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Letters

Cambridge 02138

Frankfurter, Judaica, pandemic education

November-December 2022

EVs

"Who Should Drive an Electric Vehicle?” (September-October, page 9) certainly took a glass-half-empty approach. To suggest that some people are better off burning gasoline if they care about the environment is dangerously short-sighted. How are people helping the environment if they encourage the production of more gasoline-fueled vehicles? If we have any hope of stabilizing our changing climate, we have to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels. Over time, we have to stop buying vehicles that use gasoline. We can’t get there unless the automakers invest in the transition to electric vehicles. They won’t make that transition later unless we buy electric vehicles now. The article is also riddled with incomplete and misleading thoughts. Any assertion about the number of miles one must drive to make the electric vehicle choice a green one requires assumptions about how carbon-intensive the electric supply is. The good news is that our electricity is getting greener every day. You also have to remember that all new cars create an energy and emissions deficit—not just electric ones. We can’t wait until the grid is entirely carbon-free before we begin to convert the vehicle fleet. That could add decades to the transition. And the suggestion that it’s the second owner of an electric car who is really helping the environment is just silly. In order to have a second owner, you need to have a first owner. Let’s not hand consumers an excuse for continuing to support a transportation system that is simply not sustainable.

Steve Weissman, M.P.A. ’84
UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy

I was shocked to read the quote from Dr. Nunes suggesting that people who don’t drive as much “are actually better off driving a gas car if they care about the environment.” I ask, “better off” in what way? Nunes’s comments take a harmfully egoistic view of emissions reductions: focusing on how much an individual can claim to have reduced her personal carbon emissions, while neglecting the impact of lifetime emissions of EVs and internal combustion engine cars. Every new ICE car purchased locks in 15+ years of carbon emissions, regardless of how much the first owner drives it. Even if someone who doesn’t drive much buys a new EV, he will provide a benefit by creating a larger pool of used EVs, which will further drive down the price on the used market. And let’s not forget that driving less is always better for the environment, EV or not. To mitigate climate change, we need to focus on the big picture. All of Nunes’s points about the need for additional subsidies—which I completely agree with—could have been made without distorting the uncontestable emissions benefits of EVs.

Alexander Naydich, Ph.D. ’19
Providence, R.I.

The wrong question begets no answer. So it is with the article entitled, “Who Should Drive an Electric Vehicle?” The article concerns research into the question, “is a gas guzzler actually better for the environment than an electric vehicle?” Apparently, the answer is “sometimes.” The piece goes on to describe research conducted as to the impact of tax credits on EV purchases and finds that the credits mostly benefit wealthy individuals. The better questions to ask would be: How do we replace car trips (combustion or EV) with more efficient and environmentally friendly modes such as trains, trolleys or bikes? Why not provide subsidies for e-bikes and pedal bikes as well? Why not consider free public transportation in cities? If we are to make our way out of the environmental crisis, neither extending the use of combustion vehicles nor providing subsidies for EVs are the right road to travel.

Joseph C. Tedeschi ’90
New York City

I came away from the Nunes article a bit confused. It appears the author is bestowing a dollop more “green righteousness” on the secondary purchasers of EVs, over the primary buyers. In my reality, any green benefits accrue to the EV. The owners share equally in credit for the benefits, and relative costs, if any. The primary buyer may benefit from the subsidy, but he/she passes that on to the secondary purchaser in the form of a market price at sale, which will be in the range of one half the price the primary buyer paid.

More importantly, we have to ask “what benefits?” Break even at 2.73 years? not 2.9675? Ms. Nunes resorts to an ancient “quant” tactic: When the best data will give you only a wide range of possibilities, fake precision by carrying out your conclusion a few decimal places. A somewhat dated study quoted in the Economist analysed the relative cost of an EV in the U.S. and concluded that after considering the cost of fossil fuel generated electricity, there is no benefit over the entire life, in terms of CO2 emissions.

Joe Gano ’64, M.B.A. ’71
Wilmington, Del.

I was very much interested in your article regarding purchasing an electric car. I think another question should be: “Who should trade in their gas powered car for an electric car?” From my calculations I think the production of an extra EV this year creates about the same amount of carbon emissions that my 2010 RAV4 20-MPG vehicle would produce in seven years. I think I will wait until either my current car gives out or the EVs are made more efficiently.

