Letters to the Editor

Zakaria’s plagiarism problems

According to an article in your most recent issue (“Trustee Steps Down over Plagiarism Episode,” November/December), Fareed Zakaria ’86 wrote an article for Time magazine in which he “credited the book’s author—but not the New Yorker, where, earlier in the year, Jill Lepore ’95PhD had published a nearly identical paragraph about the book.”

Plagiarism involves intentional duplication without credit. Zakaria asserted that he “had confused his notes from Lepore’s article with his notes from the book.” But you claim that Zakaria “was discovered to have lifted another writer’s paragraph” and you attempt to draw an analogy between an undergraduate’s “uncredited cutting and pasting” and what Zakaria has acknowledged to have done.

It seems to me this is somewhat unfair to a rather notable former Yale trustee and below the level of journalism one would prefer in a Yale alumni magazine.
Philip Foster ’74PhD, ’75MSL
New York, NY

Your article on Fareed Zakaria was as feckless as Yale has been on this matter.

Agreed: when a sophomore intentionally plagiarizes, a reprimand (or worse) is justified. But Zakaria didn’t intentionally plagiarize. He made an editorial error and then, appropriately, retracted the resulting misattribution.

To reward Zakaria for taking exactly the right corrective action as quickly as possible, Yale accepted the further, unnecessary, and obviously forced measure of Zakaria’s resignation from the Yale Corporation. In this way, Yale has (a) lost the loving labor of a loyal and effective leader, (b) honored perception over principle, and (c) shown the Yale community that Yale’s leadership is easily manipulated by impulse and circumstance. Zakaria deserved better, and Yale should know better.
Gam Rose ’86
Falls Church, VA

As our article indicated, Yale’s definition of plagiarism includes both intentional and accidental uses of someone else’s words without citation. We did not mean to imply by our use of the word “lifted”—or anything else in the article—that Zakaria’s plagiarism was intentional.—Eds.

Flawed perspectives

Having lived and worked in Ghana and West Africa for several years, I noted the recent Association of Yale Alumni service trip to Yamoransa, and I read your account with great interest (“Far from Home, Briefly,” November/December).

While I appreciate Shufro’s and the volunteers’ concern that their short stint might not make a sustained impact, I believe a greater worry—hinted at in a quotation from Professor Daniel Magaziner—is that the trip and article constitute a troubling narrative that accentuates Western rather than African agency in Africa.

The article’s first three paragraphs repeatedly tell us Ghanaians “are waiting,” a boy “waits eagerly,” and patients “await” the Yale volunteers. A patient “is lying motionless” before an alum doctor, and the group anxiously asks whether, without their presence, anything can happen at all: “where will Yamoransans get follow-up medical care […]? Will anyone finish building the center? Will Yale come back next year?”

AYA executive director Mark Dollhopf says there are issues “far too complex for us to address in a week’s time” and the piece relays a professor’s assertion that “our most important contribution [would be] to convey that people in Yamoransa matter, including to the outside world”—remarks that betray a presumption of ex officio alumni privilege to address the issues of others and to speak on their behalf, if not, like Columbus and North America, to discover and proclaim their existence.

I term writing like this “erasure journalism,” because the effect is to largely remove Africans from the African landscape and replace them with Westerners. Westerners become the story of Africa, while Africans are reduced to, in the words of novelist Uzodinma Iweala, “props in the West’s fantasy of itself.”

Even the few quotations granted Yamoransans affirm the narrative: A local teacher wants “to learn something new from my brothers,” and a student “plan[s] to become like [a Yale alum] in the future.”

I have no doubt the AYA service trip provided a mutually enjoyed cross-cultural exchange for alums and Ghanaians alike, but such trips and accompanying reportage risk replicating and reinforcing ugly themes about Westerners in Africa. The AYA and readers should concern themselves less with “sustainability” and more with the narrative of Africa they are asked to negotiate. There are other narratives of Africa—ones in which Africans have agency over their own lives and are the primary presence in their own landscapes. In these, Ghanaians and Africa are not waiting.
Matthew Muspratt ’05MEM
Washington, DC

Another pioneer

I was inspired to write after reading about some of the early PhD ladies who finished at Yale, and about some who finished elsewhere (“The Pioneers,” September/October). I bounced into Yale, it seems.

I felt very lucky to have slipped into graduate work at the Yale Conservation Program. After having been accepted as a graduate student in botany at UCLA, I reneged. In July of 1952, a young Yale faculty lecturer warned me that it would take ten years for a woman to finish a PhD in botany at UCLA. This fellow said his wife had had that experience at UCLA (heavy teaching load, too many jobs required). He said, “Why not come to Yale?” I thought, “Oh dear!” (This was already summer.) On a whim, I did apply, and miraculously, I was admitted to the plant sciences program.

I studied with ecologist Paul B. Sears. At that time, I was the only woman graduate student in the plant sciences department, and there were none in zoology. There were few if any other women graduate students anywhere, except in drama. As a TA in Biology 101, I was amazed to find that a) all my students were male, and that b) they had never had a female teacher before! Of course, all my professors were male.

