Climate change, China’s gains, palliative care
Anent the letter in the March-April issue about football: should Harvard not take the lead in banning this dangerous sport? There is compelling evidence of lasting—and potentially lethal (suicide)—psychological/neurological adverse sequelae following the repeated occult cerebral injuries incurred by the players. They are inevitable by the nature of the game.
Giulio J. D’Angio, M.D. ’45
Editor’s note: For other views and news, see the following letters; the book review by former Harvard College dean Harry Lewis, page 65; and Brevia, page 27.
W.C. Dowling’s letter and Dick Friedman’s “amplification” about “walk-ons” prompts me to recount my own participation in Harvard basketball as an extreme case.
Though I had played the sport in city and YMCA leagues in Racine, Wisconsin, I had never even gone out for my high-school team. When the call came for tryouts for the Crimson freshman team in 1949 (freshmen were ineligible for varsity in those days), I signed up just for the exercise. I was baffled when I remained after each cut was made by Floyd Wilson, then freshman (and later, varsity) coach. He apparently saw something in me that I was not aware of—for I not only made first string but in our final game against the Yale freshmen I limited their star to 9 points and made 16 as high scorer in our win. Although I lettered the next three years, that was the high point of my college basketball career.
But subsequently I was a starter on a European U.S. military all-star team for an international tournament in Cap d’Antibes (Dean Smith of North Carolina fame was on the second five), and then was player-coach for many years on college faculty intramural teams. While I most value my Harvard years for their intellectual stimulation, I remain grateful for that athletic nurturing as well.
Forest Hansen ’53
The magazine came today. Another good issue, but three pages on basketball (March-April, page 29) and before that a long article on football (January-February, page 36)? To play basketball, you need to be six foot five or over and for football, over six feet, and if a lineman, over 300 lbs. What percent of Harvard scholars qualify? Two “sports” sponsored by Harvard only because they bring in money. Of course if you are a football player, you have the advantage of looking forward to arriving at age 50 with an addled brain.
I believe in sports for fun and to keep mind and body active. But Harvard Magazine should not be glorifying these “money sports.” Leave the money sports to the universities where athletes needn’t attend classes, and drunken orgies, hazing, and rape are sweet add-ons for the boys.
Lee Lyon ’45
Overland Park, Kan.
Speak Up, Please
Harvard Magazine welcomes letters on its contents. Please write to “Letters,” Harvard Magazine, 7 Ware Street, Cambridge 02138, or send comments by e-mail to [email protected].
While President Faust has wisely elected to be politically correct by using the words “climate change,” rather than the Al Gore tag of “global warming” (A View from Mass Hall, March-April, page 3), I wonder if she is displaying a lack of humility to Mother Nature in suggesting that, despite millions of years of highly variable climate change, there is a “role that research universities can play in combating climate change.”
F. Gregg Bemis Jr., M.B.A. ’54
I was bemused, but not surprised, to see President Faust touting Harvard’s Center for Green Buildings and Cities as an approach to fighting climate change. Such a center presumably can’t hurt. But it certainly can’t help to have the most prestigious educational institution in the country steadfastly sticking to a course of investing in climate-destroying fossil fuels for profit. Faust has backed this course and has stonewalled the students who will have to live in the world created by climate change, refusing even to meet with them until it became a tactic to try to get them out of Massachusetts Hall.
Harvard and Faust are morally disgraced by this course. If the world behaves in a sane fashion and rapidly phases out fossil fuels, they will lose a lot of money as well.
Doug Burke ’67
Oak Park, Ill.
Alumni urging the University to divest fossil-fuel stocks have chosen the wrong target. Eighty-seven percent of the world’s energy is derived today from fossil fuels and divestment will not alter that. The path to effectively addressing climate change leads not to Cambridge but to Paris, where the global climate conference will be held in November.
Advocates claim that, regardless of global warming, retention of oil stocks is an unwise investment. Harvard’s financial managers (and many other investors) disagree. Advocates point to recent oil-price declines, but this did not derive from falling demand (quite the contrary), but rather from additional production at shale formations in North Dakota and Texas. However, this additional production is unlikely to depress prices long term, since the additional three million barrels per day from U.S. shale is a tiny fraction of the 90 million barrels consumed daily worldwide.