William Bayer, M.D. ’79
Rochester, N.Y

Ashley Nunes (“Who Should Drive an Electric Vehicle?”) observes that middle-income Americans would sooner buy a used EV for commuting to work than a pricey new one for vacation trips, which would be counterproductive ecologically. This recalled for me the work of economist Richard Wolff ‘63. Wolff says that many of our economic ills (maldistribution of income, offshoring of jobs, and so on) would be mitigated if employees owned and operated their workplaces. So, let us imagine that Tesla, Inc., were run by its employees. They would decide the sticker price of their EVs by squaring production costs with environmental responsibility. Finally, “use value and exchange value” are one!

Ira Braus, Ph.D. ’88
Pembroke, Mass.

“Who Should Drive an Electric Vehicle?” generates the kind of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about EVs that oil companies love. Ashley Nunes sounds contrarian and get clicks, views, and perhaps speaking opportunities, while potential EV purchases are left confused. The article starts with “Is a gas guzzler actually better for the environment than an electric vehicle? Sometimes.”

No. Never.

The article itself states that after 28,069 miles of driving, the EV is cleaner on a net basis. Very few cars that aren’t totaled in crashes have fewer than 28,069 lifetime driving miles. Most exceed 100,000—and Tesla is working on batteries and motors that will last 1 million miles. So it is always better for a new car buyer to put an EV on the road instead of another gas guzzler. It makes no sense to arbitrarily limit the vehicle’s environmental impact to the first period of ownership rather than its lifetime.

Beyond this, Nunes makes some rather surprising assumptions. First, the idea that “most EV purchasers right now are wealthier people who use it as a secondary vehicle.” I have driven EVs exclusively since 2013; ask any Tesla or EV owner and you will find the driving experience leads them to drive it most, often fighting between spouses over who gets to take it each day. Notably California, which accounts for nearly half the US-sold Teslas to date, allows EVs to use HOV lanes on their notoriously jam-packed highways. For many this served as the greatest purchase incentive, resulting in tens or even hundreds of thousands of California Teslas and other EVs used daily for commuting.

Second, Nunes criticizes federal and state EV incentives, overlooking the fact that Teslas haven’t been eligible for federal incentives for nearly three years, after phasing out during 2019. And those generous California state rebates that Nunes singles out have had income eligibility requirements since 2016. Most states have such restrictions, as well as maximum eligible vehicle prices, meaning that most Teslas are priced out of state rebate eligibility, including California’s. The new EV incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act will have income and price as well as domestic manufacture requirements —and the IRA adds incentives for used EV purchases from dealers. Nunes makes some valid points about the design of the initial EV incentives, but she is years out of date—both in terms of incentive structure and current EV prices which are increasingly competitive with fossil fuel cars, and lower after taking into account lifetime fuel and maintenance savings.

Third, Nunes fails to take into account that as EVs reach end of life and their batteries are recycled, the “emissions buy-in” of new EVs will be reduced —in addition to measures Tesla and others are taking to power their operations using renewables like solar rather than fossil fuels. So that theoretical 28,069 mile CO2 breakeven will come even sooner. Nunes also overlooks all of the other negative externalities of gas guzzlers - the health and environmental impacts of noxious exhaust gases and particulate matter, contribution to the heat island effect and noise in cities (internal combustion engines waste over 70% of energy consumed in the form of heat, noise and vibration), gasoline vapors from fueling, and the disposal of used engine oil and transmission fluid waste.

Truly infrequent drivers might be better off buying e-bikes and joining carshare programs like Zipcar, or buying a smaller or a used EV for local use and renting a car for occasional road trips. Any electric vehicle is better than a gas guzzler, but smaller and fewer vehicles on the road are better still.

Peter Kirby ’84
Cambridge, Mass.

Masthead Moves

With regret, we note that our young colleague Jacob Sweet, who joined us in early 2019, departed the staff in August; his final contribution as associate editor is a sports profile. Jacob’s work, from his feature on pandemic-induced loneliness to his profile of meteorologist Matthew Cappucci, was a highlight of Harvard Magazine in recent years. He departs with our best wishes as he devotes himself to freelance writing.

