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Letters

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Final clubs, comparing campuses, reading Greek

July-August 2016

DNA Drawing

Your discussion of using gene drives to combat malaria was very even-handed (“Editing an End to Malaria?” May-June, page 37); but DNA is, and must be, right-handed in the twist of its helix. Alas, on your very clever cover illustration it is left-handed, although in another fine picture on page 55 you got it right.

Jim Haber ’65
Wayland, Mass.

Editor’s note: Other correspondents made the same point about our supervision of the cover illustration by artist Pete Ryan. Author Jon Shaw amplifies:

Since DNA’s structure was not part of my biology instruction in school, I had to look it up. Distinguishing left-handed from right-handed DNA is not intuitive even with both versions in front of you, and even when you know DNA is supposed to be right-handed. Maybe that is why this error occurs even in science journals and textbooks—especially on covers. For example, see www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775190 on nucleosomes, which are left-handed (it also refers to errors in depicting DNA). An image with incorrect chirality recently appeared on the cover of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. (Finding these errors has become a game for some people.) Chirality (handedness) in molecules affects their biological activity, among other important consequences. Some DNA is left-handed; but right-handed “B-DNA” is the common form.

 

As a 1971 GSAS alum and one-time teaching assistant to James D. Watson, I was dismayed to see Harvard Magazine fall into the DNA Hall of Shame by depicting DNA as left-handed double helix, when in fact its normal form, depicted in Watson and Crick’s 1953 paper, is right-handed. Many graphic artists, unlike plumbers or machinists, are poorly educated in three-dimensional geometry, and don’t understand the difference. Indeed, it is my impression that they get the chirality wrong slightly more than half the time, perhaps because they think it looks prettier that way. 

Charles H. Bennett, Ph.D. ’71
Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

 

Robots and Joblessness

Self-checkout at Home Depot and supermarkets permanently removes entry-level jobs. ATMs have permanently removed teller positions. While unrelated to robotics but similar in effect, movement of manufacturing offshore has permanently (likely) removed tens of thousands of working-class jobs (“Who Owns the Robots Rules the World,” by Richard B. Freeman, May-June, page 37). The effect of all this rests nearly entirely on the tens of millions of people without degrees or advanced training. Retraining has not worked for these people. There are simply too many.

Robotics is inevitable. More working-class job losses will come. The effect will further increase the wealth gap between rich and poor, with dire consequences for the nation. Sharing of the wealth effects of robotics with the few workers left will not happen any more than sharing between management and workers occurs now. I suggest that you add homeless waiters and waitresses begging for cash to your depiction.

Paul Gaboury, M.B.A. ’80
Acton, Mass.

 

The article by Richard Freeman contains a logical flaw that renders its remedy ineffectual. He states: “In international trade, comparative advantage explains why a highly productive country does not ‘steal’ jobs from a less productive country. Instead, both countries benefit by specializing in sectors in which they have a relative advantage.” Freeman then claims “comparative advantage” also explains why robots will not “steal” jobs from humans. “If a robot is twice as efficient as a human at driving a car, for example, but only 50 percent more efficient at picking blueberries, the robot would do the driving, while the humans would pick the blueberries.”

But underlying the theory of comparative advantage in international trade is the assumption that the population in a highly productive country is not going to expand into a less productive country and thus will not take all the jobs in both countries. Unfortunately, that assumption can’t be made for robots, the population of which is essentially limitless and borderless.

Freeman admits to this contradiction when he later refers to “armies” of robots. When there are “armies” of robots, then in his example, they will do the driving and pick the blueberries, because they can do both and are better at both.

This flaw undermines his remedy—policies that would encourage employees to be able to “share...in the ownership of the machines that replace them at work.” It is questionable whether those former employees’ shares of the “prosperity that the robots produce” will equal or exceed the loss of earnings at their former jobs. Further, when there is no limit to the extent to which robots will displace employees, then there will be an ever shrinking number of employees left to share in an ever increasing amount of prosperity.

The combination of these factors will likely result in the same concentration of wealth in a few owners that Freeman’s ineffectual remedies seek to avoid. I look forward to his offer of his robot assistant, who “will report shortly on what we should do.”

Gordon Bennett ’68
Inverness, Calif. 

 

Richard Freeman’s “Who Owns the Robots…” pinpoints one challenge facing humankind. Productivity improvements create wealth, which we must find a way to distribute fairly. What he and most others overlook is the opportunity created. Previously, we toiled to reach our aspirations; our abilities have now rocketed beyond our goals.

