Dani Rodrik, opioid associations, origins of life
Like Professor Stuart Schreiber, I found out by accident that my dad was not actually my biological father (“Truth: A Love Story,” July-August, page 53). Unlike Schreiber, however, I discovered this at age 16, and was able to determine within 24 hours the identity of my bio-dad, when I walked into my girlfriend’s home room and told her “I found out the most amazing thing last night.” She replied, “I know what you’re going to tell me. Everyone in Logan [our small town in southeastern Ohio] has known about it for years.” I learned that bio-dad was a doctor who had graduated from Ohio State and who had met my mother when she was a nursing student.
The discovery explained a lot of mysteries, such as why both my younger brothers were six inches taller than me, why I received much more physical and especially mental abuse from my dad, and why he would go into a rage whenever my mother even talked with a doctor.
We never talked about this in the family until after Dad died. At that time, around 2001, I wrote a letter to my bio-dad, but never received a response. Then, in 2016, my wife determined that she was going to get some answers, and finally located my half-sister in Fort Bragg, California. After a series of letters and emails, we finally met with my half-sister and two half-brothers in Santa Rosa in 2017.
I had often wondered how my life would have been different if I had grown up in a family headed by a successful doctor rather than in the abusive environment that I was so happy to escape when I headed east to Harvard. When I finally met my half-siblings, however, I learned that they too had been abused by their father, my bio-dad.
Not until my twenty-fifth reunion did I come to the realization that I had to quit dwelling on the past and concentrate on the future. My classmates have been so helpful and supportive in my healing process, and I thank them for that.
Jeff Gerken ’71
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 email to email@example.com.
Stuart Schreiber’s story is extraordinary on many levels: for its honesty and intimacy, but also for what it tells us about the false nature-nurture dichotomy. Schreiber couldn’t be more successful in the terms the world and the world of Harvard value. We credit his intellect, hard work, character traits, resilience, and luck among other factors. Without knowing the back story told by his DNA/family tree studies, we would look to his “brilliant” father and “angel” mother and muse that “the apple does not fall far from the tree.” We might also give due credit for his success to the environment he grew up in—“zip code” advantages. But then he tells us of abuse, adultery, prostitution, moonshine, and even murder, all part of his family story. It’s also likely that being Cajun in Louisiana/Mississippi didn’t confer much advantage.
I gained from Schreiber’s story a new respect both for the science he practices and for the vast unknowns that make us what we are. It also gave me a new appreciation of the variegated fabric that makes up this amazing American people in this amazing “land of opportunity.” From “wretched refuse,” slaves, refugees, indentured servants, and convicts, as well as pious pilgrims and planters, emerges a strong diverse people that includes stars like Stuart Schreiber.
Ann Barnet, M.D. ’55
I was struck by the amount of domestic violence in this article. The author says that his maternal grandmother was forced into prostitution at the age of 14 and that both he and his mother were physically abused by his father for what seems to be at least 10 years. Both the author and his mother were trauma victims. For the effects of trauma, which are severe and long-lasting, see Trauma and Recovery by Dr. Judith Herman and other works in this field. I was very impressed that the author eventually gained the respect of his father and was able to come to terms with his father by his own, unaided efforts. I think that’s rare for trauma victims.
Lynn Lichtenstein ’65
Chevy Chase, Md.
I see that the Ford Foundation professor of international political economy at the Kennedy School, Dani Rodrik, thinks promoting unionization and Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for worker participation on corporate boards marvelous ideas (“The Trilemma,” July-August, page 46). Gee whiz, I would never have guessed that.
John Braeman ’54
I skimmed the article because it is longer than need be. I was irritated right at the beginning with the author’s characterizing Trump’s administration as “authoritarian,” which is false. Had she thought some more about what she was writing she might have more accurately described the Trump government as concerned with the same aspects of globalization that Professor Rodrik is. One of Trump’s central themes has been that globalization has had an extraordinarily negative impact on “the working classes” in this country. Unlike Rodrik, Trump has been able to do something about it. The reality is that Rodrik, as an academic, has reached many of the same conclusions that Trump and his advisers have: globalization has hurt the American working class and severely weakened our manufacturing ability; has benefited those in the upper income/investment classes disproportionately; has not had the beneficial impact hoped for in developing countries; and has endangered American sovereignty by subordinating our interests to countries like China. I know it would get the editor fired if he/she had taken this approach, but it would have been interesting to read what Rodrik sees as beneficial about Trump’s trade moves.