Isabel Mehta ’24, our summer editorial intern, reported several significant stories online, including affecting portraits of alumni helping Afghan students at the Asian University for Women who were traumatized by the Taliban (harvardmag.com/asian-women-22) and of the architect who designed the Holodomor memorial in Washington, D.C. (harvardmag.com/holodomor-22)—newly relevant given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in which control of food supplies has again been made a weapon of war.

The Editors

Housing Shortage

I’m not sure what moved the magazine to print “Origins of the Urban Housing Crisis” (September-October, page 10). But as described and quoted, this thesis is naive, distorted, and unfair. Mr. Anbinder blames the urban housing crisis largely on the historic preservation movement, arguing that something called “American liberalism” turned against urban growth using the legal tools of preservation. To the contrary, preservation tax credits, available for rehabilitation of buildings designated as historically significant, have produced hundreds of thousands of new housing units in towns and cities all across the U.S. Try telling Manchester, N.H., or Winston-Salem, N.C., or Kansas City, Mo., or Ft. Collins, Co., that preservation is creating a crisis. Preservation action has brought new life and billions of dollars in investment and jobs to older urban areas that once were given up for dead.

Rehabbed historic buildings and streetscapes are tremendously popular, with most sites filling with new residents as soon as they open. Does Anbinder seriously want to argue that preservation is responsible for the resulting rise in housing costs driven by demand? Most professionals I work with in the preservation field see this inevitable market trend and actively seek new construction in vacant or dilapidated areas within historic districts, designed to integrate well into the scale and massing of historic buildings and offering affordable housing. But every city struggles to define “affordable” and figure out legal means of holding prices stable over time.

The “sell by” date for the hackneyed accusation that preservationists are anti-growth is long past. It’s used mostly by developers who have no intention of building affordable housing. I would encourage Anbinder to make some serious revisions to his argument.

Thomas Edward Frank ’70
Asheville, N.C.

An excellent article on problems that I’ve lived through in my architectural practice, designing/ building my own home, and paying for my young adult children’s New York City apartments—with 10 years invested in multifamily high-rises that never left the proverbial drawing board due to hundreds of thousands of dollars in environmental reviews and millions in added project costs. Or a high-end single-family residence on a presumably environmentally sensitive site requiring similar costs from every “expert” known for even longer periods—whose entitlements were trapped between the botanist who refused to allow underbrush trimmed, as it would disturb various insects, and a fire department that required them trimmed. Then there’s the legal issue of taking one’s property rights. Most clients take their losses and move on because life is too short to wait for a case to go to Supreme Court where you may win if you’re still young enough to want to build!

Daniel Chudnovsky, M.Arch. ’79
Los Angeles

Justice Frankfurter

Your book reviewer identified as Justice Felix Frankfurter’s “shortcoming” precisely what made him so remarkable: the commitment and ability to acknowledge his own political bias and perform what he perceived as his professional and institutional duty irrespective (or in spite of) it (“Is the Supreme Court’s Role Undemocratic?” September-October, page 49). Can you imagine the salutary effects if more people followed Frankfurter’s example, both in the legal field and beyond? Contrast the reviewer’s criticism of Frankfurter for not championing “liberal causes” on the bench with Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III’s admonition to fellow conservatives not to abandon judicial restraint by plunging “into political controversies on the basis of shallow and highly contestable legal premises.” For judges, seeking impartiality demands asking meaningful questions about justiciability, including whether the plaintiff has standing, the issue is ripe, and the question is legal rather than political in nature. For the rest of us, attempting a clear-eyed view of the world involves at least recognizing and considering our own biases as part of President Larry Bacow’s wise counsel to be “slow to judge, quick to understand.” If we can’t appreciate the intellectual heroism of a Supreme Court justice devoted to transcending his own politics, I’m afraid Americans and Harvardians are destined to keep talking past one another.

Charles G. Kels ’00
San Antonio

Lincoln Caplan, probably inadvertently, reminds me as he often does of President Reagan’s famous quip, “There you go again.” This time it is Caplan’s position that Justice Frankfurter was a divisive figure who could not understand that changes in the country through the New Deal era had made his extreme judicial restraint impractical and dangerous. No surprise; even in my time in the Law School (1976-1979) there were professors who treated Frankfurter as an eccentric anachronism who was out of step with the Warren Court.