Reconsider our species from a cosmic viewpoint; we are aggregating into a new organism of interconnected beings and technologies. One researcher controls another’s hands to play videogames, via direct brain interface. We peer around the Earth via undersea optical-fiber neurons connected across WiFi synapses. Petaflop cameras halt photons in flight to reveal patterns within chaos. We reach inside cells to manipulate the instructions of life. We replace body parts with metals. Our brains rely on networks of the information Universe.

What we are missing is mission. We are gods without goals. As we awake to our intertwined existence, we will visualize new aspirations. Hopefully, we will awaken to the value of every person comprising Us. Our vast productivity will gain purpose. Purpose will guide individuals’ work and compensation.

My robot company’s resources first focused on how to autonomously navigate. But then, we built an interface for ordinary people. When we removed programmers from the loop, we created jobs. More people could use it. Can one person manage a fleet of autonomous Ubers? That leaves thousands to clean up trash in the ocean, driving deep-sea drones.

Jeanne Dietsch, MC/M.P.A. ’13
Founder of MobileRobots Inc., and former U.S. chair of
IEEE’s Robotics & Automation Society
Peterborough, N.H.

 

Economics professor Freeman cites evidence that robots appear to be hastily taking all kinds of jobs and asks, “Is this a legitimate worry, or a groundless fear?”  

Why should it be either? Shouldn’t we be relishing the prospect of robots doing work people would otherwise do? Of course, Freeman is far from the only one who frames the robot issue this way, but that only adds to the urgency of a more troubling concern: How impoverished must our imaginations be—how diminished our senses of political opportunity—to see the robot takeover of work as something bad?  

What I fear is that today’s education in economics functions to shrink one’s imagination. Economists tend to be completely blind to all but a tiny sliver of the forms that social life and economic arrangements can take.  Forget the robots. I worry that the surge in recent decades of the numbers of economics majors, and of the influence of the field, represents a major threat to our ability to collectively imagine a better future.  

Matthew McFeely, J.D. ’12
Brooklyn

 

Final Clubs

The punitive policy announced recently by the dean of Harvard College and President Drew Faust must be a crushing disappointment to all alumni who believed in Harvard as an enduring bastion of free inquiry and association [see page 27 and harvardmag.com/finalclub-16 and harvardmag.com/fallout-16]. I cannot fathom how such an ill-advised, and, in the real world, constitutionally suspect policy apparently didn’t attract the concern of the Corporation, Board of Overseers, or University counsel. Harvard should not be positioned on this slippery slope of social engineering if it hopes to maintain its core integrity.

Philip Stockton ’62
Miami

 

As a graduate member of the Owl Club, I believe Dean Rakesh Khurana’s proposal to penalize students who are members of any final club which is not co-ed is the epitome of hypocrisy, logically flawed, and completely misguided.

It is hypocritical because the University discriminates on a massive scale. It just discriminated against 35,000 applicants by rejecting them based on arbitrary admission criteria. It discriminates against applicants of Asian descent who typically need SAT scores over 100 points higher than those of white applicants in order to be accepted. It now is discriminating against members of final clubs because the University will not apply the policy to all other single-sex organizations, including the South Asian Men’s Collective and the Association of Black Harvard Women.

It is logically flawed because, to be consistent, the University should penalize any non-affiliated single-sex organization and yet no plans have been announced to deny admission to students who attend a single-sex high school, or who are members of the Boy or Girl Scouts. It also is logically flawed because even if the final clubs were to become co-ed, those not selected still would feel excluded and disempowered. Meanwhile, how are final clubs any different from the University’s athletic teams? The athletic teams are single-sex organizations that foster values in the locker rooms that are virtually identical to those of the final clubs: friendship, shared experiences, and bonding.

The reality is it is impossible for any institution to function without discriminating, hence, the reason Harvard rejects 35,000 applicants. Furthermore, not all discrimination is bad. Harvard discriminates when it assigns students to single-sex roommate groups. Consequently, the University’s attempt to eliminate sexual discrimination is misguided and diminishes the freedoms of students who voluntarily choose to join any single-sex organization. 

Students would be far better served if the University focused instead on making them aware of the many forms of discrimination, both good and bad, and on educating them on how to deal with being discriminated against.

Michael Erickson ’74
Corte Madera, Calif.

Editor’s note: Claims concerning admission of Asian-American applicants are matters for debate in current litigation and in the contested Overseers’ election, not settled fact. The SAMC and ABHA are officially recognized student groups (as the final clubs are not), and thus required to be open to any members of a different gender who may wish to join.

