Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898 |

Cambridge 02138

 
Faculty diversity, faculty housing, women’s studies, spring

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE, A SKEPTIC’S VIEW

The case against Harvard Medical School’s foray into "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) is much deeper than the mere closed-mindedness implied by Professor Daniel Federman in Craig Lambert’s "The New Ancient Trend in Medicine" (March-April, page 46). The reasons for skepticism are several and compelling. Here are a few concerns:

* In addition to "research and education," a major function of the project is the public promotion, ranging from tacit to explicit, of methods that are both absurd and dangerous.

* Most CAM claims, including several that are taken seriously at Harvard Medical School (HMS), can be discarded on the basis of prior probability, studies already performed, or both.

* It is doubtful that HMS students are being taught how to think critically about these methods. Homeopathy, for example, has about the same likelihood of being a valid theory as does creation science. Yet Dr. Eisenberg has stated that it has been the subject of "good research suggesting positive effectiveness" and considers it worthy of further study.

* The "intellectual shot heard round the world" was a blank. James Reston, by his own account, had neither acupuncture anesthesia nor "intense postoperative pain relieved by acupuncture." There was nothing in his report to suggest a special effect of acupuncture. Other accounts of "acupuncture anesthesia" also fail to support the claim, while demonstrating the gullibility of Western observers.

* Harvard’s will not be "the first clinical model of integrative care within an academic teaching hospital." There are others, the most notable being the "Center for Health and Healing" at the Beth Israel Medical Center of New York. Several of its faculty are featured speakers at the annual Harvard CAM conference. On its website one finds the following: suggestions that autism, ADHD, and learning disorders are caused by routine childhood vaccinations; suggestions that "craniosacral therapy" and homeopathy are useful treatments for these and other diseases; the alarmist claim of ubiquitous but ill-defined "toxins" that is common to naturopaths and other "alternative" practitioners; claims of chiropractic being useful for various visceral conditions, such as PMS and asthma; glowing recommendations of Therapeutic Touch, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other unlikely or untested methods; and more. All of these claims are made prior to any real research, or in spite of the fact that most don’t warrant research at all. Is this what we can expect at Harvard Medical School?

* The real impetus behind the project, candidly admitted by Bernard Osher, is popular demand and the money that inevitably follows. Even the demand has been exaggerated by Eisenberg, who, in his telephone surveys, lumped "self-help groups," "commercial diet," and "lifestyle diet" together with such little used "alternative" methods as homeopathy and naturopathy.

* Nevertheless, the money is there. Does that mean that Harvard should take it? Imagine the biology department being offered a gift for the creation of a division of creation science, complete with an endowed chair. After all, creation science hasn’t been disproved, and it suggests several testable hypotheses that have not been investigated. It is also likely that more Americans believe in some form of it than are willing to accept a godless theory of evolution by natural selection. Why not take the money?

The "complementary and alternative medicine" movement is exactly that: a movement, part political and part quasi-religious, but barely scientific. Harvard’s involvement is cynical and regrettable. The intellectual side of it is merely foolish; it is reminiscent of, and in fact related to, the John Mack "alien abduction" affair. The promotion of dangerous methods is something else altogether: the word "scandal" comes to mind.

Kimball C. Atwood IV, M.D. ’79
Waban, Mass.

 

David Eisenberg responds: Dr. Atwood is mistaken. Scientific inquiry is not the same as advocacy. The mission of Harvard’s new division is: "To facilitate interdepartmental and inter-institutional faculty collaboration for research of complementary and integrative medical therapies." Its success—or failure—will depend on the scientific integrity and innovation of the work performed by faculty members Harvard-wide. Scientific rules of evidence and the peer review system will provide the necessary safeguards to ensure the integrity of this program.

 

FACULTY DIVERSITY

Racism and sexism wear many disguises but among the most insidious and paradoxical is the call for diversity among the faculty at Harvard.

"Faculty Diversity," by Cathy A. Trower and Richard P. Chait (March-April, page 33) espoused the view that the Harvard faculty, as currently constituted, does "not serve the interests of the academy" and concludes that there is a need to act affirmatively to correct this grave deficiency. Such arguments are based solely upon the race and gender of faculty. Such arguments are a priori racist and sexist. And such arguments are wrong.

Over its 350 years, Harvard has evolved into the preeminent research and education institution in the world, producing leaders in liberal scholarship, education, law, medicine, religion, business, and politics. All this despite the alleged inadequacy of a largely white male faculty.

Let me state the obvious: if the vast preponderance of Harvard’s faculty were to remain white and male for the next generation, Harvard would continue much as it has been in past generations. It would continue to sponsor Nobel Prize-winning research, produce Rhodes Scholars, and create world leaders in virtually every field of endeavor. Harvard’s primacy would create benefits trickling down to all men, regardless of race or gender, much as it has for the past three-and-one-half centuries.

