Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Letters

Cambridge 02138

Silhouettes, missing football fans, the Sixties

January-February 2015

Ethics Education

As a frequent speaker on business ethics, I was eager to read “Making Organizations Moral,” along with its subtitle “Ethics Elevated” (November-December 2014). But I was quickly disappointed as I read Professor Max Bazerman’s comment that “My job is not about what ethics you follow, but how to bring you up to your own ethical standards.”

Such subjective morality is what got Jeffrey Skilling [former CEO of Enron] and other Harvard Business School (HBS) alums in a lot of trouble. It’s time HBS said there is right and wrong, that ethics pursues what is right, and that those who behave unethically should be punished. We can’t afford the nation’s flagship business school to continue to wander through a sea of moral relativism.

William Bowman, M.B.A. ’78
Arlington, Mass.


Most Americans are not confused about the concepts of honesty and dishonesty. We expect honesty from our judiciary, news media, and police forces. We have no such confidence in businessmen, advertisers, and politicians. Why wouldn’t it be a good idea to move people with Harvard in their résumés to the side of unquestioned honesty?

James G. King ’52
Juneau

History Rebooted…

Thank you for “The New Histories” (November-December 2014). It demonstrates the expanded scope and potential impact of Harvard Magazine. A larger audience than alumni, important as we may be, benefits. You delivered a thoughtful, informed, exciting overview updating readers on debates and developments in history and its new collaborators. We seem to be moving into a transdisciplinary realm of inquiry, and that’s a good thing. I plan to use your essay in seminars and distribute it broadly among colleagues. Hope you don’t mind.

Donald Warren
Professor Emeritus, Education History and Policy, and University Dean Emeritus,
School of Education, Indiana University
Bloomington


Your bang-up article understandably focuses on the Harvard historians doing exciting work in expanding the field of play beyond the nation-state and the written record. But it would have been graceful to acknowledge some of the historians who have pioneered this approach, even if they were stationed elsewhere. I am thinking of such historians as William H. McNeill (The Rise of the West, and with his son John R. McNeill, The Human Web), David Christian (Maps of Time; “Big History”), Philip Curtin (The World and the West), André G. Frank, and others.

Keith Roberts ’65, LL.B. ’68
Author of The Origins of Business, Money, and Markets
Bethesda, Md.

 

…And Shadow Art

In an issue that spotlights the emergence of global approaches to history (“The New Histories”), it is sad to find this worldly wisdom missing entirely from “Shadow Art” (Treasure). The craft of paper cutting (Jianzhi) originated in China. The earliest extant work dates to A.D. 750; however, the practice may have developed much earlier there, possibly in association with the invention of paper, which historians customarily date to the Eastern Han Dynasty (A.D. 23-220). Although using cut paper for portraiture may indeed have been uniquely European, the Chinese had been deftly cutting paper into ornate decorative pieces for hundreds of years before the snipped Silhouette became popular. It might be interesting to explore how the technique made its way from China to Europe or whether it occurred to the Europeans independently.

Kate Levine, Ed.M. 2003
Portland, Ore.

 

Climate-change Counterpoint

Harvard is at war with carbon dioxide (CO2): President Drew Faust has declared climate change driven by human-produced CO2 “one of our most consequential challenges.” This magazine pays homage to this proclamation by printing proposals to contain CO2, most recently in a letter by Bevis Longstreth and Timothy E. Wirth urging divestment of fossil-fuel investments by the Corporation and an article by Jonathan Shaw on the benefits of a carbon tax (September-October 2014, and “Time to Tax Carbon”).

I humbly submit that such measures are neither realistic nor necessary. CO2 is a trace atmospheric gas responsible for keeping the planet green and helping to keep it temperate.

Many arguments against the carbon warming theory are available elsewhere, are too lengthy to present here, but actual measurements show the Global Average Temperature has remained statistically constant for nearly the past 18 years! This is in serious conflict with the warmists’ gold standard, the model calculations from five reports of the UN International Panel on Climate Change, which give rise to such admonitions as produced by President Faust.