 

When I left Kansas for Cambridge in 1955, it was my first trip east of the Mississippi River. I had never heard of the final clubs. Of course I leaned about them soon enough, and ended up joining one as a sophomore, where I made many of my closest friends. Although I have contributed regularly to the College, and hardly at all to the club, I remain intensely loyal to both. So I am thrown into painful conflict by the administration’s plan to blackmail the clubs. Luckily, I’m not a future sophomore who will be subject to manipulation in the cause of gender integration.

Richard H. Seaton ’59
Manhattan, Kans.

 

I was pleased that Harvard supports free speech with its eloquent defense of the indefensible Black Mass, yet dismayed when she rejects support of free association that was done under a fashionable cover of some nebulous “sexual assault” and gender issues. Harvard has been after the final clubs ever since an eighteenth-century Hollis Hall proctor couldn’t catch a porker. The left chimed in in the twentieth century when Porcellian built their own logo-encrusted gate to the Yard and and later even blackballed FDR for membership. Evoking flimsy data implying that the clubs are a breeding ground for white privilege, rapes, and misogyny is an enterprise unworthy of Harvard. But the administration was just warming up for the finale with threats of expulsion and Title IX issues if the clubs only had urinals. With over two centuries of this, it is likely that the Administration will once again find no ‘porc’ on its plate, and then they can focus on the immediate need—the lack of intellectual diversity amongst the faculty.

Peter McKinney ’56
Chicago

 

Yet another blow against free association. Totalitarian liberalism at work.

Martin Comack, A.L.M. ’94
Somerville, Mass.

 

During my years in Cambridge (1962-66), the House system proved a blessing. From the students and faculty in Winthrop I learned more about the world—and about myself—than during any other phase of my life. A Southerner from the lower middle class, I had no interest in the exclusive clubs so deeply cherished by the rich preppies. Nevertheless, in Winthrop I met several preppies who hadn’t been accepted by Eliot, the favorite haunt of their ilk. What a delightful contrast! Eager to know about the Deep South, they asked, for example, if we never wore shoes. (During the summer, no Alabama boy would be caught dead wearing shoes except in church, though we always carried tweezers in our pockets to pluck cockleburs from the soles of our feet.) In return I learned of ritzy yachts, summer homes in the Catskills, expensive new cars received as a birthright—insights I would have never gained without their friendship.

During our fiftieth reunion, I was shocked to learn that President Faust hopes to blackmail those clubs out of existence. Blackmail—what a mean, tyrannical, petty-minded act! That such venom came from an honored and trusted authority nauseates me. She insists the clubs somehow “threaten” the House system. What balderdash! Harvard has prospered for hundreds of years with them on the campus, and without her meddling they will endure for hundreds more.

I suspect Faust’s scheme is nothing but a power play to flex her political muscle. If the trustees cave in to her demand, I hope all the bright, tuition-paying preppies go to Yale instead, and those who award Rhodes scholarships cross Harvard off their list. It would serve Her Majesty right.

John Gamel ’66
Louisville, Ky.

 

Gen Ed

General Education (“General Education Reconstituted,” May-June, page 31) is different because it is general. Its goals are complementary: every student must learn to critically evaluate the advice of physician or accountant or tennis coach, while at the same time the future physician or accountant or coach must learn to think critically in crafting that advice.

In Gen Ed, differences are less important than similarities: for example, my university, where I am heavily involved in the Gen Ed program, has many more undergraduate clinical and professional programs than Harvard. No matter: Gen Ed is general, so we can compare. Harvard now joins us (and many other universities) in what I call the “charm bracelet” model: critical thinking, ethics, and cultural sensitivity dangle as discrete trophies next to the Empire State Building and Yellowstone Park.

I prefer the model in which Gen Ed is a core institutional value rather than an external decoration. In this model, every course in every discipline advances the wider goals of Gen Ed, especially when far from the liberal arts. In addition to technical skills, nurses and lawyers need just as much critical thinking as historians and mathematicians.

However, it is difficult to measure the “success” of this approach. Since both administrators and accreditors are uncomfortable with unmeasurable outcomes, it is unlikely that such a curriculum will appear widely or soon.