The time-tested principle here is that academic quality is the overriding factor which should be considered in faculty appointments. Decisions should be based on research, publications, ability to attract funding, and preeminence in a given field. Harvard should hire the finest scholars. Period. Without regard to increasing diversity. And arguably with the goal of decreasing diversity a bit.

Why decrease diversity? Since World War II, the fraternal nature of Harvard has steadily declined. There has been a loss of culture and collegiality. In pursuing diversity we have weakened the bonds which form naturally when working with those of similar values and upbringing. We have diminished the brotherhood heralded in verse and song as "ten thousand men of Harvard." We have diminished our university.

The academy has a long and honorable history of racial and sexual segregation in higher education. Women’s colleges, black colleges, military academies, and yes, colleges primarily for white men, have flourished and linked generations with proud traditions of achievement and identity. In that era the phrase "Harvard man" was meaningful and connoted excellence of intellect and character. West Point truly meant duty, honor, and country. And ‘Cliffe was synonymous with… women at Harvard. The history of segregated academies’ successes is both far longer and far more distinguished than the unproven diverse academies we move thoughtlessly toward.

In the din of the populist call for diversity in the academy, we must reaffirm the long-proven values of university, of enclaves of kindred spirits whose specialized interests, driven nature, and common backgrounds create a harmonious and synergistic atmosphere for learning and research. Fostering this university should be Harvard’s aim in appointing faculty.

The "diverse university" is oxymoronic in both the linguistic and in the practical sense. Elitism has long been the source of Harvard’s success. Preserving the traditional elitism of our alma mater is a cause to which every alumnus should throng. And should never ever surrender over.

Christopher M. Lohse ’81, A.L.M. ’83
New Haven

 

Many in the academy share the responsibility for reforming the way that faculty members are trained, hired, nurtured, and promoted so that their diversity will more accurately reflect that of the student body and society as a whole.

While it is difficult to disagree with many of Trower’s and Chait’s suggestions for reforming the way tenure is granted, I do take issue with one of their recommendations. They state that "The scholarship of discovery (e.g., conventional research) should not outweigh the scholarship of teaching and service." This statement reflects a one-size-fits-all approach to reforming the tenure system. Rather than dictating a standard ranking for the three major roles of faculty members, why not allow the emphasis to vary at different types of institutions? At a community college or a baccalaureate institution, it is entirely logical that teaching should be at the forefront of the criteria examined when granting tenure. But given the mission and role in society of research-intensive universities such as Harvard or my own institution, it is entirely rational and desirable to give more attention to research activity and its products when evaluating faculty for promotion and tenure.

I am also troubled by the implication that a de-emphasis of research in tenure decisions would serve to promote the racial and gender diversification of the faculty. While it is unclear whether the authors intended this to indicate that minority and female faculty are less capable of being stellar researchers (and I have not had the opportunity to read their book), I would hope that Trower and Chait share the view that individuals of all races and genders, given the proper training, motivation, and support, can be world-class teachers and researchers.

As the authors point out, the AAUP’s 1940 "Statement on Tenure and Academic Freedom" is likely no longer the single model that we should follow in establishing tenure policies in the twenty-first century. Similarly, we should avoid reforms that attempt to apply exactly the same standards to the almost one million faculty members in more than 3,500 higher education institutions nationwide.

Donald E. Heller, Ed.D. ’97
Associate professor and senior research associate, Center for the Study of Higher Education
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pa.

 

One of the most important barriers to diversifying faculty was not presented explicitly enough or with enough emphasis. More than in many other sectors of the economy, academia hires from among the people they know. Many faculty write grants with a person already in mind for the position that will be created. Because human-resources rules require it, we also minimally advertise open positions, but frequently have decided whom we want in advance. And the people existing faculty know look remarkably like themselves.

To the extent that my concern reflects reality, it raises questions about the use of "affirmative action/equal opportunity employer" as a descriptor of university hiring practices. There needs to be more in-depth investigation as to what percentage of faculty hires were ever really available to minorities or even the general pool of eligible candidates.

Douglas Brugge, Ph.D. ’87, S.M. ’88
Assistant professor in the department of
family medicine and community health
Tufts University School of Medicine
Boston

 

I encounter no controversy over the desirability of increasing the representation of able women and minorities in academia, particularly in senior positions in research universities where their numbers remain relatively low. The questions are "Why are the numbers low?" and "What would change the situation?" The authors fail to examine a fundamental factor, difficult to confront because its origins and effective responses are elusive: "What governs career choices?"

