Letters to the Editor

Yale’s hockey triumph

Readers opine on a hockey triumph, the Singapore college, and more.

Congratulations to Yale and to her hockey team for winning hockey’s collegiate national championship for 2013. The exposure Yale received winning the final game on ESPN is unmeasurable, and last year the Wall Street Journal pronounced that universities with major sport championships realize a marked increase in prospective students forwarding SAT scores for admissions consideration. Possibly this will also help President-elect Salovey, who enjoys conducting the Yale marching band at football games, to raise the monies necessary for our university’s health and future. Boola, Boola!

Edward H. Cook ’57
Oklahoma City, OK

I received the Yale Alumni Magazine with the hockey cover story (“Top Dogs,” May/June) the same day as the parents’ magazine for Quinnipiac, where my daughter is a sophomore. The championship was the cover story for Quinnipiac too, obviously. Both articles were good reads, but I was struck by your unnecessary, and rather disingenuous, dig at QU’s roster being composed of “veterans of the Canadian junior leagues.” I’m not sure if the author of the piece bothered to check Yale’s roster, but, despite the implication in the article, Yale too has a number of players who have spent time playing junior league hockey.

Yes, Yale doesn’t offer athletics scholarships, but let’s be sure to admit how championship teams are made in this day and age. It would be more gracious to discuss how both teams have grown and improved over the years, which was how Quinnipiac’s magazine approached the story.

Sarah Maxim ’82
El Cerrito, CA

Regarding the accomplishments of the hockey team, I would like to know the average age of the players, and when the players entered Yale. Did they enter as freshmen, or transfer at some later time?

Edward Rossmann ’55
Aurora, NY

It is true that 15 of the 25 players on the Yale roster played junior-league hockey, as did all 25 of those on Quinnipiac’s. But QU’s roster included many more veterans of the Canadian leagues (14) than did Yale’s (4). In response to Mr. Rossmann’s questions, the average age of the Yale team on the day of the championship game was 21.5; Quinnipiac’s was 22.5. There was one transfer student on the QU roster, and none on Yale’s.—Eds.

A poet’s journey

Thanks for Mark Oppenheimer’s compelling and moving profile of poet Christian Wiman (“Faith, in Poetry,” May/June). By taking us along on his remarkable journey—both literal and metaphoric—you’ve nudged us to pause and examine our own choices, and our own faiths, and reconsider what so many of us seem to forget as our lives progress: that any and all paths are worth exploring. As any poet refines his work until every word is essential, Wiman’s example reminds us that every second of life, every breath, must be treated as a gift. It’s up to us to follow his lead, and endow meaning to every moment. Congrats to the Institute for Sacred Music for bringing him on. I envy his future students.

Peter Richmond ’76
Millerton, NY

Don’t forget Gibbs

Alongside your story on recent innovations by Yale engineers (“Inventions That Will Help Save the World,” May/June), you mentioned some Yale engineering faculty through the years that made valuable contributions. But you missed an important one: J. Willard Gibbs, Class of 1858, ’63PhD, who did groundbreaking work in thermodynamics while a professor at Yale. All mechanical engineering students studied thermodynamics back when I was a student at Yale. As far as I know, that hasn’t changed, particularly with today’s emphasis on energy, energy production, and energy usage.

Clarke E. Hermance ’58E
Shelburne, VT

The private-school pipeline

I was disappointed to read the short piece about “Yale’s Top Feeder Schools, Then and Now” (Light and Verity, May/June). While it may be notable that more private schools are represented among Yale’s recent classes, far more significant is that private school students still make up 44 percent.

If Yale wants to claim to serve the best and the brightest, not just the rich and privileged, it has a long way to go. A recent report from the Century Foundation found that 70 percent of students at America’s most selective colleges come from the wealthiest quarter of American families. That’s despite the fact that many of the nation’s highest-achieving students come from poor families. Yale can, and must, do better.