James S. Wolper ’76
Professor of mathematics, Idaho State University

 

Comparing Campus Strategies

As a degree-holder from Harvard and Princeton, and also one who unexpectedly found his principal career for more than 30 years in higher education administration (with, in addition, significant connections to and long-time roles with Cambridge University and Sarah Lawrence College), I was greatly pleased (and a little surprised) to see the thoughtful and appreciative commentary, “The Tiger Roars” (May-June, page 2), commending Princeton’s recently produced strategic framework, and suggesting that Harvard might benefit from a comparable undertaking.

It has long been a truism that higher education in the U.S., and especially its multiplicity and variety, are treasures of our nation, widely admired throughout the world. Competition among our immensely different institutions and types of institutions—especially competition for faculty, students, and resources—is a healthy aspect of the U.S. “non-system” (alas, much less healthy in my own view has become their often out-of-control athletic competition—which much less importantly, but more visibly and often insidiously, heavily characterizes American culture).

Competition is, however, most positively effective when those engaged in it are open to learning from one another. This can be taken too far—it is possible for dangers of the antitrust sort to emerge (as the Department of Justice did indeed conclude was occurring in regard to student financial assistance several decades ago). But greater lost opportunities for the general benefit—toward the common objectives of increased knowledge and more effective teaching—have resulted from institutional failures to learn from one another.

Especially now, at a time when higher education is facing severe stresses, including, it appears, significant losses of public confidence, Harvard Magazine’s commentary and recommendations deserve a vigorous Three Cheers!

Thomas H. Wright, J.D ’66
Emeritus vice president and secretary,
Princeton University

 

As a Princeton alumnus, I was gratified to see Princeton upheld as a model of institutional unity and a foil for Harvard’s own institution-wide planning efforts in a recent editorial by John S. Rosenberg. Whatever Princeton’s shortcomings may be, it does indeed operate as an admirably cohesive unit and, as Rosenberg notes, “roar[s] with a single voice.” Schools, departments, residential colleges, and all other sub-units are all considered to be equal members of the Princeton community.

I was dismayed to find a very different situation when I attended Harvard.

One story stands out from my time as a volunteer coach for the men’s club volleyball team. We were to play a match against the Business School volleyball club. Upon our arrival at HBS, gym staff demanded that my players and I each pay an entry fee. In 20-plus years of playing and coaching organized sports, I have never been asked to pay a fee in order to enter an opponent’s gym.

This incident struck me not just as an example of atrocious sportsmanship but also as an indication of an institution ill at ease with itself. I shared my concerns with President Faust via e-mail. To Faust’s credit, an administrator wrote back with an apology and pledge that “we wish always to be alert to barriers within our University community.”

Six years later, I am discouraged that apparently, Harvard’s administration has made little progress. But I am encouraged that voices like Harvard Magazine are taking the administration to task. I hope that the university can finally knit itself together and teach its schools, departments—and gym staff—to play nice with each other.

Josh Stephens, M.P.P. ’10, Princeton ’97
Los Angeles

 

Penicillin

I read with great interest the article “Champ Lyons” (Vita, May-June, page 48). The authors mentioned Lyons’s early use of penicillin and further stated that even though penicillin was discovered in 1928, it “was not used to treat humans until 1941.”

In fact, the world’s first authenticated therapeutic use of penicillin occurred on August 28, 1930, at the Sheffield Royal Infirmary in England by doctors Cecil George Paine (a pathologist) and Albert Boswell Nutt (an ophthalmologist). They used crude penicillin mold juice topically to cure a bilateral neonatal gonococcal eye infection.

Purified, extracted penicillin was first used systemically on October 16, 1940, by Martin Henry Dawson at the Presbyterian Hospital (Columbia University, New York) to treat a case of subacute bacterial endocarditis. He presented a series of unsuccessfully treated cases to the American Society for Clinical Investigation in Atlantic City, on May 5, 1941, and, on the front page, The New York Times published an article entitled “‘Giant’ Germicide Yielded by Mold.”

It was the treatment of police constable Albert Alexander, the first of Howard Florey’s patients to receive systemic penicillin at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, that incorrectly established the 1941 date. Alexander’s treatment was begun on February 12. However, after an initial improvement of his massive mixed staphylococcal/streptococcal ocular-orbital-facial infection, the patient died.

Fortunately for all of us, the great work of Lyons and so many others ultimately established the wonder of the “wonder drugs.”

John D. Bullock, M.D. ’68, M.P.H. ’03
Dayton, Ohio

Editor’s note: Thank you for the historical amplification. The Lyons article was referring to more widespread use of the therapy. 