Charles C. Kessler ’64, M.B.A. ’71
Editor’s note: Neither editor nor author is at risk of, or in fear of, being fired for the magazine’s reporting.
As a concerned alumnus and physician, I would urge Harvard to take a strong stand against the purveyors of opioids in the current health crisis that is contributing to declining life expectancy in the United States. In my view, the best way to do this is to sever ties to the Sackler family and remove the Sackler name from the museum that is part of the Harvard Art Museums.
The Sackler family needs to be held accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic in this country, much as the tobacco magnates were held accountable in a past era. There hasn’t been any remorse expressed by the Sacklers for their role in the opioid epidemic, which is particularly troubling.
By not taking a strong stand for victims of opioid addiction, my concern is that Harvard’s reputation on this issue is being sullied. The public outcry against the Sacklers is growing, and it is seems clear at this point that history will not view these purveyors of opioid addiction in a favorable light.
Theodore T. Suh ’88, M.D, Ph.D., M.H.S.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Editor’s note: The University has issued this statement in response to questions about the use of the Sackler name: “Dr. Arthur M. Sackler generously donated funds in 1982 that contributed to the construction of the original building that housed the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at 485 Broadway. In 2014, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum was relocated to 32 Quincy Street, as part of the renovation and expansion of the Harvard Art Museums. Dr. Sackler died in 1987, before OxyContin was developed and marketed. Given these circumstances and legal and contractual considerations, Harvard does not have plans to remove Dr. Sackler’s name from the museum. The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation does not fund the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard.”
Cynthia Wachtell’s wonderful article on Ellen Newbold LaMotte in the July-August issue unfortunately uses the word “suffragette” (Vita, page 54). The diminutive -ette ending was used by opponents of suffrage and those who thought it cute that the “girls” were asking for a vote. As my Random House Dictionary notes, the suffix tends to have a “trivializing effect.” Suffrage supporters should be more respectfully called suffragists.
Also, a letter from Diana Altman (July-August, page 6) recalls being kept out of Houghton Library when she was a graduate student in the early 1960s. I was there then, too, as an undergraduate. My memory is that Houghton was as accessible as any holder of rare documents is. The library generally closed to women was Lamont, which is also where poetry readings like the one Altman remembers were commonly held. As a special favor, women were allowed to attend those. Smart Harvard undergraduates often discovered that the Radcliffe Library had more copies of books on reserve and a pleasanter atmosphere than Lamont anyhow. And it allowed men.
Sue Bass ’65
Senior editor Jean Martin responds: Women associated with Emmeline Pankhurst’s movement in Great Britain are generally referred to as “suffragettes,” which is why Cynthia Wachtell used the term in one sentence of her Vita. The other two references to the suffrage movement in her text use “suffragist,” the term preferred by suffrage activists in the United States such as Alice Paul (Vita, November-December 2010, page 46). But “suffragette” is still the term many people think of first in connection with “Votes for Women”; perhaps the events being planned to honor the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment will help change that. The Vita in this issue continues in this vein.
And Diana Altman acknowledges her error: “Yikes! I hope Houghton will forgive us!”
I don’t doubt that Diana Altman was denied use of Houghton Library, but it wasn’t because of her gender. A year or two earlier, I simply brought a letter from my tutor supplying a reason why I needed to use the collection: I was a senior honors candidate in philosophy and English writing a thesis on philosopher/Harvard professor George Santayana, and many of his uncatalogued papers were held there. No problem!
After requesting, “Bring up Box 2,” or whatever, I spent many happy hours in the reading room, carefully poring over letters, drafts, and notes that, I fancied, had never been touched before. The thesis turned out well, and my work at Houghton was part of the impetus for a 40-year academic career. “It was just some dumpy library,” says Altman. Not for those—male or female —who knew what they were looking for.