On the other hand I am gratified to read on page 104 of the November-December issue that professors McCormick and Huybers are carefully examining some five climate “crises” occurring between a.d. 536 and 1741, a period encompassing such large anomalies as the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and the Little Ice Age (LIA). Strong evidence says that during the MWP the climate supported viniculture in Britain and in northern North America (Vinland to the Vikings). During the LIA, cold destroyed crops, produced famine and related disasters; the Thames froze so solidly that fairs were held on its surface. Both of these “crises,” we should note, occurred naturally without the hand of man contributing and both were more disruptive than the climate we endure now.

William E. Keller ’46, Ph.D. ’49 (in physical chemistry)
Santa Fe

Climate scientist Michael McElroy, Butler professor of environmental studies, responds: Dr. Keller recognizes that CO2 is responsible for keeping the planet green and temperate, but fails to appreciate that unless we act, we are heading for levels of atmospheric CO2 not seen since dinosaurs roamed the planet 65 million years ago. Global average temperatures are higher now than at any time since modern recordkeeping began 150 years ago: 14 of the warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. It is true that there has been a pause in the rise of global temperatures over the past decade or so, but this is neither surprising nor unanticipated. Such a pause was also observed between 1950 and 1970, for example. The atmosphere and ocean function as an integrated system, with the ocean’s heat content vastly greater than the atmosphere’s, and global climate exhibits various natural fluctuations in response to this coupling. Despite the recent hiatus in surface temperature increases, there is compelling observational evidence that the planet as a whole has continued to absorb more energy from the sun than it releases back to space. Surface warming is therefore destined—inevitably—to resume, and will probably accelerate. To invoke the historical studies of Michael McCormick and Peter Huyber is disingenuous: they are exploring how past climate fluctuations have influenced historical developments. President Faust took her position after carefully considering the evidence and consulting widely with knowledgeable experts. [Text updated 1/22/15 to correct an editing error in the date of dinosaur extinction.]

 

Too Few Fans!

Sitting at home in Illinois as I watch Harvard games on TV or on my computer, I see partially filled stadiums and wonder where the fans are. Are they so egocentric that they value individualism above team support?

Apparently they don’t see the link between the world of organizations and their individualism. In business, for example, you not only have an individual role but also, usually, one supporting a team, a department, a division, and the organization itself. Without such support the organization must fail.

I confess that as an undergrad in the ’40s I urged Adams House to install a TV set in the Common Room. Selfish, I know, but growing up watching the Monsters of the Midway and Northwestern, on Saturdays I opted for great Notre Dame games on TV in the comfort of the Common Room instead of Harvard’s obsolete single-wing poor performances in an occasionally frigid stadium.

If local alumni and students are glued to their TVs, computers, and smart phones watching the games, I can’t do anything about that, but that’s not supporting the teams or, for that matter, the University.

Justin Fishbein ’48
Highland Park, Ill.

Editor’s note: The Stadium was plenty full for The Game (see “Just Perfect”).

 

How Harvard Uses Gifts

I write to alert fellow Harvard alumni to a disheartening experience in negotiating with Harvard’s office of gift planning to establish a testamentary bequest to fund scholarships for deserving Harvard undergraduates. The office of gift planning advises that the University will accept such a bequest only on condition that the donor consent in a side-letter to an annual “assessment,” that is, a reallocation of income earned by the bequest to meet unspecified administrative and overhead expenses. The current “assessment,” I am told, comes to 28 percent of income. The side-letter requested by the office imposes no limit on the extent of assessments once the bequest comes into being.

The foregoing prompted me to inquire of the gift-planning office whether I could make a testamentary gift to Harvard, to be expended outright in support of undergraduate scholarships, but not subject to the “assessment” process. I was advised that the University currently accepts such outright gifts without “assessments,” but that the policy is subject to change at any time.