 

It’s Not Greek to Them

I am puzzled by the transliteration of the Greek letters in the phrase metechein tês politeias in the inspiring article about Danielle Allen (“The Egalitarian,” May-June, page 40). Especially the word tês seems strange to me. I don’t think that it should be tais, but maybe tas. I wish that you had had the courage to use the Greek script, which I estimate that at least 50 percent of your readers can decipher, and a Library of Congress mode of transliteration, rather than the one which I suspect may come from a computerized version. I may be entirely wrong, and I apologize if this is the case.

Mary Frances (Raphael) Dunham ’54, M.A.T. ’59
New York City

Editor’s note: We doubt that that many readers know Greek! One who does is author Spencer Lenfield, who responds:

Many thanks for your query. Metechein tês politeias is a translation of µετε´χειν τη˜ς πολιτει´ας; I was following the transliteration procedure used in the work of writers like Allen herself and Martha Nussbaum. I can see where you might think that tas (fem. acc. pl.) would be appropriate here, but the verb µετε´χειν usually takes a genitive object, and only rarely an accusative object, as is noted in the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Lexicon entry here (“1. mostly c. gen. rei only”). The usage that Allen cites is exemplified by Lysias (6.48, 30.15). So the phrase means “to have a share in the constitution” (singular), rather than “to share the constitutions” (plural) (i.e., πολιτει´ας is f. gen. sg. rather than f. acc. pl.). Taking genitive objects is also true of verbs with related meanings like µεταδιδο´ναι (to give a share in) and κοινωνει˜ν (to have something in common). The use of the genitive in this situation is similar to the partitive usage of the genitive (as in English, we say sometimes, “have a share of a firm,” “share some cake,” etc.). 

Please don’t give it a second thought: it is a finer point of Greek usage, and I am glad to be in a spot to help out a fellow friend of the classics. My main concern in transliterating, rather than using a Greek typeface, was to make the term a bit more translucent for the 50 percent or more of Greek-less readers—especially the word politeia, with its clear relationship to “politics,” “polity,” etc. And it made some sense in writing about Allen—such a skilled Hellenist herself—to follow her own books’ democratizing practice on this point.

 

Gender Equity

The article on Professor Claudia Goldin’s work (“Reassessing the Gender Wage Gap,” May-June, page 12) cites interesting research about how some fields pay their senior professionals more per hour for working more than 40 hours per week.

As an experienced consultant, I can offer some possible explanations. One key may be that in some settings (e.g. the larger law, consulting, or accounting firms), the value created for the firm by the expert is almost entirely due to the number of staff used in an engagement—since there is a big profit margin on their fees. The large, complex engagements that use numerous staff seldom fit a straight 40-hour-week model, and evenings and weekends may not be optional.

Another key to high earnings is a willingness to accept new work whenever it appears, even if one is already busy with other projects. An expert’s reputation also matters for attracting well-paying business, and a key to that is a demonstrated willingness to be available to the client at all times, and to work as hard as necessary to meet the client’s needs.

In other words, rather than hired workers performing assignments allocated by the employer, in these fields the best-paid professionals can be more like entrepreneurs using the firm as a base of operations. Occupations where hourly earnings are more linear might not share these characteristics. 

Carl Danner Ph.D. ’86
Alamo, Calif.

 

As described in “Reassessing the Gender Wage Gap,” what Professor Claudia Goldin calls the non-linearity of compensation for professional service employees has a simple explanation. Across a while range of professions—law, management consulting, finance, engineering, architecture, etc.—an individual’s hourly value is a function of his proficiency, and proficiency in turn is a function of accumulated experience.

In the example she provides—two lawyers graduating from the same prestigious school and beginning their careers with the same firm—the one who works more hours will be exposed to more cases, will learn to solve more problems, and will confront a more diverse set of legal experiences than the one who works fewer hours. Within as little as a year or two, the lawyer working longer hours will accumulate more experience and therefore more proficiency than the one working fewer hours. That accumulated experience becomes more valuable both to senior lawyers and to clients. The firm can therefore bill the individual’s time at a higher rate per hour, and compensate him accordingly.

There are a number of subsidiary explanations, but accumulated experience is the main driver.

John P. Merrill Jr. ’64, M.B.A. ’70
Stanardsville, Va.

 

 

Overseers’ Election Odds

A candidate whose name appears first on a ballot has an advantage. To assure a fair election, some states, including my California, mix up the order of candidates on different ballots so the advantage is evenly distributed.