Linda Bradley Salamon ’63, BI ’74
Origins of Life
Certain phrases run the risk of reinforcing the overwhelmingly common, unscientific view of evolution as something that has been done “on purpose” (“How Life Began,” July-August, page 40). When, for example, in the third sentence, author Erin O’Donnell asks rhetorically, “How did those primitive cells start…passing on advantageous traits to the next generation?” she may give the impression that these cells—and, perhaps by extension, whole organisms and even species—were deciding which traits to pass on.
The truth is that all sorts of traits, beneficial and otherwise, and including mutations, are constantly being transmitted, blindly and automatically. It is only with hindsight that one might call certain ones “advantageous”; these are the traits eventually associated with higher survival rates for future generations. Nowhere in the whole wondrous process (until perhaps the most recent 0.0003 percent of it, among homo sapiens) is any cell, organism, or species selectively trying to endow the next generation with the “right” characteristics, nor is there any plausible way they might do so.
Roland Stark ’87, M.Ed.
I suspect I’m not the only reader who noticed the interesting juxtaposition of cover “headlines” for two pieces in the July-August issue—“Life’s Origins” and “Commencement”—since for many the latter is in fact what the former is. If not intended, a nice stroke of continuity. Among certain ethnic groups, the theological question of when life begins is reputed to be answered, “On graduation from law school.”
Robert H. Goldstein ’53, Ph.D.
Professor emeritus of psychiatry (psychology)
University of Rochester School of Medicine
In a letter to this department (July-August, page 2), Murray Levin recalls from Chem 1 with Eugene Rochow a couplet about bugs being bitten by smaller bugs. The version I am familiar with is:
Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
When Levin took chemistry in 1953, I would have been nine or 10 years old, but knew the above lines already: my parents had been taking night courses, and my mother enjoyed that couplet, from a text in (I think) parasitology.
A few years ago I did an online search, and found that this goes back to Jonathan Swift, who in a poem, On Poetry, wrote:
So, nat’ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
And these have smaller still to bite ‘em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus ev’ry poet in his kind
Is bit by him that comes behind.
George Bergman, Ph.D. ’68
What fun to see a reference to (a version of) Dean Swift’s On Poetry: a Rhapsody, lines 351-354, from 1733. Readers of Calculus Made Easy, by Silvanus P. Thompson, are aware of its origin, interestingly attributed here to the great Chem 1 lecturer Eugene Rochow in 1953. It intrigues me that just possibly Professor Rochow had also consulted Thompson, source of the “Ancient Simian proverb: What one fool can do, another can.” This wisdom greatly inspired my struggling efforts in Professor John Tate’s Math 11 at the College in 1960, with the wonderful Tom Lehrer as section man.
Roy Smith ’64
The new issue has a snippet of a poem about “little bugs.” Wikipedia gives a splendid presentation:
“ ‘Siphonaptera’ is a rhyme by the mathematician Augustus De Morgan, named for the biological order of the flea.
“Big fleas have little fleas upon
their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
And so, ad infinitum.
And the great fleas, themselves,
In turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater
Still, and greater still, and so on.
“The first two lines derive from part of Jonathan Swift’s long satirical poem ‘On Poetry: a Rhapsody’ (1733):
“The vermin only tease and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.”
Wikipedia goes on to offer several other extremely clever renditions. Readers who seek them out will be rewarded.
Stanley Gering, M.P.H. ’72, M.D.
Tell me you’re kidding, right? That’s my comment on “Long-Term Investing, Short-Term Thinking” (July-August, page 9). Anyone who thinks that “some top institutional managers move to the private sector, where they will be paid more but are scrutinized less” may have an opinion relative to the vagaries of markets, but few should take them seriously. To also add that “patience is more than a virtue, it pays,” would have some credibility, but only if they added “sometimes yes, sometimes no.” Pros, or anyone else who think they can measure up, are judged versus their peers, and know that performance is measured year to year, and that they have a chance of being among the missing at next year’s commencement.