Advocates further claim that the South African [divestment] experience is a useful precedent. However, the analogy is inapposite. South Africa, with less than 1 percent of the world’s population, was a rogue state conducting a violent racist regime that necessarily yielded to accepted moral standards. By contrast, the production and consumption of oil is the world’s largest enterprise, reaching into every country in the planet, conducted daily by willing producers and willing buyers in a peaceful manner.
The heart of the matter is that world oil demand is on a steady upward trend. Divestment protestors will themselves arrive in Cambridge by car or plane. A rural subsistence farmer in Myanmar owns only three tangible assets: the tin roof over his shed, a cow, and a motorcycle. World oil production will push ahead to keep up with increasing demand. Thus even if one assumes that all U.S. universities were to dump all their fossil-fuel stocks, this would have no effect either on the worldwide oil supply/demand equation, or on climate change itself.
The answer lies in a technological shift to global non-carbon energy sources with a worldwide conservation policy in the meantime.
William H. Nickerson ’61
Stephanie Garlock’s “How Globalization Begets Inequality” (March-April, page 11) wrongly suggests that China’s poorest workers have not greatly benefited from globalization. Income inequality and the Gini index do not speak at all to the great improvement in livelihoods brought about by more than two decades of real GDP growth above 10 percent annually. It has been recently estimated that more than 300 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 30 years. My recent travels to China clearly reveal a much richer and more confident populace than was the case in the 1980s.
It may be that the article misunderstands or has over-interpreted the work of professors Eric Maskin and Michael Kremer. They acknowledge that “growing average wages are proof of globalization’s benefits.” They focus on the need for education but it may be that market forces will insure progress in this area. Demographic changes in upcoming decades will reduce the supply of labor in most developing countries, so increased training and education will be needed to improve productivity and maintain competitiveness.
Finally, it is clearly true that China’s growing income and wealth inequality is causing some concern and resentment among the populace. President Xi Jinping’s attack on corruption among the elites is designed, in part, to defuse the issue. This is a delaying tactic that will do little to correct the trend. China, like the United States, may need to tackle this issue more directly through tools such as taxation, but it may also be that demographic trends will offer a correcting influence as labor becomes more scarce and more valuable and, possibly, capital will earn lower returns.
I have always considered the photo of the occupiers of University Hall (included in “His Own ‘Decisive Moment,’” March-April, page 61) to be striking as well as historic. Thus I was interested to learn of the post-1969 career of Tim Carlson, the photographer. I’ll submit one minor correction: the police bust took place in the morning, not in the nighttime. As a proctor in Weld Hall at the time, I witnessed the bust.
Joel Studebaker, Ph.D. ’71
Editor’s note: The police entered Harvard Yard just before sunrise—at 4:55 a.m. The use of “predawn” might have avoided causing confusion.
Egads! The editorial in the March-April issue (“Bricks and Mortar,” page 2) implied that the expansion of the Kennedy School of Government, an institution dedicated to training our future public servants, will cost an astounding $1,500 per square foot. Surely there is no better argument for the need for a scalpel-wielding dean. Perhaps the magazine might solicit a future article from the appropriate University official in charge of capital projects to explain costs and financing in relation to scope and purpose, accompanied by a table outlining recent and near-future projects along with their costs per square foot (total and construction), size, type of construction (office, lab, etc.), new or renovation, and any qualifying comments. One way or the other, let us know the response.
Bob Cook ’68
Director emeritus, Arnold Arboretum (1989-2009)
Matters of Degrees
The squib regarding the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg (“Brevia,” March-April, page 25) indicates that she graduated from Harvard Law School in 1959. That is not true. Ginsburg dropped out in 1957, following her first year. [Editor’s note: She transferred to Columbia Law School, when her husband took a job in New York.]