Academia offers only one of the many career paths open to the people the article addresses. The tone of the article suggests that we should, in an ideal society, expect women and minorities to find academia just as attractive as the alternatives in medicine, law, business, or government, for example. When those of us now holding senior academic positions were choosing our callings, that was our perception. Is it so? What makes one of these options more preferable than the others? Surely academic science, the aspect I know best, is, relative to other choices, considerably less attractive now than it was 30 years ago, when research support and public attitudes toward science were more favorable. If we are serious about increasing the proportions of women and minorities in the strongest university faculties, we must devote at least as much attention to understanding why these groups choose other careers as we devote to examining the particular unattractive aspects of academic sociology that the authors identify.

The authors pay special attention to the issue of tenure; understanding this procedure requires asking why it was instituted. The fundamental reason for academic tenure, to ensure that at least those people who have it can express unpopular or controversial or socially unacceptable ideas, remains as valid as it ever was. President Nathan M. Pusey came to Harvard as a defender of academic freedom in the era of Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. It is not difficult to envision future periods of threat to open, critical thought. Tenure is one of the very few defenses we have for addressing this essential concern. Reform the ways we make tenure decisions? Perhaps. Do away with tenure? Not unless we are ready to surrender our right to challenge dogma, and I fervently hope that never happens.

R. Stephen Berry ’52
Franck distinguished service professor,
Department of chemistry, University of Chicago
Chicago

 

IF MICHELANGELO HAD SPOKEN

I write to correct a misrepresentation of my views regarding the conservation of the paintings in the Sistine Chapel ("Impermanent Art," January-February, page 12). I believe it was a sensitive and successful treatment that revealed the intended grandeur of Michelangelo’s conception.

The Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard University Art Museums records the attitudes of living artists toward their materials and the restoration of their work so that succeeding generations of conservators, among other scholars, will be informed of the artist’s intent. Such documentation will enable future participation of the artist’s voice in controversies such as the one that surrounded the most recent cleaning of Michelangelo’s frescos. The program of documenting artists’ thoughts about conservation through interviews began at the Menil Collection in Houston and was sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Carol Mancusi-Ungaro
Director, Center for the Technical Study of
Modern Art, Harvard University Art Museums
Cambridge

 

HOMELESS AT HARVARD

It is wonderful to see the University respond to the housing crisis by acquiring a Cambridgeport development ("Down by the River," March-April, page 75). As you note, rapidly rising house prices have brought in their wake something of a faculty diaspora, with more recent additions to Harvard’s ranks often living farther and farther away, a fact that not only erodes student-faculty interaction outside the classroom but corrodes collegiality as well.

Of still greater concern, however, is the challenge of recruiting outstanding scholars in the first place: witness the relatively low "yield" on senior offers at a time when the institution’s declared goal is to add to the ranks of its teaching faculty. Apartments and town houses with one to two bedrooms are just fine for young couples with at most a single child, but will, I imagine, be of little, if any, interest to faculty in their late thirties and forties who come with larger families and who, in addition, need at least one, perhaps even two, home offices. If the institution’s apparent desire to recruit up-and-coming scholars in large numbers is ever to be realized, the University will have to act much more aggressively. I say this as a recent arrival who looked at well in excess of 100 houses during a year and a half before finally finding a home—not exactly the most fruitful way to integrate oneself into a new institution.

Jeffrey Hamburger
Professor of history of art and architecture
Cambridge

 

STUDYING WOMEN’S STUDIES

Arianne R. Cohen ’03 writes ("The Undergraduate: A Woman’s Studies," March-April, page 78) that as a women’s studies concentrator she has no good answer to the question "what exactly do you study?" but that she enjoys her schoolwork immensely. I don’t want to be uncharitable, but I feel compelled to point out that this is hardly a justification for an academic field. I would have immensely enjoyed being allowed to take my degree in Monty Python or model trains, but I don’t think that that alone would justify academic programs in those fields. An academic discipline is supposed to be clearly about something, to produce new and meaningful knowledge, to progress in some discernible direction, and to involve efforts of reasoning and scholarship (as opposed to mere verbal obfuscation and the use of buzzwords like "identity" and "deconstruction").

I’m also prompted to write this by reports in the Crimson of a brewing movement at Harvard to create a "queer studies" program [see "Toward Gender and Sexuality Studies?"], another field whose credibility seems to me very dubious. Belonging to a group of people who have been mistreated, no matter how heinously, doesn’t automatically make one virtuous. In particular it doesn’t make one immune from laziness. Therefore it’s not surprising that some should jump at the chance of making an easy academic living by talking about "identity," or that they should try to scare away criticism with accusations of bigotry. But opposing this scheme has nothing to do with homosexual rights or gender equality. It’s simply about sticking to the notion that a university education at a place like Harvard should be about meaningful understanding through hard work, for members of traditionally oppressed groups as much as for everybody else.

Alejandro Jenkins ’01
Pasadena, Calif.

