Letters to the Editor

Our readers respond

The Dark Knight’s Ivy Pedigree 

Cowls off to Chip Kidd for his entertaining and accurate analysis of Bruce Wayne’s alleged time at Yale (“Holy Eli, Batman,” March/April)—especially his masterful linking of Batman’s character to Yale’s emphasis on “rights and responsibilities” and public service. One point Kidd omitted was that the details of Batman’s origin and biography have been reinvented numerous times since Bob Kane createdThe Bat-Man in 1939. A Yale Law School diploma spotted in one panel of one page is almost certainly contradicted by dozens of other snippets of art and dialogue over 70-plus years.

Too bad, because the image of Batman swinging by Harkness Tower against a full moon would make a terrific poster!

Arthur Greenwald ’75
Glendale, CA


It’s interesting to see that Bruce Wayne has joined that pantheon of other fictional Yale alums, including Dink Stover, Frank Merriwell, and Nick Carraway. Regrettably, Major Amos Barnaby Hoople, also an alum, has seemingly failed to gain that recognition. “Major Hoople,” of course, was another comic-strip character, a landlord originated by Gene Ahern in Our Boarding House in the 1920s.

Major Hoople’s dress was impeccable. He normally wore pinstriped trousers, a bat-wing–collared shirt with repp tie, vest, frock coat, spats, and top hat, and he often carried a cane. When more casually attired, he could be seen in a Yale sweater. For that institution he claimed to have been “stunned … on the goal posts at the start of the Yale-Harvard game,” but went on to play “60 minutes for old Eli.” One of the boarders comments that he’s “told about scoring th’ winning touchdown against Harvard so often that I’ve applied to Yale for my letter in football!”

So there you have it. Of course I have to admit that Bruce Wayne appears to have an actual diploma, whereas the Major may just have been full of …

Clifford C. Simpson ’61, ’65PhD
Chadds Ford, PA


I’m afraid I must pick this bone. The Dark Knight is not an Eli. He went to Princeton (and dropped out). Only small-screen Batman would have cheered for the Bulldogs. Indeed, the Dark Knight has Tiger blood.

Michelle Cormie ’03JD
Denver, CO

It is true that there are several suggestions of Batman’s alleged attendance at that other school in the 2005Batman Begins film, though the film indicates that he did not graduate with a degree. The diploma visible in the 1974 comic book we featured last issue was from Yale Law School. So it is possible that Batman has both Bulldog and Tiger blood.—Eds.


Return of ROTC?

Your March/April article “A Return to ROTC?” caught my attention. I spent four years at Yale learning to use my brain to get ahead. But my father, Class of 1940, captain of both the soccer and basketball teams during his senior year and still feisty today at 93, was proud of my staying in ROTC, so I was one of four who hung on until the bitter end of Army ROTC. I spent the next four years on active duty learning how to be part of a team. These eight years added up to an extraordinary education, the totality of which I wish more people could experience. However, I must admit that what makes me proud is our daughter’s service in the Peace Corps.

Tom Erickson Jr. ’71
Wallingford, PA


I was disappointed to read that Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust has recently pledged to pursue “Harvard’s full and formal recognition of ROTC” in light of the Senate vote repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” I was disappointed because, as possibly the last officer commissioned out of Yale’s ROTC program, I have long hoped that Yale would beat Harvard in returning ROTC to campus.

The Army certainly did not then and does not now need a handful of Yale cadets to fill its officer ranks. However, the importance of having a military commanded by officers from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, including graduates of elite civilian universities, is enormous. So too is the importance of having officers who, while thoroughly professional, remain at heart civilians, serving for four to six years before returning to their civilian lives. ROTC may be even more important to Yale, providing privileged young men and women the opportunity to work with and come to value a spectrum of Americans whom they would otherwise never meet, while giving back to a country that has given them and their families so much.

Patrick J. Geary ’74PhD
Los Angeles, CA


I lend my voice in support of the return of ROTC to full status at Yale. I spent a fifth of my valuable course load on naval science while a Yale undergraduate and member of the Navy ROTC. Were it not for my ROTC experience at Yale and my subsequent exposure to military law, it’s very questionable whether I would have found myself in the legal profession that has been so rewarding to me for most of my life. While it is impossible for all our citizens to serve in the military, those that do receive invaluable training and interesting experience.