Marshall Sterman, M.B.A. ’55
More on Policing
The letter “1969” on anti-police bias and its response (July-August, page 5) reminded me of numerous experiences as a student. I mention only one. During a peaceful antiwar demonstration in 1968, I appreciated the polite uniformed police, but also noticed some tough-looking apparent “plain clothes” officers. When I asked one of them if he were a policeman, he asked why, and I said I wanted to know from whom I should take orders. He responded “no,” with a sneer. As the crowd moved, I turned my head and he clubbed me to the ground. I did a pushup to hold myself off the body of a uniformed officer who had lost his footing, and on whom blood from my face was dripping.
After receiving stitches at the hospital, I visited my usual Harvard Square liquor store and had to explain why my face looked so bad. The burly man behind the counter smiled and shared with me that he was a former police officer and that the technique was to slide your billy club down the sleeve so one could show an open hand and still club someone in the face unexpectedly.
My point is: there was no one profile of police officers; many were dedicated professionals who practiced their role with integrity and courage, but others were indeed bullies, and did take out a resentment of “privileged” students with sadistic enthusiasm.
Roy Smith ’64
Admissions and Donations
“Thinner Ice” and the letter concerning Harvard’s and other selective schools’ admission challenges and the reference to the “complication involving a Harvard coach,” raise additional questions regarding this behavior of exchanging money for admissions (7 Ware Street, page 3, and letters, page 5, July-August). It would be of great interest for Harvard to conduct a detailed review of all the incidents where parents whose children were applying for admission gave donations to the school prior to their admission. Are these incidents not to be considered direct “legal” bribes to the University rather than to individuals, as in the current episodes involving athletic coaches? How prevalent were and are these “donor preferences”?
Arthur M. Friedlander ’61, M.D.
Montgomery Village, Md.
An announcement in the July-August issue of the new Harvard Overseers (page 71) reminded me that as a graduate of both Tufts (’77) and Harvard, I have the chance to reflect on one of President Lawrence S. Bacow’s accomplishments at Tufts that should be replicated at Harvard: the removal of the word “overseer” from various boards.
Once brought to their attention, most people grasp immediately that “overseer” has a negative connotation dating back to slavery and that there are less offensive and more inclusive alternatives. In an era in which statues and other relics of prior eras are being questioned and removed in our country, changing the name of a board should be achievable.
Seth A. Barad, M.B.A. 81
San Rafael, Calif.
I remember writing this same letter, or a very similar one, 30-odd years ago, about Harvard pulling its considerable endowment investments out of South Africa.
Now it’s fossil fuels. The University once again deplores the politicization of its investment decisions.
Gentlemen and ladies, the decision to put those investments into fossil fuels in the first place was political. The status quo is not pristinely apolitical.
If the University officials who chose to make those investments did not see them as political at the time [given the large number of Harvard alumni who hold these positions], that was a failure of Harvard. Now that everyone seems to be questioning the value of a liberal education, here is more ammo for that questioning. If the status quo can be changed by political action, then it was political in the first place.
Marian Henriquez Neudel ’63, Div ’67
The Most Noble Profession
What is the best and most important investment a country can make in itself? The education of its people! Why? Because...without education, learning is crippled. And without learning, progress is crippled.
And what is the ingredient essential to education? Teachers! For, as Isaac Newton said in 1675, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
But too often the obvious is overlooked or forgotten. Thus the obvious often merits repeating.
My wife is a teacher. I have attended her classes. I have a file of letters from her students thanking her for what she has done for them, and I have a file of letters from parents of her students thanking her for what she has done for their children.
I tell my wife and her colleagues that they do more for mankind in one day than I, as a lawyer, have done in a lifetime.
It is said that if you can’t do, you teach. What an arrogant, condescending remark! Teaching is doing! Teachers are the infrastructure of our educational system; they build our roads to the future. They deserve our thanks, respect and applause as much, if not more so, than the captains of business, and the presidents, princes, and potentates of this world.
Education is the foundation of progress, and civilization must continuously maintain and expand that foundation lest progress—and, indeed, civilization itself—drain away through the cracks and fissures of neglect.