 

CRIMSON UNRAVELS WOVEN HOSE

Harvard’s 1898 baseball team may have lost two out of three to Yale ("Spring Sampler," March-April, page 42), but it was a notable year in the team’s history for other reasons. The 1898 team played the last baseball game on Holmes Field (now the site of the Law School), beating Woven Hose 25-2 on April 12. The team then took the first of what is now the traditional "southern trip," competing against the University of North Carolina, Virginia, Catholic University, Georgetown, Washington College, and Columbia. Reports state that the trip provided little time for practice, but that "much nonsense was indulged in" and that everyone had a wonderful time. The team returned to Cambridge to play the first game at their new permanent headquarters on Soldiers Field, beating Dartmouth 13-7 on April 27. The move meant the end of informal morning practices, but allowed the team to use the new Carey Cage during spring showers and dress in the Locker Building, as well as play on a spacious diamond with a turf covering.

The catcher in the picture is William T. Reid ’01, who played four years for the Crimson and captained the 1901 team.

Warren M. "Renny" Little ’55
Cambridge

 

SHAD GONE WEST

The American shad is mentioned in "Spring Sampler" as an Atlantic-coast fish. I am pleased to report that an apparently identical fish is doing well in the Pacific, for example at Castle Rock, above Portland, on the Columbia River, where I bought a big one with large amounts of roe from an Indian for five dollars. The Britannica says that the American shad was introduced into the Pacific Ocean in 1871 and now ranges from San Diego to British Columbia.

Harry B. Ditmore, M.D. ’53
Portland, Ore.

 

UPPERCASE POET

In "Spring Sampler," you make the common mistake of writing the name of E. E. Cummings ’15 in all lower case, as "e.e. cummings ’15," I suppose because he wrote much of his poetry in lower case. When I wrote to him in 1960 to invite him to lecture at Quincy House, he wrote back in lower case but signed his name with capital E, E, and C. And on the address side of the postcard, along with the 3¢ stamp, he typed "EECummings" quite clearly.

Jay M. Pasachoff ’63, Ph.D. ’69
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Cambridge

 

MAN WITH A BOUTONNIERE

With sadness I read about the passing of Dean Burriss Young (March-April, page 87). He had a gift for practicing random acts of kindness; twice he touched my freshman year with his generosity.

One evening, I had the flu and could not make the snowy trek from Mower to the Union. That night, to my surprise, a warm bowl of split-pea soup curiously made its way up to my room, carried by my proctors. Courtesy of Dean Young.

Later that year, eating dinner at Iru—a before the Freshman Formal, I realized that I had forgotten to buy my date a boutonnière. Just then, someone at the next table motioned for me to come over. Dean Young.

"I believe that you forgot something," he said. Like a magician, he produced from his pocket a perfect, red rose. I gratefully took it, but I was stumped. On my way to the dance I wondered how Dean Young happened to have one. Did he always carry a supply on formal nights for hapless freshmen like myself?

Throughout the years, I glimpsed Dean Young from afar, crossing Prescott Street. With his pipe and British hunting cap, his charming figure forged a visual bridge to Harvard’s glorious past. I will forever remember him for his part in making my days at Harvard magical.

Years later I solved the mystery of the rose: the boutonnière that Dean Young had given me was, in fact, his own.

Leticia M. Sanchez ’98
San Marino, Calif.

 

CAPTION CONFUSION

One of your captions to the Abbe Museum photographs was not correct ("A Woodsplint Basket," March-April, page 50). The man working at a splint horse is not a Passamaquoddy at Point Pleasant. His name is Donald Sanipass, he is Mi’kmaq, and the photograph was taken at the Abbe Museum in 1989. The Passamaquoddy reservation is Pleasant Point, not Point Pleasant. The Passamaquoddy name is Sipayik.

Rebecca Cole-Will
Curator, Abbe Museum
Bar Harbor, Me.

 

LESSONS BY BOBBY JONES

As a longtime admirer of Robert Tyre Jones Jr. ’24, I was delighted to see the tribute by Craig Lambert ("Vita," March-April, page 44). Although Jones’s Crimson exploits appear pale in comparison to his other golfing accomplishments, he made his mark in several ways. The six varsity players who lost to him in an exhibition match went on to post an undefeated 10-0 record in intercollegiate play, part of a four-year run through 1927 in which the team lost only four matches. This was the golden era of Ivy League golf, whose players captured every individual national championship from 1897 to 1925, including eight by Harvard linksters. Ironically, it was Bobby Jones’s longtime friend from East Lake and fellow Georgia Tech player, Watts Gunn, who helped break the skein in 1927. We all can be justly proud of this son of Harvard, who taught us how to play the lies we are dealt both on and off the golf course.

Philip K. Curtis, J.D. ’71, M.B.A. ’74
Atlanta