Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

O tempora! O Mory's!

The esteemed historian George W. Pierson said, "Yale is at once a tradition, a company of scholars, and a society of friends."

What distinguishes Yale from other universities is the fact that in its 307-year history, traditions which galvanize her alumni have developed and created strong bonds with the university.

Mory's is one such tradition and it is arguably the only place on campus where alumni can congregate with friends and reconnect with Yale.

Despite what your article suggested ("Will Mory's Survive? (And Should It?)," September/October), Mory's is relevant today, with over 500 undergraduate and close to 250 graduate student members.

The Mory's board, of which I am a member, has been working tirelessly to keep up with changing trends. Given the renaissance of New Haven and the plethora of new, good-quality restaurants, this has been a challenging task. We have upgraded the menu, improved our service and presentation, gone wireless, expanded our hours, changed the mix of pictures on the wall, and expanded our membership categories, to try to accommodate changing trends. We are determined to keep Mory's as a destination for alumni, students, and members of the community alike, and we feel we're accomplishing that challenge.

Despite what you imply, Mory's is not a bastion of Old Blue WASPs where spinning cups on one's head is the operative move. Rather it is a place where friends can connect or reconnect over a good meal in an atmosphere which vividly displays the strengths, glories, and humor of Yale.

Christopher Getman '64
Hamden, CT


To the problems down at Mory's: add a Yankee Doodle wing.

David Jeffery '60
St. Michaels, MD


It is with some sadness that I write to answer the questions on the cover of the September/October magazine: "Will Mory's Survive? (And Should It?)"

Mory's was an important part of my undergraduate experience. I joined as soon as I was eligible and spent many happy and several hilarious nights there. It was a warm and personalizing part of my Yale education.

However, I have not forgotten, and never will forget, being expelled from Mory's around 1970 because I, like so many other Mory's members, refused to contribute money to fighting the admission of women into the club. If the membership had simply disagreed about this, then I would have gone along as I would in any democratic institution. But Mory's took the additional step of expelling those of us who disagreed with the club's thoroughly backwards and discriminatory views about women.

It was quite an annoyance to me when in later years Mory's tried to gather back into its bosom all of those they had thrown out because we would not contribute to trying to keep women in a second-class status. I did not rejoin, will never rejoin, and think that the club, having made its bed in 1970, should now lie in it and go quietly into the night. Much can, and should be, forgiven, but the act of expelling people who believe in equality of the sexes strikes me as being over the line.

Mark W. Foster '65
Washington, DC


As a life member of Mory's since 1956, my senior year, I read with great interest and sadness the September/October cover story. It seems clear that the establishment has three challenges to its survival. The first is the most devastating and also beyond its control. The second can be corrected and should be. And the third, though difficult, can perhaps be addressed.

The most insurmountable problem is Connecticut's minimum drinking age of 21. Most members of the student body are not 21 and thus can't drink at Mory's or any other local establishment -- at least in theory. The primary reason for Yale students to go out of an evening is to kick back and have a few pops. There's nothing Mory's can do about the drinking age.

The second problem is that Mory's operates with a union staff. As the article points out, almost none of New Haven's other restaurants or clubs are unionized. Mory's numbers speak for themselves. Revenue of $1.2 million versus expenses of $1.3 million equals a loss of $168,236. You can't make that up with volume. Almost 65 percent of those expenses are payroll costs. How Mory's became a union shop is not mentioned in the article, but it never should have permitted itself to become unionized. Mory's needs to undo that mistake. Perhaps explaining to the staff that unless the union is dropped their jobs are in jeopardy might help persuade them.

And finally, Mory's confronts the fact that today's Yalies, in my opinion, no longer value Yale's long history and the traditions which were built up over that long time. Mory's carries no special meaning for them in the way it did for prior generations. These kids are too wrapped up in their iPods, BlackBerrys, and text-messaging. Concocting modern-day non-alcoholic substitutes for Green Cups won't do it.

I fear that the old Mory's is soon to be gone. What a shame.

Phil Goodwin '56
Orleans, MA


During 1946-47 I was a student at the Graduate School, and one evening when a group of us went for a nightcap, my friends and I "integrated" Mory's. The group included Johnny Buttrick, Sam A. Edwards, Billy Cousins, and a couple of other fellows from the Hall of Graduate Studies. Billy was African American, from a distinguished New Haven family of educators.

When the waiter said he could not serve Billy a nightcap because of his race, we said that in that case none of us would have a drink, and that we would leave the establishment demonstratively. The waiter gave in, apologized, and served our drinks.