Peter Siviglia, J.D. ’65
Winthrop Faculty Deans
The case of Harvard’s ousted deans Ronald S. Sullivan and Stephanie R. Robinson is in The Boston Globe again (see News Briefs, July-August, page 27). This case is yet another demonstration of the ideological terrorism from the left, not just extreme political correctness. This bacillus germinated in most educational centers of America for a long time and grew into a raging monster. It reminds me of Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union when the accused were defenseless against the accusers. To the politically correct accusers of Harvard University I say: be careful what you wish for—you may get it! Remember that restrictions of intellectual dissent lead to fascism.
Anatol Zukerman, M.Arch. ’75
Concerning Dean Rakesh Khurana’s statement, under the headline “Faculty-Dean Denouement,” “[T]he noticeable lack of faculty dean presence during critical moments has further deteriorated the climate in the House,” besides being densely bureaucratic and so abstract as to be nearly unintelligible, shows the writer thinks the verb “deteriorate” is transitive. It ain’t. The maiming of final clubs by a designated hatchet man is one thing—somebody had to do it. The murder of the English language by the dean of Harvard College is perhaps more serious.
David E. Moran ’75
New Canaan, Conn.
Aloha. From the middle of the Pacific I would like to share this POV. I strongly believe that Ronald Sullivan was unceremoniously dismissed from his Winthrop House position. His agreement to provide legal representation to someone/anyone is a fundamental right of our legal and cultural system, regardless of whether the lawyer agrees with/espouses the same views (i.e., representing an accused rapist, bank robber, white collar crime, etc.). As often happens, a few vocal people drove the events to its quick and unjust conclusion. Professor Sullivan should have “had HIS day in court” with the university, a Valuable Teaching moment (especially for the vocal few!) was missed, and more thoughtful minds should have prevailed and Professor Sullivan retained.
I hope you are all well. Keep up the good work and stay in touch with all members of the HR community.
Stein E. Rafto ’78, M.D.
Mehta and Fine’s book, In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School, reported in the May-June issue (Right Now, page 11), is an important and disturbing analysis of one of our nation’s most essential institutions. There are some 26,000 public high schools and it is more than a little scary to be reminded again how far short of excellence so many schools fall.
From the time I completed my Harvard degree (Ed.D. ’59) I spent 50 years focused on public education, serving as teacher, high-school principal, superintendent, federal education officer, president of Bank Street College of Education, and professor of education. During that long time education was treated to sequential waves of reform, some wise, some otherwise, and many either politically motivated or hopelessly naïve. Public high schools are complex social institutions that our society charges with multiple roles ranging across academic, health, sports, social and cultural integration, career and job training, family preparation, civic education, driver education, and so on. They also depend on local, state, and federal funding practices which typically result in underfunding the schools in communities of greatest need, while many high schools, especially in the higher-income communities, are successful (even if somewhat boring from the perspective of restless teenagers). It is not surprising, therefore, that despite repeated efforts at reform, the nation is left with such mixed and often inadequate results. Mehta and Fine’s advocated search for “deeper learning” offers clear thinking about helpful paths to reform.
Fairer and more adequate funding also must be an essential component, but it is not enough. Students in reality do not go to the school in school systems, they go to school daily in classrooms and schools. We need to change the mental model held by many school boards, superintendents, and state school officials. Too often, high schools are treated as branch offices of local and state bureaucracies rather than as distinctive academic and social institutions. The tip off is seen in the charts of all too many school districts, where the heads of the schools are listed as “building principals.” As I once said early in my career when I was a high-school principal, “I am not a minor bureaucrat in charge of ‘a building,’ I head a school” (with all the complexity and promise and identity inherent in the deep concept of “school”).
Wading River, N.Y.
Graduate Student Union Solidarity
Dear Harvard Student Workers—the 4,000 teaching, research, and course assistants who make the University run:
We recently celebrated the activism of 1969, specifically our own Harvard Strike in protest against the Vietnam War, for an Afro-American studies department and an end to expansion into working class neighborhoods—all part of much larger social movements against war, for civil rights, women’s rights, and gay liberation (the Stonewall Riots that sparked the Gay Liberation Movement). We were inspired at our recent 1969 Strike Reunion by the presence of your own union members and other current student activists fighting for Harvard’s divestment from fossil fuels and from for-profit prisons. We enthusiastically support your efforts to obtain a just contract from Harvard.