I appreciate that Harvard must use a portion of the income derived from its endowment to defray expenses associated with fund management, especially after the losses suffered in the recent economic recession. But a diversion of more than one-quarter of earned income from endowed funding (or from selected portions of it) seems excessive. The reallocation also raises a question of cui bono—which among the various Harvard instrumentalities and agencies benefit from the “assessment” program, and to what extent.

Leonard H. Becker ’65
Washington, D.C.

University treasurer Paul J. Finnegan responds: Harvard thrives academically with the critical support of the University’s administrative framework and resource management. Important functions throughout the University and schools are necessary to provide high-quality services—such as student services, academic planning, facilities operations and maintenance, finance and human resources, and information technology, as well as other aspects of general administration. Costs for these vital functions are defrayed in part by using a portion of the endowment’s annual distribution. This recovery policy—which varies from school to school and is commonly lower than the figure referenced in the letter—ensures that each endowed fund plays a role in sustaining Harvard so that it can admit and support the very best students, hire and retain a world-class faculty, and conduct cutting-edge research.

 

Art-Museum Admissions

I wonder if anyone enjoying the hoopla and celebration surrounding the reopening of the Harvard Art Museums has dared to make this invidious comparison: the Yale art museums, i.e., their Art Gallery and their Center for British Art, are free at all times to the public. These are major museums and certainly worth a visit. The Harvard museums charge $15 for admission.

I wonder why this is so. Is Yale that much richer than Harvard? Or are they decidedly more generous? The Harvard community and the alumni might be favored with an explanation.

A. David Wunsch, Ph.D. ’69
Belmont, Mass.

The museums’ response: Over the course of several decades, the Harvard Art Museums have provided and continue to provide free admission to approximately 60 percent of our visitors annually, including Harvard faculty, students, and staff (plus one guest); youth under 18; Cambridge residents; and Massachusetts residents (Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon), among others. We rely on a mix of endowment revenue, donations, and grants, as well as earned income, to fund the robust research, exhibitions, and programs that are offered to the University community and the public.

 

Acknowledging Armenia

I was surprised to see the familiar black and white photograph on page 75 in the November-December 2014 issue, and could not wait to read the caption [in Off the Shelf, illustrating a brief review of a book on the Middle East after the end of Ottoman rule]. But to my dismay, there wasn’t a single mention that the woman in the photograph was an Armenian Genocide survivor, crying over one of the many victims of the brutal crimes perpetrated by the Turkish government. Armenians and genocide scholars throughout the world know this photograph all too well. The caption in the magazine reads: “The endless pain of the Middle East: woman and dead child near Aleppo, Syria.”

This photograph is available online in the Library of Congress archives, titled: “Armenian woman kneeling beside dead child in field, within sight of help and safety at Aleppo.” It is part of the collection titled Near East Relief, along with countless other Armenian Genocide photographs all taken from 1915-1916. These Armenians walked for hundreds of miles, forced from their ancestral homeland in Anatolia and driven into the deserts of Syria. The Turkish government offered no food, water, or shelter. Many Armenians were led to their destination point at the concentration camp of Der Zor, never to see the light of day again. Some Armenians, including my grandparents, survived thanks to international relief organizations stationed in Syria and Lebanon.

That is not just a photograph of a woman or a dead child, in some unknown place, from a long lost era. The death of that child, and the death of 1.5 million Armenians, is a sad reminder that many families never had a chance at life like mine did. The genocide is not some event that happened in the past, to be forgotten. Seeing this caption with that photograph is a sobering reminder that images from the Armenian Genocide are still not widely recognized today.