Hilary Appelman ’86
State College, PA

Levin’s parting words

That Yale’s outgoing president chose to devote his final interview with the Yale Alumni Magazine (“Exit Interview,” May/June) to Yale-NUS College in Singapore ought to underline to alumni as little else could what a troubling distraction to Yale this project has proved. After 20 years on the job and a record of great accomplishment in leading our large university, President Levin opted not to speak about the foundation for the future of Yale itself that he has laid, but rather about the university’s work as the contractor for the government of Singapore in establishing a small undergraduate college on the other side of the world from New Haven.

The May 2 report of President Levin’s own Yale Faculty Advisory Committee on Yale-NUS College acknowledged concerns about the diversion of administrative and faculty effort from its proper focus in New Haven to work in support of the Singapore project. This is to say nothing about concern at Yale and cynicism beyond about the apparently inflated applicant numbers for the new college. These numbers must be understood in the context of the ability of applicants to Yale College simply to tick a box on their Yale applications in order to be counted as applicants to Yale-NUS, without even composing a supplementary paragraph or two to explain their interest in the possibility of attending the new college.

Senior members of the Yale faculty have also called attention to denigration of Yale and its offerings on the part of Yale faculty and administrators involved in promotion of the Yale-NUS College. And, sure enough, your readers now find President Levin criticizing what he sees as the excessive narrowness of Yale College majors in contrast to the broad, interdisciplinary majors in the new college. Might it not be fair to ask why, if he considered undergraduate majors at Yale too narrow, he failed to effect their broadening during his years in Woodbridge Hall? Must he really use an interview on the merits of the Yale-NUS College to run Yale down?

Further, President Levin alludes in his interview to “explicit provisions in our agreement,” referring to the contract between Yale and Singapore’s government. But, despite widespread concern over the continued secrecy relating to that agreement (which has inevitably led to rumors, including the suspicion that it includes the option of offering joint Yale/NUS degrees at some stage), he offers no explanation for the need to conceal from Yale alumni and other stakeholders in the university the details of what Yale has committed itself to in Singapore. We must hope that President Peter Salovey will meet with all parties to this crisis in an effort to resolve it before it does any more damage to Yale and to Yale alumni’s confidence in our university’s leadership.

Michael Montesano ’83
Ixelles, Belgium

Continuing education

I am a nontraditional student, like Michael Jacobs (“A CEO Goes Back to School,” May/June). I graduated from Yale and Cornell medical school and practiced psychiatry until I retired last year. In 2004, I started to study Italian at the local community college, and I continued at SUNY–Stony Brook until I earned my master’s degree in 2011. This inspired me to resume studying French, which I had taken from fifth grade until my last semester at Yale, although I didn’t major in it.

Now I am in another MA program at Stony Brook. I have been enjoying life as a student again over the past nine years. It is very interesting to see how much has changed (like needing a computer for everything I do) and how little has changed (like finding novel ideas in literature). The professors enjoy having a student older than themselves to give a different perspective on whatever is being discussed. No one else in one of my French classes knew who Brigitte Bardot was!

Bill Packard ’72
Shelter Island Heights, NY

Another Hammon scholar

I was delighted to see your article on the newly discovered poem by Jupiter Hammon (“An Enslaved Poet on Slavery,” May/June). As editor of America’s First Negro Poet; Jupiter Hammon of Long Island, a collection of Hammon’s works, I too have been looking everywhere for his poems. And there it was in Sterling Library!

My book was published in 1970, when “negro,” not “black,” was the “approved” name for African Americans, hence the title. I was at that time director of the Huntington, Long Island, public library and came across references to Hammon, who had lived nearby on Lloyd Neck. I researched his poetry in Long Island, New York, and Hartford libraries for five years before publishing the book, which received a certificate of commendation from the American Association for State and Local History. The book went into a second edition in 1983 and is now out of print.

To honor Hammon’s efforts in publishing his own works (albeit with help from his friends), I created Black Poetry Day on Hammon’s birthday, October 17. The first celebration of this national event was in 1970. It still continues as a special event at Plattsburgh State University and other venues, including military bases. I encourage the recognition of this event to inspire young black poets and writers to continue their creative efforts.