We realize that you have already engaged in discussions with Harvard over your concerns, and will continue to negotiate over the summer.
In our own case, we spent years urging Harvard to abolish ROTC and end its support for the catastrophic Vietnam War. Faculty meetings voted to end ROTC, but our concerns went unheard by the administration. When all else failed, we were forced to take direct action and occupy University Hall. We expected to be arrested. However, we did not expect Harvard to call in the Tactical Police who used extreme violence, leading to a massive strike of the whole university. Ultimately, though traumatic, our effort won an end to ROTC, the establishment of an Afro-American Studies department, and the building of low-income housing.
We understand that you are seeking fair wages (the cost of living in Cambridge and surrounding communities is prohibitive), fair medical and dental benefits comparable to those received by graduate student unions like Columbia’s, and protections against sexual harassment and racial discrimination, including access to a neutral third-party grievance procedure through a union contract. The university has, unfortunately, thus far failed to respond to the need for improvements to your health care, compensation, and other crucial quality-of-life issues.
Some of us were actually part of a Teaching Fellows Union at Harvard in the years ’66-’69 that negotiated a small raise, an early version of your more professional unionizing effort with the UAW. For many years, Harvard acted as though the tiny compensation it gave to its student workers was a “gift,” rather than remuneration for the very real work of undergraduate teaching and researching. Others among us supported the Painters Union and the clerical workers’ efforts to unionize at Harvard and seek fair wages from this extremely wealthy university.
You have signed petitions, demonstrated, and even briefly occupied an administration building. If no progress is achieved in negotiations in the fall, a strike might well be necessary. It would certainly be a just response, and we would stand with you.
Therefore, we veterans of the Harvard Strike of 1969 add our voices to others who have expressed support for the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, civil- and labor-rights leader Dolores Huerta, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.
While Harvard celebrated having weathered the events of 1969 in a curated exhibit in Pusey Library, those of us who took part in the Strike of ’69 draw another lesson from history: that mass direct action can actually effect change.
Across the generations, we veterans of the Harvard Strike applaud your determination and activism, which gives us hope for our future and that of our children and grandchildren.
1. Susan Jhirad, College ’64, Ph.D. ’72
2. Kenneth Kronenberg
3. Alan Gilbert, College ’65, Ph.D. ’74
4. Judith Baker, College ’70
5. Nate Goldshlag, College ’71
6. Paul Garver, GSAS, Tutor in Social Studies, Teaching Fellow in History
7. Lucy Candib, College ’68, Harvard Medical School ’72
8. Michael Ansara, College ’68
9. Stuart Soloway, Harvard College Class of ’70, graduated ’73
10. Rod Kessler, College ’71
11. Emily Berg, College ’66
12. Mary Summers, College ’70
13. Carl Offner, Ph.D. ’78
14. John Berg, Ph.D. ’75
15. E John Pennington, College ’67
16. Judith Norsigian, College ’70
17. Polly Attwood, M.Div. ’88, Ed.D. ’08
18. Richard Strier, GSAS
19. Henry Sommer, College ’71
20. Carlin Meyer, College ’69
21. Judy Smith, College ’70
22. Mike Prokosch, College ’70
23. Arthur Dion, College ’68, Ed.M. ’71
24. Lucy Marx, College ’72
25. Matt Witt, College ’72
26. Antonia Forster, College ’72
27. Miles Rapoport
28. Grey Osterud, College ’70
29. Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, College ’69
30. Jane Jackson, College ’69
31. Emily Spieler, College ’69
32. Jay Cantor, College ’70
33. Barry Margolin, College ’70
34. Tom Christoffel, J.D. ’67
35. Joshua Freeman, College ’70
36. Ellen Israel
37. Maren Stange, College ’68
38. Mark Dyen ’70
39. Gloria Clark, College ’69
40. Paula Caplan, College ’69
41. Kathleen Kreiss, College ’69
42. Heather Berman Cantino, College ’72
43. Emily Bailey, College ’69
44. Fran Ansley, College ’69
This is a comment on Professor David Mumford’s letter in the March-April issue (page 5). Mumford recommends that the best applicants to the College be automatically admitted, and that the worst applicants be automatically rejected; and that we should then choose the rest of the class from the middle group of applicants, by random choice. I think that adding this random element is a great idea, but I would modify it slightly. First, for us to know who the best and worst candidates are to begin with, we will presumably have graded all the applicants in some way. Such a grading is what is done now at most very selective colleges, using both academic and personal factors. So, since we will already have graded the middle group of candidates, we can—and I think should—apply the random choice technique in such a way that more likelihood is given to candidates with higher scores. For example, rather than randomly choosing 5 percent from this middle group, instead choose 7 percent from the top half of the middle group, and 3 percent from the bottom half. In the years I spent on the MIT admission committee, great effort was invested in making these intermediate choices by hand. I agree that the work of Kahneman and Twersky tell us that random choice would work just as well. They might indeed recommend the kind of uniform random choice Mumford described, but weighting the choice, as I am suggesting, would allow colleges to maintain the predictability of their yield that they have now.