Academies understandably like to publicize luminaries among their graduates. However, by misrepresenting such an accomplishment, neither you nor Ginsburg honors our institution. HLS has less need than perhaps any other law school for such aggrandizement, either false or true.
Ernest M. Thayer, LL.B. ’59
Editor’s note: Harvard records the class year of those who enroll in a degree program—hence Ginsburg, L ’59, or College dropout Bill Gates ’77. Those who complete degrees are so designated—as Mr. Thayer is (above). The magazine adheres to this University standard.
Thank you for another good read in the March-April issue. The magazine usually adds the Harvard degrees to the names mentioned in articles, so I am wondering why no degrees were mentioned in “An Extra Layer of Care” (page 33). Joanne Wolfe, Andrew Billings, and Atul Gawande are all graduates of Harvard Medical School. Joanne and I celebrated our twenty-fifth reunion last year, so in the article she should have been listed as Joanne Wolfe, M.D. ’89.
Edward Chen, M.D. ’89
Editor’s note: We do not list degrees for faculty members; it seems overkill, and their faculty affiliation is what matters most to readers. For alumnae/i who are not faculty members, we try always to list the degrees—their principal University affiliation.
In “An Extra Layer of Care,” by Debra Bradley Ruder, regarding “the progress of palliative medicine” at Massachusetts General Hospital, it was encouraging to read that relief of suffering has become a focus of patient care. But I was left with many unanswered questions.
The cancer patient Eric Buck is referred by his physician “to specialists to address his emotional and spiritual struggles.” It was not clear whether these “specialists” (chaplains, social workers, psychologists?) are on the staff or out in the community; if they are not professionals on the staff at MGH, the scope of treatment is sadly lacking—and hardly progressive. It was good to read that there is a “staff harpist,” but in general the approach seems far from holistic. What about a music therapist, meditation (University of Massachusetts Medical Center has developed highly effective treatments) and body workers (massage and Reiki)?
Some of these modalities are not covered by third-party payers, but they are relatively small expenditures for a major teaching hospital. Perhaps all these other approaches are integrated into the patient care and simply not mentioned. If not, there are other hospitals with much more progressive programs. Physicians are crucial for pain medication, and on some occasions to prescribe psychoactive drugs, but many dimensions of suffering can only be treated by other professionals.
Gene Gall, M.Div. ’74
The author responds: The palliative-care programs at all the Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals do, indeed, include or work closely with staff chaplains, social workers, and other professionals to help relieve patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual distress, although some patients may seek outside help. Integrative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, stress management, and yoga are typically available at these hospitals, too; the staff harpist I mentioned is trained in therapeutic harp.
Palliative-care teams may include “physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and others.” Lawyers are an important component of that last, catch-all category. “Medical-legal partnerships” combine medical and legal services to address social determinants of health for vulnerable populations. If a moldy apartment is not up to code, a child’s asthma cannot improve. As the co-founder of Terra Firma, the first medical-legal partnership specifically for released unaccompanied immigrant children, we integrate mental health, pediatric, and immigration legal services to promote resilience in child survivors of trauma. Recently, I spoke on a panel about medical-legal partnerships with a palliative-care doctor. Though our patients and clients were worlds apart, the need to holistically address health and legal problems collaboratively, rather than in silos, was resounding.
Brett Stark, J.D. ’12
“Computing in the Classroom” (by Sophia Nguyen, March-April, page 48) might have included the efforts of graduates Ali and Hadi Partovi (both A.B. and S.M. ’94) to encourage the teaching of computer programming in public classrooms. Their nonprofit website, Code.org [mentioned in the text], contains extensive resources for anyone interested in learning or teaching computer programming. In addition, the Partovis created the annual “Hour of Code.”
Judith E. Bevans, Ed.M. ’69
The author responds: The article was intended to focus on those working more directly with teachers and school systems with an eye toward changing classroom pedagogy, but I thank Judith Bevans for this chance to acknowledge the Partovi brothers. As she points out, their Code.org has been a major force behind the “Coding for All” movement.
