tremendous opportunity to export models of gender equality. Much of their audience is in developing countries, such as China, India, and Brazil, where the education of girls and women is a crucial element of economic and social development. Featuring confident, accomplished female instructors in MOOCs could export role models, sometimes in situations where powerful female role models are in short supply.

The gender imbalance in MOOC instruction is also a looming issue for the Harvard faculty, as well as faculty at universities more generally. Teaching MOOCs brings prestige and other rewards. To the extent that these privileges are overwhelmingly limited to male faculty, Harvard’s efforts in recent years to address a range of diversity issues are undermined.

Lisa Martin, Ph.D. ’90
Department of Political Science
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Editor’s note: Lisa Martin, formerly of Harvard’s government faculty, served as senior adviser to the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on faculty diversity.

Mouse Models

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry about “Mice Aren’t Men” (May-June, page 13). The author comments that the idea that mice and men are different is so controversial that a paper discussing that was “declined by Science and Nature before being published in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences.” Perhaps the article was declined because only Harvard laboratory researchers would confuse mice with men (or women).

George L. Spaeth, G ’57, M.D. ’58
Philadelphia


“Mice Aren’t Men” outlined another egregious case of animal cruelty at Harvard—a point the author, Elizabeth Gudrais, never makes directly. The fact that mice suffered “burns, blunt trauma, and infection” to no point, since it turns out their inflammation response is different than that of people, is certainly controversial, but surely not only because it resulted in ineffective inflammation medication for people! Unimaginable suffering was also inflicted on thousands of animals to no medical purpose. Gudrais asks why these tests continued when even “casual observers” could see the difference in response, and correctly notes that the system self-perpetuates, but she misses two important points. One is that Harvard has fought hard in the courts to have mice redefined as objects/property, not animals, making their suffering legally unchallengeable and lessening any need for even a veneer of concern by experimenters. A second is that Harvard’s history of animal experimentation is one of consistent brutality—remember those monkeys starved, malnourished, and put through the hot rinse cycle (admittedly while dead) last year? Saddest of all, however, is that the “stunning” realization by scientists that Gudrais describes—that experimenters might need to prove that mice will react like people before beginning blunt-trauma testing on them—was first proposed, to my knowledge, in Gill Langley’s edited collection Animal Experimentation: The Consensus Changes (1989). The current broken paradigm is going nowhere fast. If change will come, it won’t come from scientists, but from a community that no longer accepts bland assurances that all animal experimentation, however brutally conducted or inherently flawed in design, is “necessary” to protect human health. 

Dr. Tara Kelly ’91
Durham, N.C.

E-mail Investigations

The account of the “E-mail Imbroglio” (May-June, page 46) illustrates incompetence at a high level of the College’s administration. And the adjacent photo of Harvard’s remarkable basketball team, minus its co-captains, reminds us of the heavy price paid by so many undergraduates. But neither this report nor prior ones address the role of inept instruction.

No Harvard graduate familiar with higher education and cheating can accept the unethical, mass collaboration of exam-takers at face value. There simply had to have been a widespread, profound miscommunication of the rules to test-takers or a unilateral reinterpretation of these parameters pursuant to the exam. Having failed so many of its students, Harvard has failed the smell test.

Ernst R. Habicht Jr. ’60
Port Jefferson, N.Y.


Is it not highly likely that, had the resident deans been informed that such a search was to be made, the dean who had inadvertently sent the e-mails, would have realized his/her inadvertent mistake and have reported this to the Ad Board, thus sparing us all this “dirty linen”?

Mary Ellen Goodman ’43
New York City

Sequester as First Step

It is interesting (and revealing) to note that President Drew Faust feels it necessary in her View from Mass Hall (May-June, page 4) to refer to America’s sequester as a “self-inflicted wound.” A 3 percent reduction in our nation’s expenditures, amounting to less than 10 percent of our outrageous annual deficit, is hardly a “wound.” Perhaps it could more correctly be called a first small step to financial sanity made in a decade.

F. Gregg Bemis Jr., M.B.A. ’54
Santa Fe

The Habit of Tyranny

Randall Kennedy’s comment (“Black, White, and Many Shades of Gray,” by Craig Lambert, May-June, page 25) that tyranny can take the form of custom or habit reminds me of Dean Roscoe Pound’s course in jurisprudence (the last he ever gave at Harvard Law School).