Many seminal Supreme Court cases have involved a clash between two competing fundamental rights or ideals. In Lochner, the state’s attempt to protect workers by imposing maximum working hours laws lost to what was, at least in a formal sense, the individual right of a worker to decide how much he did or did not want to work. In Masterpiece Cakeshop, the equal protection right of a gay couple lost to the state’s failure to give serious consideration to the First Amendment right of a baker not to custom-bake a cake. In the last term, the Second Amendment right of an individual trumped the state’s right to protect society with discretionary determinations as to who is allowed to carry. And in gerrymandering cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has reaffirmed that it is not the business of the federal judiciary to second-guess a state’s choices as they affect political parties (as long as there is no numerical or racial discrimination), but some state courts have come to the contrary conclusion under state constitutions.

In each of these cases, as in many others, people may have strong and unyielding positions on which side is right, but there is no neutral principle to identify which side (protecting individual choice or protecting the choice of elected government) is more democratic. To give what may be the most striking and divisive example, try to imagine how you feel about whether or not the Supreme Court should thwart a democratic majority if Congress legislates the reinstatement of the substance of Roe v. Wade or in the unlikely event that at some point Congress decides to limit abortion nationally.

Surely, how one judges a judge should not hinge on whether one does or does not like particular outcomes, but that is exactly what Caplan does regarding Frankfurter, since during his time on the Supreme Court, so many of the important cases concerned the constitutional rights of individuals that states were seen as violating, so that one can conflate his judicial restraint with, for example, the dilution of individuals’ voting rights. Yet, at the present time one can imagine Frankfurter’s deciding that the Second Amendment should not preclude discretionary gun regulation or that it is a legitimate legislative choice to elevate equal protection over the First Amendment. Are those results that Frankfurter’s critics would find objectionable?

Robert Kantowitz, J.D. ’79
Lawrence, N.Y.

 

The Judaica Collection

Charlie Berlin well deserves the plaudits he received in “A Moral Obligation” (September-October, page 34). What the article didn’t mention was that Charlie was (and still mostly is) the only librarian to do this. Charlie was the only one to collect tapes of Yiddish or contemporary Sephardi preachers, to gather the posters of plays and concerts without which the history of Yiddish theater in the U.S.A. and South America is undoable and the posters decrying the sins of the wicked Israeli government that are plastered all over haredi (ultra right-wing) neighborhoods. Similarly, he alone collects all the reports of every city, town, and hamlet issued by the office of the Controller-General (Mevaker ha-Medinah), all the filings of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), without which no economic or administrative history of Israel is possible. This is not a question of money. The costs of these reports are trivial. It’s a matter of vision.

Just to give you a sense of Charlie’s scope: Several years ago, I gave permission for a Czech translation of one of the works of my father (Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik) and, in return, requested only prompt receipt of several complimentary copies. I passed one on to Charlie. In reply, I received the online catalogue registration of the work. He had already obtained and catalogued the book. How he knew of its appearance in Czech, I have no idea.

Haym Soloveitchik ’58
New York City

 

I enjoyed the article by Lydialyle Gibson explaining the wonderful job Charles Berlin accomplished at the Harvard College Library’s Judaica Division during his six decades of devotion and hard work. It would have been more complete if the article had also included mention of the subject of Sephardic Judaica which includes texts, books, and memorabilia in the Ladino language that the Jews continued using after their expulsion from Spain more than five centuries ago. I am sure the subject of Sephardic Judaica is part of this wonderful collection in the Harvard library.

Sevi Avigdor, M.D.
Rumson, N.J.

 

The Pandemic and the Public

The fact that five medical and public health experts believe messages to the public about COVID could have been better, and should be better in the future, is well and good (“Public Health Messaging in a Pandemic,” online June 23 at harvardmag.com/health-message-22).

However, these experts miss a vital, surprising aspect of the problem. Science education standards across the nation do not even suggest that science teachers should teach K-12 school students anything about vaccines, immunizations, or the role of government agencies (including the CDC and the FDA) in protecting public health. These topics are not considered important enough to be priorities during 12 years of science education, despite the fact that vaccine hesitancy and misinformation about vaccines are such significant problems.