Thanks for the reproduction of the portrait of William Stoughton and the references to him (Treasure, “Early BMOCs,” March-April, page 80). When I was a graduate student in city planning at the Kennedy School in the early 1980s, I was the recipient of an award made possible by the William Stoughton Bequest of 1701.
This assistance not only made my graduate study possible, but provided me with an opportunity to meet Seamus Malin, who signed the letter notifying me of the award [see “The Shots Heard Round the World,” May-June 1994, page 38].
I never get tired of telling people that I went to Harvard thanks to the generosity of someone who, if he did not himself believe in witches, certainly lived in a time when it was possible to do so.
Ned Daly, M.C.R.P. ’83
All Hail Hale!
Once again the “Brief Life” series captures the essence of a life well lived: the January-February issue offers a superlative example in Rev. Edward Everett Hale (Vita, page 54). His motto, “Look up and not down; Look forward and not back; Look out and not in; Lend a Hand!” is as motivating today as it was in the 1800s. As a board member of the Lend A Hand Society, I am pleased to report that over 120 years later his institution is still going strong. We’re still raising resources from the more fortunate to help the less fortunate. We’re still lending a hand!
William T. Gregor ’66, M.B.A. ’73
In “Youthful Ardors” (The College Pump, March-April, page 72), President Drew Faust is quoted as describing our Civil War as “a military adventure undertaken as an occasion for heroics and glory....” I pray there’s a fuller context to this statement. Otherwise, it’s a reeking insult to the honorable motivations and brave actions of Northern soldiers intent on preserving our country and destroying slavery. Why must the intellectual community denigrate military service even when absolutely necessary and painfully successful?
Joel W. Johnson, M.B.A. ’67
Primus V offers fuller context: “A war that was expected to be short-lived instead extended for four years and touched the life of nearly every American,” Faust wrote in This Republic of Suffering. “A military adventure undertaken as an occasion for heroics and glory turned into a costly struggle of suffering and loss.” We regret if the abbreviated account in The Pump led to any misunderstanding; Faust has written extensively on many aspects of the Civil War, and her scholarship is widely acclaimed.
Griffith and Trotter
I read with interest the reference to the new book by Dick Lehr ’76 on the film Birth of a Nation (Off the Shelf, March-April, page 64). The blurb says, “The hitherto unreported confrontation between the Hollywood director D.W. Griffith and Monroe Trotter, A.B. 1895, A.M. ’96.”
I found this wording curious. In the fall of 1974 I was one of the leaders of a protest against the showing of the film Birth of a Nation at Adams House. We surrounded the projector and insisted that if the film was to be shown that there should be a discussion rather than the film shown as entertainment. Those who originally arranged the showing decided, as a result, to cancel it.
Beginning the following day there was a major debate that unfolded around the film and the protest. There were those who said that we challenged freedom of speech. Dr. Ewart Guinier, chairman of the Afro-American Studies department, came to our defense. In an op-ed published in The Harvard Crimson, Guinier compared what we had done with the protests organized by William Monroe Trotter in Boston in 1915 when the film was first shown.
I wanted to bring this to the attention of Harvard Magazine. While I am excited to hear about the publication of Dick Lehr’s book and wish to take nothing away from him, I think that it is critical to set the record straight. The struggle led by Trotter against the film may not be well known, but it was known. Guinier made sure to remind us of Trotter’s role and why the stand that several of us took that fall evening in 1974 was the right thing to do.
Bill Fletcher Jr. ’76
In light of Stephanie Garlock’s informative article “Good Design: A public interest movement redefines architecture” (March-April, page 38), we would like to call attention to the work of John L. Wilson ’62, M.Arch. ’66, who in 1986 founded the Boston Society of Architects Task Force to End Homelessness, an effort that generated pro bono design work by more than 200 professionals over an active period of nearly 20 years. In honor of this work, the American Institute of Architects awarded John its annual Whitney M. Young, Jr. Citation in 1996, with this accompanying statement: “A committed and strong advocate in his pursuit in the fight against homelessness, John is particularly noted and appreciated for his leadership role in the Boston Society/AIA Task Force to End Homelessness and as a pioneer in ambulatory care architecture. It is already clear that his legacy will live long in addressing the critical issues facing our cities.”