The current ballot for the Board of Overseers [for coverage of the contested Overseers’ election, see http://harvardmagazine.com/overseerelection; the results appear at page 67] makes use of the first-place advantage by listing all the “official” candidates—those nominated by the Alumni Association—first on the ballot and first in the voter information pamphlet. Petition candidates—the officially disfavored—appear at the tail end.

The position of all candidates should be determined by lot. Why isn’t this done? Because a quarter-century ago, a petition candidate (a “mere” graduate student and the youngest candidate in Harvard’s history) was elected to the Board by a narrow margin. It should be no surprise that, by lot, she appeared first among all candidates.

Maybe next year the petition candidates will appear first and the “official” candidates will bring up the rear. Maybe—but don’t hold your breath. Fairness was never the Overseers’ strong point.

John Plotz ’69
Hayward, Calif.

Editor’s note: The University, when asked, declined to comment on the balloting procedures used in such elections.

 

Not From Kansas Any More

I thoroughly enjoyed Bailey Trela’s Flyover State essay (The Undergraduate, March-April, page 25). When I arrived in Cambridge in 1958 from Kansas, it didn’t matter that I had been to probably 35 or so states (but, let the record show, not Paris and not Florence); I was deemed a hick.

During my four years of undergraduate study, I was occasionally asked what my father’s occupation was. Even though he in actuality owned and operated a bank, that was entirely too conventional an explanation for a Flyover State resident, so I told everyone who asked that he was an “Indian Agent,” which better fit their expectations. The follow-up question was usually, “What does an Indian Agent do?” and I always responded that he did a lot of things but principally was concerned with “keeping firewater off the reservation.” Not once in four years did anyone question the veracity of my answer.

Keep up the good work with your writers.

Bill Schwartz  ’62
Nashville 

 

Amendments Amendment

Richard johnson states (Letters, May-June, page 4), “The Thirteenth Amendment accorded citizenship to African Americans. Since then protections have been granted to...”

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery but did not mention citizenship.

The Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States but that is all such persons, regardless of race. African Americans are not mentioned. The original text did say citizenship “denied to any male inhabitants...twenty-one years of age,” so I suppose you could say, “The Fourteenth Amendment accorded citizenship to African American males twenty-one or older and to all other males twenty-one or older.”

Roberta B. Ross ’57
Baltimore

 

Half-Earth, by E.O. Wilson

I share the sentiments expressed by Edward O. Wilson in Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (see “The Mammalian Life Span,” Open Book, March-April, page 54). I only wish that the last sentence were more complete: “This is the reason that history makes no sense without prehistory, and prehistory makes no sense without biology, and biology makes no sense without geology [the italicized words have been added].” The rock record is where all the biological and physical evolutionary history of Earth is preserved. Without geology, there is no record.

Raymond V. Ingersoll ’69
Professor of geology, UCLA

 

Law School Shield

I can’t avoid contrasting Danielle Allen’s understanding of the intellectual contributions of Plato and Aristotle (“The Egalitarian,” May-June, page 40) despite their acceptance of elitism, aristocracy, ethnocentrism, and slavery, with Harvard’s, Yale’s, Amherst’s, and Brown’s cleansing of such past references. Aristotle even saw all nonintellectual humans the same as nonhuman animals.

Albert Schnupp, Fellow ’65-’66
Towson, Md

 

The retirement of the Law School seal is another milestone on the school’s road to mediocrity. I graduated in 1971. The school’s decline began about then.

In 1968, during the final examination period, Sirhan Sirhan murdered Senator Robert Kennedy, who was then running for president. The law school, apparently believing that we were too distraught to take the remaining finals, canceled them and gave everyone passing grades. Property was a full-year course with no exams before the final. My classmates and I all passed Property without ever being tested in it.

In 1970 I was a second-year law student (having taken a year off). During the final examination period the United States invaded Cambodia in the course of the Vietnam War. The school again suspended examinations. It did not cancel them altogether, but it permitted us to take them home. Thus, I did not take my final in Constitutional Law (another full-year course with no previous testing) in a supervised examination room. Instead I wrote my answers at home and mailed them in.

Perhaps those departures from examination protocol were intended as lessons in professional responsibility. I’m sorry, Your Honor. I know that my client is facing the death penalty, but I am too upset by current events to address the jury today.

I believe that Harvard Law School was by and large a meritocracy when I applied in 1967. The school admitted the best students from the applicant pool and hired the best professors who wished to join the faculty. Today merit is no longer the sole criterion for admission and hiring. The result is that neither the student body nor the faculty is as good as it could be.