John F. Leich '47MA
Canaan, CT


Of course Mory's should survive. Mory's is Yale -- as much as the bulldog and Sterling Memorial Library! The food is only passable (having just dined there after the Georgetown football game on September 20), but the ambience, decor, service, and reasonably priced cocktails all were truly favorable. The university must not let this institution founder. If need be, Yale should take it over and hand it to its own portfolio manager to run and make a fortune. Or call up the Bass brothers for a bailout. And don't, don't change the interior: tables scarred by years of initials, walls covered with team pictures, ceiling hung with winning oars. Keep it all.

Edward C. Werner '59
Washington, DC


While I compliment the magazine on the well-written Mory's article, I found the cover, with the title "Will Mory's Survive? (And Should It?)" and the legend -- "In post-WASP Yale, the bastion of the old-boy Old Blues is struggling to stay afloat" -- off-putting, derogatory, and offensive.

More appropriate: "Our beloved Mory's is struggling to survive. Here's what's going on."

Who says Yale is now "post-WASP"? Does the university's mission statement say that Yale has now moved past domination by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants? Are "old boys" and "old Blues" to be ignored? I am a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant and proud of it. Does diversity exclude us? Does my age make me irrelevant?

You are correct in raising the question about the survival of Mory's. But why not take a positive attitude? I think most alumni want Mory's to survive.

Robert G. Small '48, '51MD
Nichols Hills, OK


A sad quote

I don't know what made me sadder when I read the September/October issue: the cover story on the possible demise of Mory's (a place that has great significance for me) or the "Quoted" item (Light & Verity) from William Deresiewicz, former associate professor of English at Yale, in which he admitted that at age 35 he didn't have any idea how to talk to his plumber. What a pitiful observation! I would be too embarrassed to share that with close friends, let alone write about it in a professional journal.

Eloise H. P. Killeffer '04MDiv
New Canaan, CT


Go west, Scotsman?

I have a very good reason for thinking that all the opinions expressed about "Go West, young man" are mistaken (You Can Quote Them, September/October). The old adage is much more likely to have arisen in Europe, probably Scotland. Many of my ancestors upped sticks to cross the Atlantic and make a new life for themselves. My grandfather talked about several of his brothers doing so. It was not long before they made their way across the continent to developing California. One brother started his own construction business and, amongst other things, built the courthouse in Santa Barbara. The eldest brother was appointed chief construction engineer responsible for building the Los Angeles aqueduct.

During bad times in Europe, there were plenty of people advising their friends to "Go West, young man."

Donald Mackay
Cambridge, England


Rights and right

With reference to the dispute over the Machu Picchu relics (Light & Verity, May/June): When I attended Yale College, my family lived in Peru. In my junior year I wrote a paper on the Incas for George Kubler's extraordinary History of Latin American Art course. I sought to see some of the thousands of Peruvian huacos that Bingham had brought to Yale from Machu Picchu almost 100 years ago, but was told they were packed away in basements throughout the university and not available for students (much less the public) to see. I was also told those objects were rarely exhibited. I protested loudly to the Yale administration then that those objects, which formed an important part of the cultural patrimony of Peru, belonged where they had come from, and not in New Haven basements.

Fast-forward 37 years, and little has changed. While Yale argues about contract rights, I believe this dispute is not about "rights," but about "right." Those objects were taken in an era when many in Northern Europe and the United States thought it not only proper, but at times even their burden, to take other cultures' heritage and put it in private collections, universities, museums, and basements many thousands of miles away from its rightful, usually swarthier, heirs.

I believe it morally inconsistent for Yale now to disavow that time and way of thinking, yet seek to retain its fruits. As to the alleged "safety" issue: respectfully, Peru is perfectly capable of protecting its heirlooms, as many of its beautiful museums demonstrate.

Carlos Loumiet '73, '78JD
Miami, FL


Muslims and Christians

Your article on the interfaith conference ("Love Thy Neighbor," September/October) was of considerable interest to me since I have tried to note the flow of responses to the general letter issued late last year by Muslim leaders and scholars from around the globe. Not mentioned in the article were the responses by Pope Benedict XVI and many other religious leaders from the United States and abroad, and no mention was made of why only the "evangelicals" (with the possible exception of Robert Schuller) were in attendance. Was the conference intentionally set up as a meeting of Muslim leaders and so-called right-wing Christian leaders? Did the planners intentionally limit the range of Christian views of Islam?

Lloyd E. Sheneman '64PhD
Chesterbrook, PA



In the interests of Urim v'Tamim -- Lux et Veritas -- I wish to inquire why the interfaith conference failed to include Jews in that perspective and, indeed, the Jewish source for "loving God and neighbor" in all but one of its symposia? Only in the video account of the conference appearing on the Internet was there evidence that a rabbi had been one of the invitees.