Wilson’s vision—prophetically relevant to the ongoing movement Garlock detailed—is captured in articles eloquently and pointedly written by Wilson and by others in a recently published volume that includes selected material from the archives of the BSA Task Force. What makes this book pertinent beyond its enduring message is the fact that a group of young architects in Boston is planning to revive the task force. If readers are interested, the book, Designing for the Public Realm: Pro Bono Work of the Boston Society of Architects Task Force to End Homelessness, 1986-2004, is available from the BSA Foundation (http://www.architects.org/foundation). In addition, those interested in taking part in the revived Task Force to End Homelessness should send an e-mail to [email protected].
Howard L. Kramer ’61, Ph.D. ’69
North Andover, Mass.
Steve Rosenthal, M.Arch. ’67
Lafayette Sails On
Readers who enjoyed the brief article on Lafayette by Laura Auricchio (Vita, March-April, page 46) may be interested to follow the recreated voyage of his personal frigate, the Hermione.
www.Hermione2015.com describes the forthcoming trip and the 17-year history of the reconstruction. She will sail up the U.S. coast from Yorktown as far as Castine, Maine, before heading back to France in mid July.
I visited the ship under construction during March of 2013 at Rochefort, France. The vessel is exquisitely built and historically faithful in every detail, excepting modern nav, safety equipment, and a pair of engines.
Andrew Oldman, M.Arch. ’72
It was good to read of Sara Jobin and her intent to focus on contemporary opera (“Orchestrating Opera’s Emotions,” March-April, page 60). All opera can use all the help it can get in today’s dumbed-down cultural environment. It was disappointing, though, that she chose trashing Wagnerian opera as partial justification for her decision, heaping totally inapposite critique at those magnificent and compassionate works. She would be very lucky to encounter a similarly gifted composer among her modern repertoire.
Rudolf Dankwort ’62
Reading about farrier Hilary Cloos (“No Hoof, No Horse,” March-April, page 67) brought back some very unhappy memories for me. About 20 years ago, I bought a Polish Arabian filly. She was a beautiful animal with a white blaze on her face. I had high hopes for showing her in shows in Scottsdale, Arizona. It turned out that she was a fast runner. Her trainer suggested that I enter her in races against other Arabians in Ocala, Florida. At considerable expense, I had her transported to Florida. Her time trials were encouraging, but an accident ended her racing career. In her barn she bowed a tendon in one of her legs. At considerable expense I transported her to the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary Medical School to repair the damage and from there to a horse farm in rural Pennsylvania and finally back to Arizona. The vet, farrier and training bills were like a blizzard of paper. There seemed to be no end to my writing checks for her care. The final blow came when her trainer suggested that I have her inseminated at a cost of about $15,000. The thought of caring for two horses was the straw that broke the camel’s back. In exchange for canceling the outstanding bills, I happily signed a transfer of ownership.
Arthur Kronenberg, J.D. ’57
B.F. Skinner Beef
I assume, judging from what appears the ages of the would-be B.F. Skinner acolytes featured in your March-April issue (“Computing in the Classroom,” page 48), that none have had any direct personal contact with the man. I, unfortunately, did, having taken his Gen Ed course.
There was only one assigned reading: Skinner’s own Walden Two.
Its high point was its solution for stuff like cleaning the sewers: having the kids do it since they loved playing in the dirt—a direct steal, if I remember correctly, from Fourier.
Skinner was a terrible lecturer. The grad assistant even drew up an “extinction curve” for the class—how the pigeons stopped playing ping-pong (students coming to class) because of lack of reinforcement.
I remember speaking with a psychology major friend before the final exam, complaining that I did not know what we could possibly be questioned about. He asked whether there was not any other reading beyond Walden Two. I said Skinner had listed as “suggested reading” a textbook in behavioral psychology by two disciples. My friend replied that he had intended us to read that book, but did not make it “required” because that would be an “aversive stimulus” (vide the neo-Skinnerian Cass Sunstein, the subject of your glorification in the previous issue). I borrowed his copy, read it the night before the exam, and received a note from Skinner congratulating me on having the highest score in the class. The reason was simple—I am sure that I was the only person who had even looked at what nearly the entire exam had been based on.