When I entered Harvard Law School in 1967, Constitutional Law, Taxation, Corporations, and Accounting were required second-year courses. By the time I started my second year they were recommended, but not required. The new policy, which still exists, makes all courses elective after the first year. Thus, a law student can fill his schedule with courses of no utility to a practicing lawyer, even courses given outside the law school, and still obtain a law degree. A law degree from Harvard Law School does not signify readiness, or even an inclination, to practice law.

Ralph Nader called Harvard Law School a “high-priced tool factory.” His comment, though derisive, expresses what Harvard Law School should be. The only rational reason to pay $60,000 in annual tuition is to acquire the tools needed to earn a comfortable income from the practice of law. 

It is time for Harvard Law School to redefine its mission as the preparation of excellent lawyers. If it fails to do so, then it is time for college graduates who want to practice law to look elsewhere for their education.

Edward B. Greene, J.D. ’71
Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

 

Anent expunging the Royall sheaves from the HSL shield and the word “Master”: Welcome back, Senator McCarthy, redux.

Away with everyone and everything tainted by slavery. Go Abraham and Sarah! Tear down Luxor and the pyramids!

The puerile decisions by the administration would be hilarious—the stuff for New Yorker cartoons—if they weren’t so pathetic.

Grow up, John Harvard.

Giulio J. D’Angio, M.D. ’45
Philadelphia

 

"I Do Not Abide"

“I Do Not Abide,” by Jenny Gathright ’16 (The Undergraduate, May-June, page 32), is insulting to the College, the Law School, and the entire University. Gathright’s invective, outrageous claims, and demands belong elsewhere.

An ardent and consistent admirer of this magazine, I understand that the Undergraduate essayists are granted virtually unfettered license to write as they wish. (Disclosure: My son, Gary ’89, was the essayist in 1988-89.) Rational criticism of any feature of the University is not to be quelled. But ranting that “the dean of the law school” should add so-called “race theory” courses; reviving a 1969 Crimson diatribe that “veritas is a lie”;  reveling in the group’s “own rightness”; and demanding that the credo of Black Lives Matter should at Harvard “recognize the inherent connection between oppression at the University and the broader injustices of society”—is gibberish at best and disrespectful at worst. Black Lives Matter’s website portrays “a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” This is a movement that has been silent on the ascendancy of black crime victims in predominantly black neighborhoods.

Gathright can carry her misplaced grievances into the real world, after graduation. There she may learn not to bite the hand that feeds her. The College rejects about 95 percent of its applicants. Surely, among them, are many who’d be grateful to be at Harvard.

Steve Susman ’57, J.D. ’60
Denver

 

"Masters" vs "Deans"

As a “dinosaur” alumnus (class of ’53), I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read of Dean Smith’s announcement that the leaders of undergraduate Houses would no longer be called “Master.” Despite Dean Smith’s claim that the change was not instituted because of the association of the title “Master” with slavery in the South, comments from current House masters indicate that it did play a major role in their consideration of the change. Just more political correctness. On page 63 of that same issue of Harvard Magazine, there is an advertisement for a Harvard alumni credit card. Ironically, it’s a Master Card!

Lewis J. Chizer ‘53
Cincinnati, Ohio

 

Immigration Issues

I was amazed by John Broussard’s sweeping condemnation of measures to control both legal and illegal immigration and his attempt to relate it to xenophobia (Letters, May-June, page 4). I found it ludicrous and hypocritical.

For someone who has chosen to live on one of the 132 Hawaiian islands thousands of miles from the U.S. mainland to talk about xenophobia is absurd. When compounded with what he so erroneously and dramatically envisions as the world today, it can easily be assumed that he is not speaking from experience, but rather from his own isolated misconceptions.

Why would this nation not seek to control legal immigration into our land, as this type of immigration has been the law of the land for generations? And by the way, for the majority of other civilized nations. As for closing our borders to illegal immigration, have not these immigrants chosen to violate our laws? Does that behavior demonstrate respect for, and a desire to support, the country which they are entering illegally?

In regard to Muslim immigration, why would we willingly open our borders to unknown sworn enemies? Have not the radical Islamic armies sworn to destroy the United States? Take a look at what is happening to the countries in Europe with “open borders.” The world is in a struggle with radical Islam and our government would be wantonly negligent if it did not oversee and manage the influx of immigrants to our shores.

Leonard L. Anderson, Ph.D. ’56
Bridgewater, Mass.

 

The Treatment of Others

Interesting issue as usual. 