He told us that we were mistaken if we believed that the statute and case books contain the laws that govern a society’s behavior. When it comes to human behavior, the family, culture, religion, custom, and peer pressure were far more influential than the dictates of the courts and legislators. I am pleased to see the verity of that comment being carried forward at the law school in 2013.

Paul Mishkin, J.D. ’48
New York City

Peerless Dean Monro

The manila folder John U. Monro holds in the May-June issue (Vita, by Toni-Lee Capossela, page 30) could be mine. He got me admitted for the February semester in 1946—but it was a struggle.

After World War II, millions of veterans counted on the GI Bill to finance their college educations. Me too. Why not Harvard, I thought. As a product of Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and a graduate of Neenah (Wisconsin) High School, I though I was well prepared. Shortly before my army discharge, I wrote Harvard requesting admission forms. John responded with a polite note suggesting I apply elsewhere. No forms. I wrote again. And again. And again. Six times. Each time, John gave me a lesson in stylish turndowns. I was confused. At least let me apply, I thought, before you reject me. Finally, John relented a little. All right, he wrote, send me four essays describing your background, your education, your reasons for selecting Harvard, and your aims in life.

I did as told. Finally, he sent me a thick packet with admission forms. After discharge, I took my SATs and waited. In two weeks or so, a telegram notified me that I was accepted. The first week, at a mixer for new students, John saw me and came across the room to shake my hand. What he said I have never forgotten. “Welcome,” he said. “You are the young man who would not take no for an answer.” John and his lesson in perseverance helped me the rest of my life. Of all my great teachers at Harvard and elsewhere, John U. Monro ranks first.

E. Aaron Cohodes ’50
West Palm Beach, Fla.


The article on John Monro took me back to the spring of 1960. I was a senior at Cambridge High and Latin, recently accepted for admission to Harvard, and working after school as a stock boy at Phillips Bookstore in the Square. One afternoon as I maneuvered a pile of dirt across the floor with my push broom, I was approached by a tall, distinguished gentleman with very prominent cheekbones and a bristling crewcut. “Are you Jim McGovern?” he asked, and when I said yes he responded, “I’m John Monro, dean of Harvard College.” I don’t remember what I mumbled in reply, but I do remember being embarrassed about that broom and that pile of dirt. I also remember thinking, “Uh oh, they changed their minds about letting me in.”

Monro said that he had seen my application and noted that I worked at Phillips. He also noted my stated intention to concentrate in engineering, and suggested that economics might be a better choice. (Presumably he had also checked my SAT scores and decided that while the quantitative aspects of economics might appeal to me, it was less likely to overtax my math ability.) He smiled, wished me luck, and left me in something of a state of shock.

I did take his suggestion about economics, although it took less than a year for me to realize that I had no more real interest in the “dismal science” than I had in engineering. But even then I knew how amazing it was that the dean of the College had paid that much attention to my application, and had then gone out of his way to offer some advice and counsel. I never spoke to Monro again, but based on my one brief encounter with him, I for one was not at all surprised when he opted to leave Harvard for Miles.

 James M. McGovern ’64, M.A.T. ’65, Ed ’72, CAS ’80
Cambridge

Editor’s note: The portrait of John Monro was incorrectly credited, reflecting an error in the material provided to the magazine. The correct credit is: Copyright © Stephen Coit. Used with permission of the artist.

 

JUM (his Crimson moniker) changed my life forever before I even set foot in the Yard. In the fall of 1950, I was a high-school senior only interested in catching footballs and girls (the former occasionally and the later never). Then “Baby Dean” Monro visited New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, on a recruiting trip. Needless to say, I wasn’t part of his itinerary. I was a senior messenger sitting outside the Dean of Boys’ office when I was asked if I had a car and would I drive Dean Monro to his next stop, Evanston High School. I answered affirmatively to both and drove him the 15-minute journey. I have no idea what we talked about, but at the end of the drive, I had an application for Harvard. Somehow I filled it out and in April, I, my parents, my teachers, and most of my class was astounded to find out I was accepted in the class of 1955.