Sylvie Papazian
Cambridge


The Sixties

I’ve been browsing for information on friends in the Harvard and Radcliffe Class of 1969 Forty-fifth Anniversary Report that came in the mail recently. It was striking to me how little mention anyone made of the tense political context of those years. My own entry in “The Report” just gives my contact information (and of course I’d like to hear from people), but in retrospect I wish I had written something like this:

The atrocity of the Vietnam War affected all of us in that class. I was a fringe follower of SDS, and was present at the non-violent occupation of University Hall. I was later placed on probation by the Harvard administration (without a hearing or any other kind of due process), because a dorm proctor identified me as having been present near the room where a demonstration was taking place protesting the presence of a recruiter from the Dow Chemical Corporation. Opponents of the war were aware that Dow was the manufacturer of napalm, although many of us learned only later that napalm had actually been invented by a Harvard chemistry professor.

My subsequent working life was affected by that war and that context: I went to law school out of a sense of obligation to do something with political significance, and that led to a career that was not a good fit in many ways. I had been an English major, and took many classes in art history and the visual arts. Absent the war and the University’s behavior in connection with totally valid student protests, I would probably have pursued something in line with those interests.

There was an article in Harvard Magazine about Harvard/Radcliffe dropouts from the class of 1969 (“Dropouts,” July-August 2010), and that article also failed to mention the political alienation and stress that colored the Vietnam War years. It’s hard not to conclude that there is an unspoken consensus that all of that should be forgotten. I don’t sign on.

Christopher Bello ’69
Astoria, Ore.

Editor’s note: The author was Craig Lambert, also a member of the class of 1969.

 

Back to (Spelling) Class

An astute reader of “Frenetic Fall” (November-December 2014) observed that we misspelled the name of Samuel Moulton, the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching’s research director. We plead guilty to two additional misspellings of names as well. In “A Slice of Russia,” the name of Michael Popik, a docent at the Museum of Russian Icons, was rendered incorrectly in its second use. And in “Lest We Forget,” the first name of author Douglass M. Carver ’59 lacked its second “s.” To all, apologies.

~The Editors

 

Very Grateful

This letter is about the word “very.” I am writing it after a night of little sleep. It is fair to say very little sleep. “Very” can be a useful word, but it is sometimes (maybe often) superfluous. Here are some examples taken from the first few pages of the May-June Harvard Magazine; I’m behind on my reading. My opinions, expressed as “OK” or “superfluous,” are very…hmm….

Page 4, proceeding very well—OK
Page 5, the universe’s very beginnings—superfluous
Page 6, its very methodology—superfluous
Page 7, our very outdated 40 years old—OK?
Page 7, the very texture of the book—superfluous
Page 9, I was very interested to read—OK?
Page 10, feeling anxious is very unpleasant—OK?*
Page 10, respond very quickly—OK
Page 10, which is very difficult to do—OK?*
Page 10, very similar emotional states—OK?*
Page 12, lecturing on this very research—superfluous
Page 14, it’s very easy to forget—OK

*It may be unfair to include the three uses of “very” on page 10 because they are direct quotes. Harvard Magazine is not responsible for them.

The May-June issue contains a letter by W.M. Glasgow which tells how his liberal-arts education at Harvard formed his life. His last sentence was, “Of course, I should add my thanks for English A.” I’ll second that. My English A section man was mild in manner but harsh in his criticism. He made me reconsider every word I wrote. Thank you Harvard for English A. Thank you very much.

Louis Solomon ’51, Ph.D. ’58
Madison, Wisc.

Editor’s note: We are very much responsible for superfluities we have committed, but not for those in texts written by others (letters correspondents, for example) whom we do not edit—the majority of the examples cited by Professor Solomon (mathematics, University of Wisconsin).

 

Advertising Advocacy

I noticed the advertisement “Herbicide and Insecticide use...” in the November-December issue (page 10) mostly because it came hard on the heels of the same ad appearing in The New Yorker.

I know that ads (even a controversial one like this) are not subject to the same scrutiny as editorial content, but am I the only one to wonder how Mr. Bronner got a “degree (B.A.) in Biology from Harvard University in 1995”?