Faculty in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, School of Public Health, biology departments, the program on Science, Technology, and Society, and other programs please take note. It is time to fix this problem, which people have written about for years. For some strange reason, K-12 education is too often overlooked by experts.

Andrew Zucker ’67, Ed.D. ’78
Cambridge, Mass.

 

Indo-European Languages

In the article “Seeking the First Speakers of Indo-European Language”(harvardmag.com/indo-language-22), Jonathan Shaw states, “Indo-European languages are the first language of more than 3 billion people in Europe, across northern India, the Iranian plateau, and as far east as Siberia (and on other continents as a result of colonialism, including in the United States).” Is there something special about recent European colonialism? Shaw himself points out that humans have been colonizing the world for many thousands of years, spreading their languages and genes. The inhabited regions of the earth have been invaded, conquered, carved up, and colonized multitudes of times in multitudes of ways. Britain, for example, has been colonized by, among the more recent groups we know of, the Celts, Romans, Angles and Saxons, Vikings, and Normans. It can be argued that the British are much the better for it. All nations are fictions, and colonization but one thread in the complex tapestry of human history.

Lawrence R. Bernstein ’77, A.M. ’78
Menlo Park, Cal.

Jonathan Shaw responds: Yes, the study has been critiqued for Eurocentrism, but I find it misguided. David Reich works with what is available to him from existing collections or ongoing work all over the world. So blame the museums and archaeologists of Eurasia for doing their job well in an environment where bone lasts longer than in the tropics.

 

Heads of Government

Among President Bacow’s achievements were indeed the Commencement speeches of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (September-October, page 14). Both would be surprised at being listed as heads of state and not heads of government. So would President Steinmeier of the Federal Republic of Germany, who is the head of state, and the late Queen Elizabeth II, who was the sovereign and head of state of New Zealand.

For political theory and constitutional scholarship, the separation of the roles of head of government and head of state is not a small matter. The combined role the U.S. president plays does not mean that this model is the best for every polity—indeed, in our case, might this be one more question to consider?

Thomas Krantz, A.M. ’76
Stamford, Conn.

Go West

InA Moral Responsibility” (July-August, page 3), President Lawrence Bacow points out that “enslaved people worked on our campus,” that “the labor of enslaved people enriched donors,” and noted that “We live—for better and worse—in the shadows of the past.” In the light of that, I would offer some counsel to all bright young men and women applying to college. Do not identify with an institution which has benefited from slavery, thereby becoming beneficiaries yourselves insofar as you will enjoy the prestige of a Harvard degree. Take the moral high road: apply to Stanford.

 John Harutunian, A.M. ’70
 Newton, Mass.

 

Harvardians Everywhere

In the Brevia item,Rankings Dropout” (September-October, page 20), you missed an alumni opportunity. The “Columbia professor” who “critiqued the accuracy of the data the university submitted to U.S. News & World Report” was Michael Thaddeus ’88, a Rhodes Scholar and the son of the late Patrick Thaddeus, professor of astronomy and applied physics, and the late Janice Farrar Thaddeus, lecturer in history and literature, both at Harvard.

Chad Heap ’90
Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
The George Washington University

 

For the Love of Libraries

President Bacow’s tribute to the university libraries (September-October, page 3)prompts a few memories:

During my years as an undergrad two libraries were especially comforting and enjoyable places to study, think and relax. One was the Adams House library for its high ceilings, great light, and convenience to my rooms. Another was the Fly Club library for its comfort, solitude, and fireplace. (Yes, I understand the controversy about final clubs.)

I was often the only member using the club library during those years, reading through the winter nights under a chair-side reading lamp next to low flames in the well-attended fireplace. When sleep overtook me the matching leather couches nearby provided a spot dream a while out of the wintry blasts. No need to cross Mt. Auburn Street to my room in an old flapping coat, wool scarf bundled up around my neck with hands stuffed in pockets.