John was my freshman adviser while in Straus, but with no memorable moments. Then, in the middle of my junior year, he invited me to visit his office. He told me he had been following my progress and was pleased. He then related the following: As a member of the admissions committee in 1950, he reviewed with his fellow members all applicants. At the end of the long and arduous session, each member had one “wild card.” One candidate for admission who was his choice alone and not subject to discussion. I was his choice for the class of 1955.

Thank you, John, for your faith in me.

Walter W. Bregman ’55
Del Mar, Calif.

The Commuter’s Lot

I graduated in 1954 after four years of commuting from Dorchester to the commuter center, Dudley Hall. At that time 12 percent of the students were commuters. I spent three hours a day back and forth on streetcars, buses, subway, elevated rapid transit, and walking. I had practically no contact with dormitory students or activities. Professors and TAs were out of reach even though I was a biology major and had many extra hours in labs. No dances, parties, or other plans were possible due to living far away.

When I was admitted to Harvard as a freshman in 1950, it was not as a guest or visitor but as a regular student. I was assigned to Dudley House because I could not afford the cost of living in a dorm. My tuition was hard enough for my parents to afford, never mind room and board. All the students I met at Dudley between classes were also commuting because of the expense, not for surplus of money or the need for freedom to have fun without restraints.

I’ll bet that others like me from those days could tell the same stories if alive and contacted. I read Harvard Magazine about student life at Harvard and it does not ring a bell with me or any of my classmates. Are there any commuters still at Harvard?

Joseph T. Waterman ’54
Canoga Park, Calif.

Prison Problems

It was nice to see the issue of prisons discussed in the article about Bruce Western (“The Prison Problem,” March-April, page 38). As someone who wanted to work in the prison system when I graduated from business school and came back to Boston in 1973, I always remember the advice of my father’s friends at the time: “Don’t waste your time. The prison guards’ lobby in Massachusetts is much too powerful to give reform any reasonable chance.” So I went into banking instead.

Now, less focused on reform than working with one person at a time, I have for the last decade led prison workshops of different kinds in Maine and Massachusetts as a volunteer. There is, in fact, a small benefit of being taught by people who are not making money from the prisoner’s situation: as he/she usually feels so thoroughly exploited by the “system,” volunteers are often regarded with less suspicion.

But it remains emotionally draining work, partly because programs are universally being cut back and partly as our country descends further each day into violence. Prison populations are divided between “hard cons,” who have no interest in changing, and usually a significant group who are either intrigued or downright motivated to learn. At the very least, taking the time to physically enter these inhuman jungles can testify to the fact that someone cares, which can give them hope for a better life.

However, the typical cocktail-party response to prison work, somewhere between polite incredulity and downright puzzlement at such a bizarre occupation, reminds me of our society’s massive denial around this national outrage. There are voyeuristic popular TV shows about the most violent prisons that reflect an even uglier dimension of our society. At bottom I can think of no society both so tied to the need for revenge and so blind to the disgrace of what we are doing each day and night to our fellow human beings.

It was good to read that Western is now “embarking on an action-oriented initiative.” I wish him the best of luck.

William S. Patten ’70
Mount Desert, Me.

Agassiz and the Natural World

James Hanken’s review of a new book on Harvard’s Louis Agassiz (“A Scientist in Full,” May-June 2013) displays the usual assumption in secular academia that evolution is “fact” and creationism myth.

As the foremost American opponent of Darwinism, Agassiz refused to accept that matter unaided could create the vast proliferation of animal and plant life. He properly credited the invisible God as the author of the visible world. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20).

Agassiz never retreated from his acknowledgement of God as the author and creator of the natural world. Unfortunately, in godless academia such ideas are considered hopelessly antiquated. Hanken speaks of “the inadequacy of Agassiz’s creationist views…despite increasing empirical evidence for organic evolution.”

If classifying the natural world is, as Agassiz said, “almost beyond the reach of the mental powers of man,” how could this system have come into existence without “an Intelligent Author”? In his 1863 work, Methods of Study in Natural History, Agassiz explained: “Nature is the work of thought, the production of intelligence, carried out according to plan, therefore premeditated, and in our study of natural objects we are approaching the thoughts of the Creator, reading his conceptions, interpreting a system that is his and not ours.”