The only previously known example of Jupiter Hammon’s handwriting appears in an inscription on one of the poems published in Hartford, Connecticut. This new example shows his writing ability and demonstrates the concern he felt about slavery, which was not evident in his 1787 “Address to the Negroes of the State of New York.” Thanks to the Yale University Library for keeping this remarkable document safe and ready for scholars to use.

Stanley A. Ransom ’51
Plattsburgh, NY

Who’s right on climate change?

After reading your article about Michael Mann (“The Most Hated Climate Change Scientist in the World Fights Back,” March/April), I anticipated a deluge of alumni opinion, both pro and con. I share the view of Robert K. Adair, Sterling Professor of Physics, Emeritus (Letters, May/June). Notwithstanding the breast-beating in the article about Mann’s getting a “bad rap,” the report did not deign to present any contrary opinions advanced by other eminent scientists. I would have hoped for a more balanced presentation in your magazine.

Regrettably, the climate-change issue has been totally politicized. It’s impossible for me to sort out whether we’re dealing with evidence-based policy making or the reverse—that is, policy-based evidence making, or what I call “cherry picking.”

Bottom line: we have the “gloom-and-doom” camp versus those who argue that we’re dealing with “belief disguised as science.” It’s almost like some religious dispute during the Medieval Ages!

Incidentally, we’re also dealing with a matter of priorities. Millions of people still lack access to basic life necessities such as clean water, decent sanitation facilities, rudimentary road systems, and medical care. It’s presumptuous for elitist groups, particularly in the United States—a country which only comprises about 1.6 percent of the earth’s surface—to be touting solar panels and wind farms in the Third World.

Ted Robinson ’63
Bedford, NY

Equal justice?

They say that history repeats itself as a grotesque. I think Yale University just proved that point in its treatment of John Darnell (“Professor Suspended over Affair with Student,” March/April). There is a story from almost 2000 years ago, when a woman was brought to Jesus “caught in the very act of adultery” and the religious leaders demanded that Jesus punish her. The irony is, of course, that they only brought the woman and not the man, and it is only the woman who is being punished. As if she was committing adultery with herself.

Darnell had an affair with a student, who has since become an associate professor. It seems to me that she had to know that having an affair with a staff member is wrong. So why punish only one party?

Don’t get me wrong—I think both should be sanctioned. Right now it seems that one professor is punished, and the other one gets away with it.

Rev. Kazimierz Bem ’10MDiv, ’11STM
Marlborough, MA

For the record, although anonymous sources told the Yale Daily News that the student with whom Darnell admitted to having an “intimate relationship” is now a Yale faculty member, neither Yale nor the parties involved have confirmed this. Also, it should be noted that such a relationship—between a faculty member and a graduate student he or she is supervising—is a violation of faculty rules, but not student rules.—Eds.

Forgotten research

The article “Ah Yes, I Remember It Well,” (Findings, March/April) opens with the absolutely false statement that “both the justice system and the mental health profession work under the assumption that a person’s recollection of a recent and particularly traumatic event is both accurate and indelible.” As a psychology major and career trial attorney I remember well that everybody, not just some people, has difficulty accurately remembering anything under any circumstances. Under cross-examination it is the norm rather than the exception that witnesses do not accurately recall what they said one minute ago or even the pending question.

Eyewitness testimony is easily debunked by even relatively amateurish questioning. I remember studies published in the 1950s and ’60s demonstrating the same phenomenon that Professor Morgan finds so startling. Morgan joins a long list of young clinicians and researchers who apparently do not bother to review the index to periodicals of their chosen specialty.

As for the US Navy’s recent study conducted in a mock prisoner-of-war camp, this same information formed a part of my undergraduate paper on brainwashing in 1965, based on extant studies of actual former prisoners of war in Korea. This recent research is not only a waste of time, but also a waste of taxpayer money.

James Luce ’66
Los Altos, CA