The club library had been the proud province of Franklin Roosevelt in the early twentieth century. He was an enthusiastic organizer and contributor of volumes to the library but the shelving of books seventy-five years later had fallen into a hodgepodge of disarray. For a house talent show a friend and I decided to act out a humorous version of Ernest Thayer’s “Casey At The Bat.” (E. L. Thayer, Class of 1885 and editor of The Lampoon.) It was a last-minute decision to do so, and when a frantic search of the Adams library turned up no copies, we were momentarily stumped. On the off chance I ran across to the Fly Club to see if one might be there. Lamont was too far to get to and back in time for the show. After an equally frantic search of the club library I spied a single volume lying on a shelf just beside the fireplace mantle. I took it down, opened it to the beginning and it not only contained Thayer’s poem but was inscribed as one of “Frank” Roosevelt’s own books contributed to the club library.

Mine is a small obscure story but just shows how lucky we have all been to enjoy the range and variety of Harvard’s libraries. Long may they thrive!

David Tew, ‘74
West Boothbay Harbor, Me.

 

Football Fandom, Then and Now

“...You would have been forgiven had you shuffled disconsolately out of the Stadium with seven or so minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the lifeless Crimson trailing Merrimack 21-7...” (“Football: Harvard 28-Merrimack 21,” by Dick Friedman, online September 19 at www.harvardmagazine.com/2022/09/football-2022-harvard-28-merrimack-21).

Oh, yeah.

In late November 1968, Costa Rica-bound Peace Corps Volunteers were given a week’s leave between the completion of training and the beginning of our two years in the field. On Saturday, the 23rd, I was torn between the need to buy some tropics-appropriate clothing and the need to listen to the Harvard-Yale game on the radio. I spent a half-hour in a Macy’s parking lot, unwilling to get out of the car so long as it seemed as if Harvard had a decent chance to win. With Yale up by 16 with scant time on the clock, I sighed, turned off the radio and trudged into the store to buy some short-sleeve shirts.

 Conn Nugent ‘68
Washington, D.C.

 

Thinking Strategically

Thank you for the excellent essay, “Strategy—and a Celebration” (September-October, page 5).

I would like to expand on John Rosenberg’s request for better communication of Harvard’s strategy for the Allston campus, using a different vocabulary.

In organizational decision making, strategy is a lower-level construct, falling just above design. It is used to place an organization favorably within market space with some combination of product, pricing, and production capabilities that allow it to compete successfully. Successful organizations often have only one strategy, but many designs within that strategy. Harvard’s strategy might be simply to hire the best people, pay them well, give them much freedom, and support them lavishly. Within that single strategy we can come to many conclusions as to what might be done in Allston. As a strategy, it has worked extremely well, but, as a strategy, it does little to communicate the limits or the intent of Harvard in a project like Allston.

Let me add more structure.

At the top of the organizational decision-making hierarchy are beliefs, also nearly trivial in their construction. Beliefs are unquestioned theories that all members of the organization must hold, very similar to articles of faith in a religion. At Harvard the primary belief is that education is good. While we might more carefully define this and test the hypothesis scientifically, its character as a belief is such that any organizational member will be ostracized who does not support it.

Between beliefs and strategies are principles.

Principles are strange beasts that combine goals, preferred ways of behaving, and desired outcomes beyond the goals. They are best negotiated among all groups affected by the organization because they also express limits. For example, a principle might be that Harvard will benefit the community in a way that listens to and responds to the concerns of community members such that all members of the community gain knowledge. Under this principle, any design for the Allston campus must show benefit to the community. It must include a method of gaining input from the community, and it must demonstrate how all those affected by the project would gain knowledge.

This might be a principle advocated by members of the community. The Harvard administration might find it appropriate or inappropriate and push for different wording. Faculty might propose other principles as might students. In the end, compromise and careful wording will allow progress. Despite the difficulty of developing a set of principles among stakeholders, it is easier to gain wide acceptance at the level of principle than at the level of design when no principles have been agreed upon.

It is at the principle level of thought that communication is necessary. Principles are not necessary for each project. They stand above institutional strategy and are meant to guide strategic movement and project design. They would be developed by representatives of all those immediately affected by Harvard: students, faculty, staff, neighbors, local educational institutions (including community colleges), and politicians.

Communication at the design stage will then be clearer. At the design stage answers to the question “How will the project benefit the community?” must be communicated, if, for example, community benefit was a Harvard principle.