This story says something about Harvard not only then but now that the powers-that-be prefer not to be closely looked at.
John Braeman ’54
I was sorry to read Sophia Nguyen’s mischaracterization of B.F. Skinner and behaviorism in her “Computing in the Classroom.” She begins by writing: “He [Skinner] had trained rats to push levers and pigeons to play Ping-Pong.” This is equivalent to characterizing Darwin as saying that people came from apes. (True, but hardly central.)
The reality is that Skinner developed both the free-operant procedure and many schedules of reinforcement, and discovered that schedules had characteristic effects on behavior. Prior to his work the usual approach involved mazes, which impose one schedule (what would later be called a fixed-ratio) and require that the experimenter pick up the rat at the end of each trial and put is back at the beginning of the maze.
With the free-operant procedure the animal is placed in a compartment and can respond at any time. During the session electromechanical equipment (and later computers) control the stimuli and consequences the animal is exposed to. The experimenter is needed only at the end of the session.
In 1957 Charles Ferster and Skinner published their Schedules of Reinforcement, in which behavior under numerous schedules was reported. There are basic schedules (the fixed ratio mentioned above, and others), and various ways of presenting them (including multiple schedules, in which two or more basic schedules alternate, and concurrent schedules, in which two or more basic schedules are simultaneously available). Over the years numerous quantitative results on such schedules have been reported.
Skinner is routinely dismissed as a reductionist (as Nguyen does). But if you believe that what people do is because of the consequences of their behavior (a position taken by economists and political scientists), Skinner’s work simply cannot be dismissed or disregarded.
William Vaughan Jr., Ph.D. ’76
Chebeague Island, Me.
Robotics for Kids
I was very pleased to see your “Computing in the Classroom” feature (page 48) on the cover of the March-April 2015 edition of Harvard Magazine, and delighted to read your editorial views on the promise of “twenty-first-century learning technology.” I am the co-founder of KinderLab Robotics, the Massachusetts-based company that developed the KIBO educational robot kit, proudly pictured on the desk in your cover photo.
At KinderLab Robotics, we agree that there is “no reason why the school room should be any less mechanized than the kitchen” and we applaud the efforts of Cambridge Public Schools to integrate technology into class. We love to see children catch the programming bug, and enjoy watching them using “clubhouse-style” tools such as Scratch. We also strongly believe that open-ended play—characterized by the physical manipulation of technology away from screens and keyboards—holds a stronger appeal to all young children. Open-ended play easily connects with arts and culture, and also builds social skills—key in an increasingly screen-driven world. So we built our KIBO robot kits based on 15 years of learning-technologies studies by Tufts University’s DevTech Research Group; testing prototypes and technologies with more than 300 children and 50 teachers, and started manufacturing (also in Massachusetts) in November 2014. Today, KIBO is used by teachers, parents, and educators across North America, with increasing interest from overseas.
As your cover feature observes, very soon the culture of our classrooms will change forever—rapidly, and for the better. Robot kits such as KIBO give children the chance to make all those great ideas in their heads physical and tangible. Screen-based programming certainly has its own value, but physical-robot kits enable younger minds and bodies to play and socialize as they make almost any creation that their imagination can create.
There are huge educational benefits of programmable-robot kits for children aged 4-7 years that are much broader than simply teaching technology or how to code. I would love to hear from anybody interested in the topic of technology in K-2 classrooms, and can be contacted at: [email protected].
CEO and co-founder, KinderLab Robotics, Inc.