In his 1857 poem “The Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stated the true work of the naturalist: to “read what is still unread / In the manuscripts of God.”

John Greenleaf Whittier wrote in his poem “The Prayer of Agassiz” (1874):

As with fingers of the blind,
We are groping here to find
What the hieroglyphics mean
Of the Unseen in the seen,
What the Thought which underlies
Nature’s masking and disguise….

The secular establishment considers Agassiz a quaint relic of a long-disintegrated religious civilization. He understood reality, both visible and invisible, far better than the Darwinians who have succeeded him.

Martin Wishnatsky ’66, Ph.D. ’75
Prattville, Ala. 

Free Speech Concerns

I’ve contained myself over many years from writing letters to 02138, largely because I figured they would never be published. The last letters selection, however, made me so angry that I couldn’t hold back any longer.

Why, instead of headings referring to the article, don’t you use headings such as: “Clinton Haters (Bill)”; “Obama Haters (other)”; “Homophobes”; and generally, “Ignorant, stupid, graduates the rest of us should be ashamed of”?

The last assortment of letters certainly reflects these headings.

Under the heading “Homophobes” we have “strong evidence that they [children of gay parents] stand to be harmed”—where tons of evidence shows no such thing (see an April 2012 article in the well-known left-wing rag The Wall Street Journal)—and now the “homotern” (to use a term favored by homophobes) has “achieved its goal” (of legalizing homosexuality), “it can give back the country’s traditions....”? I guess that means in a democratic state we can legalize slavery, take away the Nineteenth Amendment, and set up ghettos for Jews through gentleman’s agreements, all by majority vote. I note with horror that both letters were written by J.D.s. 

Then we have the letter headed “Academic Misconduct,” which falls under “Clinton Hater” and “Ignorant and Stupid.”

This is such a revoltingly ignorant letter that, as a Divinity School graduate (1967) and history student (University of Chicago Ph.D program), I wonder how the writer ever managed to attend Harvard (aha, he’s an M.B.A.—and we all know what that means).

So to continue, after doing the obligatory Clinton Hater and Obama slur, the ignoramus rants: “Do you even know if any student ever attended church?” Well first, of course, he does not try to find out, and second, he makes the assumption that this did not happen. But one of the worst cheating scandals in academia happened at West Point in 1975, when more than 60 juniors were expelled for cheating, and this at a school where attendance at prayer services was mandatory. Indeed it was only last year that an atheist student quit the Point because of constant harassment from “Christian” classmates. 

I figure that somehow the editors of 02138, deluged with mail, try to be all-inclusive. So since there are all these graduates out there, we have to include homophobes and Clinton haters as well as the stupid and ignorant (didn’t Nixon say that about one of his Supreme Court candidates?) as worthy of representation. 

OK, but why don’t you put them under the appropriate heading so I don’t have to waste my time reading a letter that I think might say something? Or maybe you can footnote them so (for example) in the homophobe case, the footnote would read: “Research shows gay parents are as good as straight parents”; or in the Cheating letter, “XX number of the cheaters were regular attendees at Memorial Church, YY number sang in the Choir, ZZ number were members of churches around Harvard Square,” and so forth.

My anger is getting the better of me—since I know “footnoting” will never happen. But can’t you isolate this garbage under separate headings?

Jeffrey E. Fiddler, S.T.B. ’67
Chicago

Abigail Adams on the Fate of Republics

The May-June issue reflected a rising theme from a Harvard Assembly of Notables on debt and sequester, marriage and bacchanalia, youth and drugs, crime and punishment. The calamitous fall of the culture in the United States today is its origin, and is not the first time this has happened in a republic. The Bacchanalia during the Roman Republic in 186 b.c. and later the time of Caligula during the Roman Empire come to mind. But the clearest, on-scene description of this process occurred in 1784 through the letters of Abigail Adams, during her and John’s posting to Paris as part of the Commission representing the newly won republic of the United States.