Can it be that Yale has allowed the animus toward Jews presently manifested throughout the Muslim world (as formerly in a theologically anti-Semitic Christianity) to determine the conference's scope and participation? Your pictorial captions of the invitees failed to mention any rabbis, despite the headline for the article to this effect. Nor did your conference photos of the Arabic and English script appearing behind the invitees reveal any idea that Ahibb Al-Jandak -- "Love your neighbor" -- had its origin in the Biblical Hebrew commandment V'Ahavta l'Reicha Kamocha -- "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Ironically this was the "Common Word" theme of the conference.

Were there any Jewish invitees at the conference other than Rabbi Douglas Krantz (and Yale's President Levin)? In an effort, apparently, to suggest the indebtedness of both Christianity and Islam to Judaism, Rabbi Krantz, at least in the summation panel (unreported in your article), sought to offer this connection, as well as the need to break down the present-day barriers to good-neighborliness in the supersessionist faiths.

Alfred S. Golding '49MFA
Columbus, OH



In your conference coverage nothing was said about Sufism, or whether any contemporary and prominent Middle Eastern, South, and/or Southeast Asian Sufis had been invited. I consider this a deplorable lack. Sufi practice is wholly against fighting and warring, and in favor of peacemaking. The Christian "West" has for at least a couple of centuries found the doctrines and practices of Sufism more accessible than much of what's found in Muslim orthodoxy, while, I suspect, many contemporary evangelicals have no idea of the values in Sufism.

The history and traditions of the Sufis of Turkey, Iran, South Asia, and Indonesia have riches to offer in bridging the "gaps" this conference has begun to address. As the great Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi said:

Beyond our ideas of right-doing
and wrong-doing, there is a field.
I will meet you there.

Joanna Kirkpatrick '54MA
Boise, ID


We asked Rev. Joseph Cumming of Yale Divinity School, a conference organizer, to respond to the letters above. He replied:

Yes, conference invitees included prominent Jewish scholars and rabbis. Plenary speakers included Rabbi Krantz (Reform), Prof. Burton Visotzky of JTS (Conservative), and Rabbi Brett Oxman (Orthodox). The opening paragraph of the Yale Common Word response (http://yale.edu/faith/about/abou-commonword.htm) emphasizes strongly that Jesus' teaching on love of God and neighbor is rooted in Jewish thought and in the Torah.

Christian attendees did include the full breadth of Christian traditions. Two of four Christian keynote speakers were Catholic, and speakers included Eastern Orthodox and mainline Protestant leaders, in addition to Evangelicals who would be pained to see themselves labeled "right-wing."

Sufi thought was well represented, as should be clear from keynotes by Sheikh al-Jifri and Seyyed Hossein Nasr (viewable on the above website).


It was good to see in big letters the question you asked regarding the interfaith conference -- but one inspiration for the words wasn't identified.

We all remember, back in 1991, the scene caught on amateur camera, of a black man flat on his stomach on the roadside, being beaten and kicked by a bunch of the LAPD's finest, while many more of their buddies looked on without much interest, chatting. The next year, bearing no grudge, the victim, Rodney King, was on camera again asking his fellow citizens, "Can we all get along?"

Ramsay MacMullen
Dunham Professor Emeritus of History
Yale University
New Haven, CT


The amoral education?

I find substantial irony in Stanley Fish describing a "deflationary view" of higher education where students can do no more than learn and analyze subject matter (Forum, July/August). Meanwhile, President Levin in his Baccalaureate Address ("Life on a Small Planet," July/August) celebrates the civic virtues of new graduates as they confront the challenges of global warming, terrorism, and the "benefits of health and prosperity to those without them."

Fish pooh-poohs "transformational" education, acknowledging that it might happen by accident. Since the 1960s, academics like myself have pursued the goal of transforming the hearts and minds of secondary school graduates. We know there are no guarantees, but we hope a proportion of our students will grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially into adults who will serve their God and country, reflecting the civic virtues of Yale's founders.

James B. Crooks '57
Professor of History Emeritus
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, FL


I'm amazed that Stanley Fish has such a narrow view of the connection between ethics and teaching. He states that "moral capacities (or their absence) have no relationship whatsover to the reading of novels." Actually, the liberal arts in general and literature (among others) in particular have a strong relationship to developing moral capacities. Novels allow readers to understand the moral world and personal experience of characters distinctly different from ourselves, and in a much more accessible (and, to suit Professor Fish, also less contingent) manner than, say, anthropological fieldwork. Novels thus offer the opportunity to put oneself in another's shoes, which is an essential moral capacity. Understanding others is a fundamental part of the basic Western moral creed, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

People do seem to vary in their ability and willingness to act on the Golden Rule, but I think it is a safe bet that many of those who are better at it gained some of their morals from a broad education. It seems like a losing argument to disparage the ethical dimensions of teaching in general amongst the Yale alumni -- why not side with recently profiled Yale great William F. Buckley in promoting this agenda?

Raphael Sperry '99MArch
San Francisco, CA

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