Lloyd E. Williams Jr. ’56
Chicago, IL


My recollection differs a little from your article, which states that the Army and Navy ended their programs in 1970. When I arrived at Yale as a freshman Navy ROTC student in 1968, ROTC was immediately under attack. Those of us in the program were allowed to continue until graduation, but our unit dwindled to only nine members at my graduation in 1972.

As for the concern that there might not be enough interest in ROTC among the students, I submit that the return of Navy ROTC might change that. I only applied to Yale because it offered ROTC. When I arrived at Yale, I didn’t consider myself a Yalie who happened to enroll in ROTC. As far as I was concerned, I was a future naval officer who was given the opportunity to get his education at Yale instead of the Naval Academy.

My experiences were shaped by that and the terrible way our servicemen were treated during the Vietnam War. When politics on campus reached the point where weekly drills in uniform were no longer required, I chose to wear my uniform on drill day. I was also the only one photographed in uniform in the Yale Banner for the Class of 1972. I guess I was thumbing my nose at those with the attitude that serving your country was a bad thing. Perhaps I was also reacting to being spit on once at Yale Station while in uniform.

Despite my later realization that I wasn’t cut out for a career in the Navy, I’m proud of my seven patrols on a missile submarine and thankful for the nuclear power training that gave me a career after I left active duty. It proved to be far more important to my future than attending Yale.

Ray Harris ’72
Macungie, PA


Out of Balance?

As a lifelong sports journalist, I must profess some disappointment at your alarmingly soft account of the Rodarmel brothers’ dubious voyage into the sports paraphernalia marketplace (“A Delicate Balance,” March/April). As a former Yalie, I can fully understand your willingness to soft-pedal Josh Rodarmel’s missteps in marketing a bracelet which promised to deliver some clearly spurious New Age benefits. But as a consumer of the straightforward journalism the Yale Alumni Magazine regularly delivers me, I am nearly appalled. Snake oil salesmen were an accepted, if derided, subclass of an adolescent nation a century and a half ago. But in the twenty-first century, purveyors of fraud who can afford to buy the naming rights to a professional sports arena should have their feet held to the journalistic fire. Allowing Josh Rodarmel the final quote in this tap-dancing account—“It’s been the best learning experience of my life”—is to denigrate the thousands of people who bought into their charade.

Peter Richmond ’76
Millerton, NY


For some odd reason, the movie Bull Durham kept flashing into my head while I read this unintentionally funny yet disturbing article. Granted, in Bull Durham, it was a lady’s garter that did the trick for the star (but erratic) pitcher—but it worked. Of course it worked, because he believed it would work. And I suppose wearing holographic bracelets is somewhat less embarrassing than wearing a garter belt.

Cindy F. Kleiman ’81
Marlboro, NJ


You could have run an article about how Power Balance bands are marketed. You could have run an article about how people buy things: wear what the celebrity wears, think it makes you have Kobe’s skills. But instead the article you chose to run “taught the controversy,” meaning you chose to balance utter nonsense with science and then toss up your hands as though those are equal. The article’s big conclusion is “people can agree to disagree,” and then it actually says, “as so many other products [work] without the imprimatur of Western science.” What? Really? No, the truth is that some people are just plain wrong. This is not acupuncture. This isn’t even a cultural anthropological examination of how preexisting beliefs in voodoo can affect a person who thinks he or she has been cursed. This is total garbage pseudo-science, and a main purpose of a rational mind is knowing the difference. You failed, and you insulted my intelligence in the process. Yale is supposed to be for thinking people, not credulous foolishness.

Jonathan Kurtzman ’79
Brookline, MA


As someone who has worked in the field of holography for many years (with several publications, including a book and chapters in other books), I can assure you that holograms do not “contain frequencies.” How one would prove that holograms react “with the body’s natural energy field” is beyond me. However, given that the author was made to believe by Josh Rodarmel that a piece of plastic made him stronger, I cannot argue with the statement that Josh Rodarmel is “easy to listen to and a persuasive salesman.”

W. Thomas Cathey ’63PhD
Boulder, CO


The Downside of Attitude

With regard to “Same Crime, Unequal Time” in the March/April issue, it occurs to me that there is an alternate explanation besides prejudice for young gay and bisexual teens receiving harsher punishments than straight teens for similar misbehavior. Teens who have the guts to declare themselves as sexually different from the societal norm almost certainly fall into the category that particularly annoys authority figures, which is to say they show “attitude.”