Bob Frankel ’67
How to Tackle Harassment
In the July-August 2019 issue (News Briefs, page 29), it was reported that Jorge Domínguez retired after being accused of “persistent sexual harassment...spanning nearly four decades.” I have no comment on the substance of the inquiry and subsequent findings.
As one of the nation’s foremost whistleblower attorneys, author and CEO of a national office that confronts workplace abuse, I do have concerns as to the cultural climate at Harvard that allowed this reported harassment to thrive for nearly 40 years without effective intervention!
In my book—The Whistleblower: Defeating Bullies, Harassers and Management Gang Retaliation, I address the issue of workplace cultures that foster a chilling effect. This causes fear of retaliation for those who might be inclined to report abuse that they witness or experience personally.
What qualifies me to speak on the issue of institutional abuse and fear of retaliation? In addition to having served as the first Human Rights Director of Amherst, Massachusetts, and subsequently the Human Rights Director of Somerville, Massachusetts, I established the first-ever Anti-Harassment Unit for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters in 2012.
I subsequently succeeded in my legal action against DHS for whistleblower retaliation in 2018. By the way, the whistleblower retaliation targeted yours truly!
As Harvard moves forward in addressing this matter, university officials should not be filled with hubris over the fact that they took action to sanction Mr. Domínguez. No, on the contrary, administrators should acknowledge, publicly, that they failed to create a cultural climate that had zero tolerance for harassment, and zero tolerance for retaliation in reporting harassment.
Be introspective. That is the path to accountability and trust-building, both of which are vital to institutional health.
Shenandoah Titus, A.L.M. ’07
Amplifications & Clarifications
“Educating Educators” (July-August, page 25) reported that the Graduate School of Education faculty had voted to approve a “new framework” for the school’s master of education (Ed.M.) program, in part by “elevat[ing] the status of the education profession by defining its key aspects, including core knowledge and skills that all educators should have.” That suggested identifying the “core skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking that are central to the profession of education,” and embedding them in 13 separate Ed.M. tracks. That account was based on a misunderstanding. As part of revisiting its Ed.M. program, the HGSE faculty is focusing on core competencies it considers essential for all degree candidates to prepare them for diverse careers in education. Students would also apparently choose areas of special, focal interest, within their courses of study—but the number of such areas, how they are defined, and how students’ one-year degree programs (a limiting constraint, as opposed to the multiyear courses of study in other professional schools) will be reshaped are all in the process of being determined by the faculty during the coming academic year.
“The Director’s Half Decade,” based on a conversation with Harvard Alumni Association executive director Philip Lovejoy (May-June, page 78), referred to the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus. It has long since been renamed the Harvard Gender & Sexuality Caucus, as its president, John Sylla ’81, noted.
The classes studied in the legendary Harvard Student Study (Commencement Confetti, July-August, page 20) enrolled in 1960 and 1961, respectively, but were the graduating classes of ’64 and ’65, not those of ’60 and ’61. That is why Michael Kaufman spoke at the class of 1964’s fifty-fifth reunion dinner.