Thus, I believe that Rosenberg’s wish might be rephrased as: What are Harvard’s principles and how does this project satisfy them?

Nathan Dickmeyer, M.B.A. ’71
Nyack, N.Y.

 

The University’s Culture

I recently caught up with “Cultural Commitments” (March-April, page 5), and applaud Harvard for maintaining the pay and benefits of service workers during the pandemic. It’s gratifying to see that the University benefitted from doing the right thing in this regard, as it avoided the challenge of rebuilding its staff during the current labor shortage. I take a grim satisfaction in thinking of the institutions, profit and non-profit, that laid off workers during the early part of the pandemic and now have difficulty getting them back.

I do have some personal knowledge of being an employee at Harvard, because my wife was a research assistant at the Museum of Comparative Zoology in the late 1960s. Though the professor she worked for did his best to get her the maximum salary possible, she didn’t make much. Nonetheless, it was more than my graduate student stipend from the National Science Foundation..

Joel Studebaker, Ph. D. ’71
Princeton, N.J.

 

Charles III

I really appreciate your coverage of Prince Charles at the 350th (“Charles III, When Young,” online September 14 at www.harvardmagazine.com/2022/09/charles-iii-archive). While I was too young to merit a visit to Tercentenary Theatre, I did get to go to the Stadium for the big show. And what a big show it was.

 The image of the Prince in his academic regalia reminded me of a story told by the late Reverend Professor Peter Gomes about how the Prince had wanted to wear just a simple suit, so as not to appear something that he was not (an academic...). I think it was Gomes himself who prevailed upon him to wear his dragon gown from the University of Wales, which was a big part, or so I remember my parents saying, of his appeal to the crowd. But it was very heavy, so he was quite happy to get out of it afterwards!

 Anyway, thanks for the wonderful reminder (I’d love to know if there’s a video of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals performance in the Stadium, the bit about John Harvard and his library, and some dude from Boston offering his cows, still lives in my mind) of quite a different time in all our lives.

Jonas Peter Akins ‘01, M.B.A. ‘12
Wallingford, Conn.

Thanks for this article. The prince’s speech is not just a good memory of 1986; it is timely now. Implication: He will not be merely his mother’s son. Once again, the magazine reaches its high standard.

Donald Warren B.Div. ’60
Professor Emeritus
School of Education, Indiana University
Bloomington, Ind.

 

Diet and Blood Sugar

The illustration by Brian Gossett (in the print magazine and online) for the article “Does High Blood Sugar Blunt the Benefits of Exercise?” is disappointing. The article isn’t about “good” foods or “bad” foods or “fat” people vs. “thin” people. The article has nothing to do with food choices. Lessard’s research is very interesting, focusing on connections between hyperglycemia and oxygen uptake during exercise. But the illustration is simply about food choices, and the clear message is that “thin” people eat high-protein, vegetables, fruits, but “fat” people eat doughnuts, candy, pizza. Other obesity research has already proven that is incorrect.

Please consider carefully the assumptions and underlying dogma you are choosing when illustrating articles. Thank you for your time and attention to this issue.

Robert Kuhn, Ph.D. ’85 and Darcy Devney
Arlington, Mass.

Editor’s Note: The letter writer is correct in the sense that the artist struggled with how to show high blood sugar—really not possible in an illustration like this. But incorrect that Lessard’s research has nothing to do with food choices. She specifically cites the possibility that dietary changes might also reverse a low response to training, a subject for future research: “Now Lessard hopes to determine whether the drug—or other techniques for lowering blood sugar, such as dietary changes—can reverse a low response to training in hyperglycemic populations, rather than simply preventing it from occurring in the first place.”

 

Errata

Links for the Addison Gallery and Armenian Museum were erroneously reversed in the September-October “Exhibitions” listings (page 8E).

The profile of musician esperanza spalding (September-October, page 40) placed the Clement Soto Vélez Cultural & Education Center in the Bronx; it is actually in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Apologies for our geographical confusion.

The finding that households with both an EV and a gas-powered car choose to drive the latter most of the time (“Who Should Drive an Electric Vehicle?” September-October, page 9) comes from Norway government data, not from a University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; and University of Chicago study, as stated in the article. We regret the misattribution.

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