My straight child’s encounter with the justice system suggested that sentencing judges are much more likely to mete out a harsher punishment to a defendant who stands up for him or herself than to the cowed, penitent transgressor. In having the pluck to publicly declare their sexual integrity, these kids are exhibiting a personality that judges feel just begs to be slapped down—not because of their sexual orientation but their supposed defiance of authority.

Sally Birdsall ’72
Greenwich, NJ


A Magical Snowstorm

Your story and photograph “Let It Snow” in the March/April magazine reminded me of another big New Haven snowstorm, which resulted in the infamous St. Patrick’s Day Snowball Fight of 1959—memorable for me since I met my future husband, Jan P. Potterveld ’60, at that event. It must have been magical snow, for we’ve been together ever since.

Ginny Potterveld
Grand Junction, CO


Who Will Teach Them?

“As Budget Cuts Continue, Faculty Jobs Go Unfilled” (March/April) highlights precisely why I have been opposed to the ongoing expansion of Yale College. Yale is currently planning two new residential colleges, which will increase the size of the undergraduate student body by 20 percent. Yet not only is the administration not committing to increasing the faculty by 20 percent, but also, in the article, President Levin appears to say that he is eager to have the faculty shrink. Who does he propose will teach the two new colleges’ worth of students? Graduate employees? Other contingent faculty, like lecturers and adjuncts? Or will class sizes just get bigger? Either way, the things that made my own Yale education so valuable, and with which I regularly entice the applicants I interview—intimate classes and close relationships with eminent research faculty—appear destined to be things of a Yale past.

Jacob Remes ’02
Montreal, Canada

We asked Provost Peter Salovey ’86PhD for a response. He replied, “Our planning has always included increasing the size of the faculty, both ladder and non-ladder, in the areas of Yale College where adding students would create pressure. The ladder faculty has grown by more than 100 professors in the last decade, for instance, and some of this growth is due to the anticipation of the new colleges. Other new appointments to the faculty will be made as well.” Administrators have also said that the proposed colleges will increase the Yale College student body by only 15 percent, as they will also relieve overcrowding in existing colleges.—Eds.


A Coach, and a Mentor

“A Long, Fine Run” (March/April) Properly lauds Mark Young’s exceptional success as a coach and a mentor. But while describing his career as a coach and noting the successes of his athletes, you omit some important facts. First, Mark himself was a brilliant runner, breaking several school records in 1968.

Second, you leave the impression that Mark cared only about the O’Neills and the Donaldsons and his All-Americans. In fact, everyone who came out to run for Yale met with the same coaching, the same mentoring, and the same care, encouragement, and respect.

Steve Finley ’68
New York, NY


Shared Prosperity

Contrary to letter writers in the March/April issue, I fail to see any indication that the authors of “Inequality by Design” (January/February) favor “equality of after-tax income” among Americans. Rather, they recognize that the concentration of wealth among the few highest percentiles over the last few decades means a reduced shot at prosperity for those of us in the middle and lower ranks. The less prosperous we are, the more government services we are likely to need when we lose our jobs or our health insurance, or simply get too old to work. If the government had refrained from redistributing income upward, we wouldn’t now be looking at a need to redistribute it downward.

Richard Hall ’71MDiv 
Red Bank, NJ


It’s tiresome and disappointing to see hackneyed conservative catchphrases showing up in letters in response to Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s essay: “class warfare masquerading as economic policy,” “redistribution of wealth.” And then the huffing and puffing about how much the super-rich have done for Yale, and the false comparison to the assignment of grades in the classroom. Adam Smith figured out nearly 250 years ago that an economy in which the entire citizenry is able to participate in a profitable way is much healthier and more prosperous overall than one in which a great segment of the population is squeezed into poverty. If Americans are doing better than just making ends meet, there is bound to be a larger market for goods and services—and more opportunity for entrepreneurism as well. Perhaps we should look at the issue not as one of redistribution of wealth, but fair and proper distribution of wealth in the first place. If Americans were given proper reward for the wealth that their labor creates, instead of having even their power to ask for it gradually stripped away, we would all be better off.

Peter Conrad ’64, ’68MArch
Kensington, CA


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