I thought Harvard granted the A.B. and the S.B., with the latter degree for students in the sciences. It makes me wonder if the casual approach to his biography extends to the argument in the advertisement.

Edward J. (Ned) Daly, M.C.R.P. ’83
Needham, Mass.

 

Not Jamaica

Before reading the article “The Caribbean Zola” (a profile of sociologist Orlando Patterson, November-December 2014), I read the highlighted quotes, including: “You need managers more than ever. You can’t implement things with hotheads who couldn’t run a chicken coop.” 

I thought it was about the present U.S. Congress.

Matthew Morgan ’50
Johns Island, S.C.

 

I differ with Professor Patterson’s comment that people who don’t like Obama try to make out he does not “belong.” He implies racial discrimination, a common liberal response shutting off legitimate criticism.

I feel his policies are destroying and dividing a country which has allowed me and millions of others to achieve so much. His response to crisis is to not respond and let the passage of time diminish attention. His college records are sealed, and fellow students in political science at Columbia—his major—none of the 40, can recall his presence.

He has refused to call acts of terrorism that, even saying that despite the Canadian prime minister calling the assault terrorist in origin, it wasn’t. His foreign policies are non existent, coddling our enemies and degrading allies.

As a senator he voted present over 130 times, avoiding responsibility. He repeatedly refuses to call jihad and ISIL Islamic, refuting a 1,400-year conflict between Islam and Christian-Judaic ethos and construct now revitalized, and the biggest problem facing Western civilization.

It took 3 years for a birth certificate to emerge.

I was a member of ACLU when a student and plan to vote for Ben Carson if he is nominated. I am a fervent admirer of Alan West and in my life African Americans have contributed to my education as role-models and friends.

One of the most important and influential persons in my life was Dr. Charles Pinderhughes, the African American chairman of the department of psychiatry at Boston University medical school in the 1960s. I am still in awe of his skills and compassion.

As a clinician of 50 years’ practice, I feel our president is a profoundly disturbed man, detached, able to put up a façade, but unable to accept any indication that he may be wrong and stubbornly refuses to see and listen to views different than his. He feels that our nation has created more damage to the world and must be contained.

All of us are influenced by culture, events, and personal experiences and to deny that race plays any part in his policies, is to deny a part of humanity which is very influential in our approach to problems.

Maurice Goretsky, M.D. ’55 
Palm Desert, Calif.

 

Donor Concern

From a letter appealing for contributions to the Harvard College Fund last month, I learned that a Harvard scholarship had enabled an undergraduate from Ghana to participate in an academic archaeological program for a term in Israeli. Since I believe that Harvard should be participating in the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), I wrote to the Harvard College Fund to indicate my distress that money that I have contributed over the years as a member of the 1636 Society should be used to benefit an Israeli academic activity. A kind and sympathetic response from Lauren Lee tells me that she and other directors of the Harvard College Fund cannot influence the policies for which the University administration is responsible.

I am therefore writing to you to encourage the University administration to reconsider its policy of collaborating, even in financial respects, with Israeli academic institutions. Probably, like most Americans, you are not sufficiently aware of what the academic situation is in Israel and occupied Palestine. A document that may be useful for you, entitled “Israel’s Universities: A Pillar of Occupation and Apartheid” may be consulted at this site: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2613.

In addition, the academic boycott is debated (for and against) in Volume 4 (2013) of the Journal of Academic Freedom, published by the AAUP: www.aaup.org/reports-publications/journal-academic-freedom/volume-4.

Regarding the present state of affairs, there is a disturbing recent interview on Norwegian television (conducted in English) of the young Jewish-American journalist and author Max Blumenthal: http://www.nrk.no/verden/_-israel-mister-de-unge-1.12040369. Blumenthal published an important and powerful book on the topic last year entitled Goliath.

Allan C. Christensen ’62
Professor emeritus, John Cabot University, Rome

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