I completed my PhD in 1955, and I was one of the earliest female graduate students to do so in biological sciences at Yale. All the people in my classes were men. What a nice environment! It was a good experience all the way around.
Estella B. Leopold ’55PhD
Seattle, WA

We’re wondering if the photograph in the November/December Letters to the Editor (labeled “Yale’s first women class”) may be of Grove Hall Seminary women, who also earned diplomas from Yale in the 1870s. My wife’s great-aunt, Julia Flynn Tenney (1854–1925) was a student at Grove Hall Seminary in New Haven during 1866–1875. In June 1872, she earned a music diploma from Yale from studies with Gustave J. Stoeckel, Professor of Music.
David Egloff ’59MS
Susan Tenney Egloff ’60MS
Oberlin, OH

Pan Am lives on

Judith Ann Schiff writes in her article about Juan Trippe ’20S (“The Man Who Shrank the World,” November/December) that Pan American World Airways, the company he founded, went out of business in 1991. She is correct. However, Pan Am did not stay out of business.

In 2006, Guilford Rail System bought the Pan Am corporate name and changed Guilford Rail to Pan Am Railways, which includes the former Boston and Maine, Maine Central, and Springfield Terminal railroads. More recently, Pan Am entered a joint venture with Norfolk Southern to create Pan Am Southern, which is building the “Patriot Corridor,” a high-speed rail line between Rotterdam, New York (near Albany), and Ayer, Massachusetts (near Boston).

The upshot is that Pan Am lives and is flourishing. Its locomotives are being painted in the old Pan Am blue, and the distinctive globe insignia, which used to adorn Pan Am airplanes, is the corporate logo of a thriving railroad company. So Pan Am continues to fly, but on the ground rather than in the air.
Robert Terhune ’53
Austin, TX

States and the unions

“States with a relatively recession-resistant base, such as high-tech or energy extraction, do better, as do states with strong unions.” That’s the last sentence in a piece about research by Jacob Hacker ’00PhD on states having serious economic difficulties (September/October).

A possible correlation, maybe even cause-and-effect relationship, between strong unions and economic security? This last line is a headline! Could a corollary be that the so-called “right-to-work” states should be labeled “right-to-economic insecurity” states? Because he has already amassed much of the data, perhaps Hacker could look for the relationship over the decades between the percentage of the worker population in unions and fluctuations in economic security/insecurity.

I’ve never been a member of a labor union, nor has my family been union. But best I can tell over a lifetime, our boats have been lifted when unions have been strong.
Rev. Gordon A. Seiffertt ’64MDiv
Louisville, KY

The unforgettable class

Harold Bloom described his most memorable courses as a Yale student (“The Class I’ll Never Forget,” July/August). Turnabout being fair play, I enthusiastically cite a seminar with Bloom during the academic year 1961–62 as the most memorable in my nine-year stint at three great universities. The subject was English Romantic poetry, and we essentially read only four poets the entire year—Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats. It took some time at first to become in sync with the then-untenured professor’s extraordinarily sharp critical focus: his devastating comment on a short “practice” paper early in the seminar was, “Mostly avoids reading the poem.” But weekly exposure to his brilliant analysis, assisted by the publication at about the same time of his book The Visionary Company, made most of us infinitely better critics. At the end of the course, when we grateful seminarians presented him with a new briefcase, he smiled with somewhat rueful appreciation while sadly caressing the shambles of its predecessor.

Many years later, I saw Professor Bloom read from a new book at a Harvard Square bookstore. Rather than having him sign a copy of his latest effort, I asked him to autograph the dog-eared and much annotated copy of Blake’s poems that I’d used in that seminar decades earlier. His brooding countenance changed into a broad, heartfelt smile. “Ah,” he exclaimed, “I like Blake!”
Ronald G. Sampson ’63
Boston, MA

Another Olympian

You listed several Yale athletes who medaled in past Olympic Games (“Top Yale Olympians,” July/August). However, you did not include one of Yale’s finest athletes, James Emanuel “Jim” Fuchs ’50, who won bronze medals in 1948 and 1952.

While at Yale, Fuchs won the NCAA and the IC4A shot put events in 1949 and 1950. Between July 1949 and August 1950, he set four world records; his last mark of 58 feet 10 inches (17.95 meters) remained the world record for almost three years. He won the shot put and the discus throw at the 1951 Pan American Games. He also was a fine sprinter. After leaving Yale, where he was also a football star, he won three AAU indoor shot titles (1950–52). During his peak years, Fuchs was invincible, and he had a winning streak of 88 shot put victories.

Handsome Jim could do several one-arm pushups easily, and Life featured his exceptional physique with several (shirtless) sequential photos taken during a shot put demonstration of his personal technique. He played fullback on the Yale football team and was labeled “The Magnificent Wreck” by a well-known New York Times sportswriter after a Yale Bowl game in which Jim powered the ball 40 yards—while leaving a trail of prostrate would-be tacklers—before collapsing in agony from a reinjured knee that bore heavy scarring from surgeries made during his high school football days.

Jim Fuchs is no longer with us, but he is watching.
Ed Nash ’48
Alamogordo, NM

Thanks to Mr. Nash for his tribute to a memorable Yale athlete. Our item on Yale Olympians listed only those eight who had won the most medals. Fuchs was among 12 who missed the cut, with two medals apiece. He’s in good company: that list also includes the great distance runner Frank Shorter ’69 and Eddie Eagan ’21S, who won a gold medal in boxing in 1920 and a gold in bobsled in 1932, making him the only person ever to win gold in both the summer and winter games.—Eds.

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