Academic (Publishing) Arcana
Readers who have (legitimate) beefs with today’s academic publication system (“The ‘Wild West’ of Academic Publishing,” January-February, page 56) identify a serious issue for U.S. academia and society. Our academic leaders didn’t originate the underlying cause but continue to foster it. With rare exceptions, those who recognize the problem regard it as too sensitive to write or speak about. The reality is that most research in our universities, from more than 98 percent of social science to lower levels for biomedicine and pharmaceutical chemistry, is oriented toward peer professionals.
A striking example is provided by a query on the words “environmental policy” in the Google Scholar search engine. Try this yourself and you’ll get about 127,000 titles of articles or books since 2014 alone, or 2.4 million titles for all years. Most of these publications are competently prepared, but 99.9 percent are not read by or suited for decisionmakers or public use. The Thompson-Reuters Science Citation Index reveals that a significant fraction of these publications don’t receive a single citation, even by their own authors.
Historically, publishers sought books with longer-term value that lent themselves to larger press runs, multiple editions, and thereby lower individual book cost. A peer-controlled research system initiated by creation of the National Science Foundation in 1950 burgeoned into proliferation of graduate research departments in the 1960s. A new paradigm in which peer-reviewed publications became the primary credentials for promotion and tenure took over American research universities. The subsidized publication system lifted constraints on publications. Academic books (with high prices) became walled off from society.
This system accounts for a significant part of the out-of-control costs of our university system, its poor efficiency in preparing students for life, jobs, and service to society, and other more far-reaching problems. For those interested, a rare account of the development of this problem can be found in my 2009 book, The Conflict over Environmental Regulation (pages 24-30).
Frank T. Manhem ’52
Privacy on Campus
I admire Professor Peter Bol for his position reported in “Taking Attendance” (January-February, page 30). I have spent the past 15 months taking Bol’s ChinaX course on HarvardX, and was pleased to see he is delivering equally thoughtfully in another role. His reported intervention at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences meeting reflected a balanced position on the emotive issue of privacy, and a willingness to challenge an untenable but potentially popular argument that is based on a formulaic and outmoded view of privacy.
In a world where the Internet and digital information continue to grow in importance, it is very, very difficult to restrict access to information about individuals—a point famously made by Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy ’76 in 1999 when he said: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” I both agree and disagree with McNealy. Where I disagree lies in the possibility that we can protect privacy by defining rules on proper use of information (rather than pretending that such information can remain private). This is essentially taken under the European Union Data Protection Directive, which I have been living with for nearly 15 years as a United Kingdom resident and have come to appreciate.
Coming back to Bol, he noted that the Harvard attendance study was designed in a careful way that did not identify behavior of individual students, and destroyed the photographs that could have been used to do so retrospectively. Balanced against the benefits of doing an attendance study without advance notice, any potential intrusion from photographing students anonymously in a semi-public place seems minimal. We are all now subject to being photographed in public for many law enforcement and other purposes, and it seems untenable to me to require student consent for all photography in class—so long as the images are handled appropriately where there is no consent.
Maury Shenk ’88
The article “Good Design” (March-April 2015) referred incorrectly to the nonprofit with which Toshiko Mori Architect (TMA) partnered in Senegal as “Le Kinkeliba.” After the French medical nongovernmental organization Le Kinkeliba ceased operations, its American affiliate changed its name from American Friends of Le Kinkeliba to American Friends of Le Korsa—TMA’s partner. The article also described the brickwork patterns in TMA’s Senegal project as reminiscent of Bauhaus tapestries; they were in fact meant to evoke the brickwork of Bauhaus faculty member Josef Albers. The article stated as well that a public interest design certificate program at the University of Minnesota launched last fall. That program’s timeline has been pushed back, and a similar program—the first of its kind—has since launched at Portland State University.
Vijay Iyer (Harvard Portrait, March-April, page 23), is Rosenblatt professor of the arts.
An editing error caused the misspelling, in a caption, of the name of education professor Tina Grotzer (“Computing in the Classroom,” March-April, page 49).
You might also like
More to explore
Expect massive job losses in industries associated with fossil fuels. The time to get ready is now.
A third-generation French baker on legacy loaves and the "magic" of baking
Generative AI can enhance teaching and learning but augurs a shift to oral forms of student assessment.