She saw with surprise and disgust the liberation from all familiar morality, marriages without loyalty or faithfulness, Paris with 50,000 prostitutes, half the children born without marriage, 6,000 infants abandoned each year to the Foundling Home, a third to die, impotence and rejection of religion, the printing of paper money as fast as it was spent, factions so separate that they were oblivious to their mutual contempt, except for the lowest who in five years would make their presence known. Abigail saw few people working, and always she was concerned that America, too, might go this way.

It is also true, as Abigail viewed this scene, that “in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees…already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history...But that Woodman, though [he worked] unceasingly, [worked] silently, and no one heard…as [he] went about with muffled tread,” so Dickens told us of then. The support for the Second Amendment tells us of now.

We all know that the cultural conditions of then and now do not work. The question is whether our republic will be around when that becomes apparent to all.

George Seaver, Ph.D. ’73
Cataumet, Mass.

Harvard and the Use of Force

As a 95-year-old veteran and student of World War II, I found the genesis of napalm at Harvard by Robert M. Neer (Open Book, May-June, page 18) extremely significant. It reminded me of Harvard’s professor Winford Lewis and his assistant, Arthur Conant, who invented Lewisite as a poison gas to be employed in World War I, but the war ended before its use.

President Conant also served on President Truman’s interim commission to advise him on whether to use the atom bomb. Harvard arises to the challenge to employ brute force when it’s necessary to defend its principles.

Al Schnupp
John Hay Fellow, 1965-66
Towson, Md.

A Call for Improvement

As a proud Latino alumnus of the Kennedy School and a scholar of race and Hispanic identity, I was deeply disturbed by the recent events involving Jason Richwine’s [Ph.D. ’09] doctoral dissertation claiming that “immigrants are not as intelligent…as white natives.” Mr. Richwine’s thesis is flawed on many levels, especially when it comes to his simplistic and inaccurate classification of racial categories. Not only can “Hispanics” be “white” (if that means of European origin) or of any “race,” but the assumption that IQ is a stable phenotype that reflects universal intelligence is untenable.

The approval of this dissertation does not seem to be the result of willful racism, but it reflects a superficial understanding of ‘’race’’ in public-policy work. The HKS is the premier policy school, but it needs to prevent future similar errors by: a) providing curricula that blend policy work with more historical-cultural approaches to complex problems such as “race” and b) by recruiting more Latino faculty with backgrounds not just in public policy but also qualitative/theoretical work. Quantitative and management methods are very important to craft optimal policy choices, but they must be supplemented with more substantive courses tailored to future policy leaders.

Diego A. von Vacano, M.P.P. ’96
Associate professor, Department of Political Science
Texas A&M University
College Station, Tex.

On Lopsidedness

Helen Vendler has written a very perceptive article (“Writers and Artists at Harvard,” November-December 2012, page 27) about Harvard’s need to welcome and nurture poets and painters of the future. She makes the well-taken point that the undergraduate admissions office should not just search for “well-rounded” candidates who can deal with the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, economics, as well as the humanities. To do so today might well exclude some of the great talents of Harvard’s past, like Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Peter Sellars, John Adams, and Fairfield Porter. 

Personally I have always favored a different way to describe students who are absolutely devoted to their writing, painting, music, or acting, and rather clueless when it comes to the sciences. These students are not at all “well-rounded” or “well-balanced,” rather they are “well-lopsided,” and often highly creative, too. Their post-Harvard careers have proven the virtues of their well-lopsidedness.

Richard Hunt, Ph.D. ’60
Cambridge

You Might Also Like:

At Harvard African Students Association’s Africa Night (from left): Tom Osborn ’20 of Kenya; Joshua Benjamin ’21, of Phoenix, Arizona (whose ancestors are Angolan but were first brought to Charleston, South Carolina, in the late seventeenth century); Tawanda Mulalu ’20 of Botswana; and Mfundo Radebe ’20 of South Africa

Photograph by Christabel Narh

Harvard through an African filter

You Might Also Like:

At Harvard African Students Association’s Africa Night (from left): Tom Osborn ’20 of Kenya; Joshua Benjamin ’21, of Phoenix, Arizona (whose ancestors are Angolan but were first brought to Charleston, South Carolina, in the late seventeenth century); Tawanda Mulalu ’20 of Botswana; and Mfundo Radebe ’20 of South Africa

Photograph by Christabel Narh

Harvard through an African filter