Given the current interest in name changes, shouldn’t Eliot and Lowell Houses be renamed given the extreme and public views these two presidents had concerning eugenics and race?

Also, regarding the treatment of animals and the concern about whether, for example, severely affected human children with no reasoning or self-awareness might be grouped with animals: perhaps it should be remembered that Homo sapiens is a clearly defined group, as is Pan troglodytes (chimps) and Escherichia coli (bacteria). No one (yet) is arguing for any protections for bacteria, thus it is not unreasonable to assume that thoughtful assessments can be made regarding proper treatment of each species, on a species by species basis.

Mark Alper ’67
Berkeley

 

Judge Posner

I want to comment on the article in the January-February issue profiling Judge Posner (“Rhetoric and Law,” page 49) from the perspective of a country lawyer. I was surprised when I looked at the March-April issue that no one had commented on the issues that struck me. Judge Posner appears to be both a brilliant attorney and a judge who is open to persuasion that his initial opinion on a matter may not be correct. That is an extremely valuable trait in any jurist. However, there were two things in your article about him which I found very disturbing: [author Lincoln Caplan’s] characterization that he is concerned with “real world impacts”of his decisions; and the notion that an Appellate Court is an appropriate fact-finding body. The example given on page 55 is a perfect example of both bad fact finding and disregard of the “real world.” The question was how long it would take workers at a poultry processing plant to get out of their protective gear and then get back into it, and how much that would intrude upon their one half-hour break time. Judge Posner approached the problem by buying the equipment and having his law clerks take it on and off. Then he concluded it would only take a minute and a half, which would be a de minimis intrusion into the break time.

This approach is utterly divorced from reality. Did his clerks spend four hours working in a chicken processing plant before attempting to take off the protective gear? Was it coated with sweat on the inside and offal on the outside, so it was virtually impossible to grip from the outside and sticky and adhesive on the inside? Were the clerks exhausted after a four-hour shift, so that they had less ease and dexterity in removing the clothing? Did they have to put on the same clothing with its inside and out coverings at the end of their break? Obviously, the answer to all of these, based on what we see here from the article is in the negative. So, the “test” that Judge Posner used in his “fact finding” is nonsensical at best and highly prejudicial at worst. 

This is exactly the kind of thing that the Rules of Evidence are designed to avoid. The Rules are not always successful, but at least they give an opportunity for a real-world discussion and testing of the issue.

This appellate fact-finding seems to stem from Judge Posner’s view that lawyers should be dedicated to helping the Court find the truth, rather than advocating the client’s point of view. That is an accurate assessment of the American and the English judicial systems. Somewhere along the way the obvious fact: one cannot depend on the advocate or participant in a controversy to provide objective, factual information to the trier of fact, penetrated our judicial system. We have not found any philosopher king free from his or her own prejudices. Not even the great Oliver Wendell Holmes rose to that level.

So, we developed the current system in which each side advocates as strongly as possible for its own position and puts forward evidence to support it. The presentation of each party is limited by the Rules of Evidence and tested in the crucible of cross examination. From the struggle, comes a synthesis from which the trier of fact finds the truth. That is our system, for better or worse. For Judge Posner to say that because neither side is trying to provide him with perfect truth, he, at a distance of many removes, can do his own fact finding, traduces the system and leads to fact finding that is utterly divorced from the real-life situation of the people involved. 

This result is contrary to Judge Posner’s purported concern for the practical effects of the decisions that the Court makes. That concern is laudable, but one which his whole notion of fact finding undermines. From the article it appears that his concern for real world impacts seems to be the effect on the Dow Jones averages rather than the flesh and blood people. 

Emmanuel Krasner ’69, Esquire
Farmington, N.H.

 

Amplifications and Errata

Theater, Dance, and Media’s ‘Next Act” (May-June, page 18), reported that “Aside from the Harvard Dance Project, a for-credit ensemble led by OFA Dance Program director Jill Johnson, the concentration offered no dance classes in the fall, and two in the spring.” Elizabeth Epsen, program assistant for dance, reports there were, in fact, two for-credit dance courses offered in fall 2015, both shown on TDM’s online course listing.

Reporter Sophia Nguyen notes that her source, the Harvard course catalog, did not list the fall courses under the TDM concentration, but under Music.

 

In the May-June Off the Shelf (page 71), author Lesley Lee Francis’s name appeared correctly in the accompanying photo caption, but was misspelled in the book listing. We apologize for the mistake.

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